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Dead Man’s Walk (1996) (TV Mini-Series)  rating

Review: written 2008

First prequel to Lonesome Dove

 Dead Man’s Walk (1996) (TV Mini-Series)

Having taken Woodrow Call to his twilight years in Street's of Laredo, McMurtry wrote the novel on which this is based, charting the early years of Gus McCrae and Woodrow Call. It is set in Texas 1842, with the two as rookie Rangers joining the Santa Fe Expedition. This was a non-fictional and ill-fated expedition to reclaim Texas a few years after the Alamo. Their journey crosses deserts, involves encounters with Comanches, Apaches and Mexicans, and yet another of McMurtry's selection of whores-with-a-heart-of-gold....

This is a story of grueling survival, against the elements, and fellow man, and as such is well portrayed with a great cast and a few hammy cameos (F Murray Abraham as a pirate turned Colonel? Now THAT's smart casting...). However, with all the well observed secondary characters, the movies weak spot is highlighted - David Arquette and Jonny Lee Miller as Gus and Woodrow are just not appealing enough, or given enough material to work with, to really show how they became the wizened old men of Lonesome Dove. Mannerisms are well copied from their predecessors, particularly Arquette's portrayal of Gus, but little internal evolution of their characters is on display, merely the cumulative effect of the often horrific events surrounding them. It's the other characters which you remember, like Keith Carradine's Bigfoot Wallace, Harry Dean Stanton's Shadrach or especially a pre-Battlestar Galactica Edward James Olmos portrayal of Captain Salazar. So in the end, we have a great period Western, with well written secondary characters, but a lot less soul than earlier outings. This means that as exciting as the events purport to be, there is a feeling that this outing drags a little in places, where the original felt justified in an unhurried pace without ever leaving you bored.

Cinematography is crisp, but not as expansive as the material would suggest, and the music is adequate but misses Basil Poulidouris' original poignant themes from the first series.

Above average for TV Westerns for sure, but not up to Lonesome Dove standards.

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