Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Peter Markle|
|Written by||Matthew Carlson|
|Music by||Michael Small|
|Edited by||Scott Conrad|
|Box office||$4.4 million|
Wagons East (sometimes stylised as Wagons East!) is a 1994 American Western adventure comedy film directed by Peter Markle and starring John Candy and Richard Lewis. The film was released in the United States on August 26, 1994. Filming took place in Sierra de Órganos National Park in the town of Sombrerete, Mexico, and in Durango, Mexico.
During the final days of the film's production in Durango, Mexico, John Candy died of a heart attack at the age of 43.Script re-writes, a stand-in and special effects were used to complete his remaining scenes, and it was released five months after his death. The film marked Candy's penultimate performance. His last film, Canadian Bacon , which he had completed before Wagons East!, had a delayed release in the end of 1995.
In the 1860s Wild West, a group of misfit settlers including ex-doctor Phil Taylor, prostitute Belle, and homosexual bookseller Julian decide they cannot live in their current situation in the west, so they hire a grizzled alcoholic wagon master by the name of James Harlow to take them on a journey back to their hometowns in the East.
Comedic exploits ensue as the drunken wagon master lets his horse choose the correct fork in the road, leads them to a dried out watering hole, and eventually guides them into Sioux territory where they are captured. The Chief, however, is sympathetic to the idea of 'white men heading back east', and offers an escort off Sioux land. Meanwhile, they must also contend with (inept) hired gunslingers who have been sent by railroad magnates to stop the journey, as they fear the bad publicity it could create for the settlers about to commence a 'land rush' into the west.
Harlow's secret, that he had been wagon master for the infamous Donner Party, eventually comes out, and the group confront Harlow about his past; he chooses to walk away from the group and they proceed on their own. As he resumes his drinking at the closest tavern, he overhears that the cavalry will be confronting the group the following day, and intends to wipe them out, as directed by the head of the railroad company.
As the cavalry arrives the next day, and the group 'square their wagons', Harlow rides in to the rescue and 'calls out' the cavalry leader to single combat. After a drawn out and comical fight scene, Harlow is victorious, and the group celebrates. Harlow and Belle decide to pursue a relationship, Julian departs for somewhere 'even further west' (San Francisco) and the group rides toward the now visible St. Louis to finish the journey.
Candy was contractually mandated to make the film due to his existing contract with Carolco Pictures from their abandoned John Hughes film Bartholomew v. Neff Candy was to do with Sylvester Stallone. Despite his misgivings about the material, and due to the fact that he owed more than $1 million due to his stake as a minority owner with the Toronto Argonauts football team, he agreed to make the film in Durango, Mexico.
The film was released five months after Candy's death –meaning no favorable reviews whatsoever –receiving an average rating of 2.4/10. The site's consensus describes the film as "a witless, toothless satire of Westerns that falls far below the standard set by Blazing Saddles , and is notable only for being John Candy's final screen performance."and was a box office bomb. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, with 29 reviews, the film has a rare approval rating of 0%
Film critic Roger Ebert, who called the film "a sad way to end John Candy's career", stated that his legacy was already permanent and would survive this film.In the book The Comedy Film Nerds Guide to Movies, Wagons East! is listed at number one on its list of The Ten Worst Westerns.
Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "C-" on an A+ to F scale.
John Franklin Candy was a Canadian actor and comedian known mainly for his work in Hollywood films. Candy rose to fame as a member of the Toronto branch of the Second City and its related Second City Television series, and through his appearances in such comedy films as Stripes, Splash, Cool Runnings, Summer Rental, Home Alone, The Great Outdoors, Spaceballs, and Uncle Buck, as well as more dramatic roles in Only the Lonely and JFK. One of his most renowned onscreen performances was as Del Griffith, the talkative shower-curtain ring salesman in the John Hughes comedy Planes, Trains and Automobiles. In addition to his work as an actor, Candy was a co-owner of the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League from 1991 until his death, and the team won the 1991 Grey Cup under his ownership.
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