Lonesome Dove: Two-Disc Special Edition
August 11, 2008
Based on Larry McMurtry’s Pulitzer-prize winning novel of the same name, Lonesome Dove was adapted into a four-part television mini-series that focuses on the relationship between two retired Texas Rangers as they drive a cattle herd from Texas to Montana in the 1800s. The series not only helped resurrect the western but also the careers of Robert Duvall and Diane Lane. It originally began as a screenplay for a film to be directed by Peter Bogdanovich and starring John Wayne and Henry Fonda, but that fell through. Twelve years passed and McMurtry decided to turn Lonesome Dove into a novel, which took several years while he searched for a proper title.
Gus McCrae (Duvall) and Woodrow Call (Jones) are two retired Texas Rangers who spend their days tending pigs on their ranch and bickering like an old married couple. Jake Spoon (Urich), a gambler and friend of Gus and Woodrow’s (he used to be a Ranger as well), shows up after a ten year absence and tells of fortunes to be had in Montana. The trouble is that the state is populated with Indians. So, Gus and Woodrow go to Mexico, steal 100 horses and 2,600 cattle. They head off to Montana with their herd and with Jake and the beautiful local prostitute Lorena Wood (Lane) in tow.
At the heart of this mini-series is the friendship between Gus and Woodrow that is well-played by veteran actors Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones. They have excellent chemistry together with Duvall’s Gus as the gregarious, adventurous type and Jones’ Woodrow, the hard-working, taciturn type. They play well off each other, suggesting a decades-long friendship.
The star-studded supporting cast acquits themselves just fine with Robert Urich and Diane Lane being particularly notable. Urich plays an alcoholic gambler with a quick temper but when the chips are down, he risks his life to save Lorena during an electrical storm. However, his true colors are revealed later on and his final fate is a heartbreaking one, thanks to Urich’s performance.
Diane Lane is wonderful as the beautiful prostitute Lorena. Her character is more than just eye candy – she has the courage and the tenacity to stay with the cattle drive even when Jake leaves her to go off gambling. She dreams of going to San Francisco and aims to do it, come hell or high water.
With its cattle drive across several states filled with treacherous terrain, Lonesome Dove evokes classic westerns like Red River (1948) and clearly, this mini-series is crafted to be a nostalgic ode to the genre. Director Simon Wincer tries his best to make Lonesome Dove to look like a film but it still feels like a TV production despite the pedigree of so many movie stars populating the cast. Despite this, it is still a classy show and it is nice to see it given the respect that it deserves on this new, two-DVD set.
The first disc includes “On Location with Simon Wincer” as he talks about how he got the job and his trepidation tackling such an iconic, highly-regarded novel. Wincer shares a couple of production stories about the challenge of making the mini-series. Wincer also says what his favourite scene is and why.
“Blueprints of a Masterpiece: Original Sketches and Concept Drawings” features Wincer showing us some of the beautiful drawings used in the production. He puts them in context and explains how they were used.
“Remembering Lonesome Dove” includes interviews with various cast members at the time of filming with clips from the mini-series. This is typical promotional press kit material as the actors gush about the story and the script and talk about their characters.
“Lonesome Dove Montage” features several clips set to music from the mini-series that comes across as strictly filler material.
Also included is a nice “Interview with Pulitzer-prize Winning Author Larry McMurtry.” He talks about the first attempt to film the story with Bogdanovich. McMurtry also talks about the origins of the title, “Lonesome Dove,” his working methods, and revisiting the characters in three subsequent sequels.
The second disc includes “The Making of an Epic,” which was done shortly after the mini-series aired and features on-location interviews with cast and crew. The actors talk about what drew them to the project while praising the source novel. Several clips from the mini-series are also shown.