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Guns on the Clackamas cover photo

Guns on the Clackamas 2009

Recommended with reservations

Distributed by Microcinema International/Microcinema DVD, 1636 Bush St., Suite #2, SF, CA 94109; 415-447-9750
Produced by Bill Plympton
Directed by Bill Plympton
DVD, color, 88 min.

Sr. High - Adult
Film Studies, Humor, Popular Culture

Date Entered: 12/17/2009

Reviewed by Linda Frederiksen, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA

Inspired by a specific movie genre, as well as his own previous experience making an unsuccessful feature-length film, animator and illustrator Bill Plympton produced, directed, and co-wrote this fictitious mock documentary. Filmed along the banks of the Clackamas River, near Portland, Oregon, during the summer of 1993, the live action comedy is the story of a low-budget, disaster-ridden Western. Told from the perspective of an inept interviewer and other selected players, the film is made in a deliberately amateurish cinéma vérité style. Second-rate Hollywood Technicolor movies are humorously satirized and include such staples as a male star with bad breath, a female lead with a serious speech impediment, an uninspired script, stilted dialogue, sloppy sound techniques, bad editing and camera work and poorly manufactured background scenery to name a few.

Special features on the DVD include a recently assembled audio commentary, an early interview with Plympton on a local Oregon television station, production stills and an incongruous selection of duck jokes. Although many of the gags are funny and those involved in the production clearly enjoyed making the movie, the film itself does not hold together well. The overall intentionality feels forced and self-conscious. Billed as ‘Spinal Tap’ meets ‘Blazing Saddles,’ the film is convincing as neither a western satire nor a mockumentary. Fans of Plympton, whose other works include popular and award-winning animated shorts, may enjoy seeing another side of his signature humor, from an earlier stage in his career.