Eagle Pennell Movies
Independent filmmaker Eagle Pennell
received high praise when Last Night at the Alamo
premiered at the Telluride Film Festival in 1983. It was the second of the director's films set in his native Texas, pursuing his fascination of the Lone Star State's more unusual characters and locales. Each work examines the lives of people living on the edge, maybe never having quite made it yet, but still pursuing their dreams. Pennell
's affection for his characters shines through the camera, revealing the beauty of people that others might brand losers.
Last Night at the Alamo
's title refers to the last night at the Alamo Bar, scheduled for the wrecking ball the next day. The decrepit dive is on a Houston highway, and is blocking progress. But it is the beloved hangout of its unique clientele, who run true to type, from the trampy vamp to the local Don Juan to the bar bully.
The characterizations, such as that by Sonny Carl Davis
of the suave if balding pick-up artist, are so believable that when a last-ditch effort is made to call their congressman from the bar's pay phone, the audience roots for it to succeed. However, the phone goes unanswered and the bar will be no more: just time to tell one last lie and have one last call at the Alamo.
's first film is similar in tone. The Whole Shootin' Match
(1979) is the story of a couple of Texas good ol' boys, Sonny Carl Davis
and Lou Perry
, who try to make it big in the home gadget market, while juggling home and women troubles. The tragi-comedic dimensions of the get-rich-quick drama typifies the Pennell
touch, never losing sight of the humanity and dignity of his subjects. The characters may be flawed and funny, but they are still lovable.
The recurrent theme of searching for the blue bird of happiness is evident in the 1989 film Ice House
, starring Melissa Gilbert
, Bo Brinkman, and Andreas Manolikakis
. The waitress, oil worker, and Greek expatriate are each reaching for the stars in Hollywood. The problem is they share lives but not the same dreams. Therein lies the story's dramatic irony, which takes the viewer from the Texas oil fields to L.A. and back.
The 1994 movie Doc's Full Service
is stylistically reminiscent of the Last Night at the Alamo
, using an almost stage-like setting through which parade a variety of odd characters, such as Big Silly, Little Silly, and Pee Wee. Doc's is a gas station in a dusty Texas town, where people pass by not so much for gas as to gas with each other and the proprietor, Doc, played by Kevin Wiggins
. He gives advice out with soda pop, but has problems of his own at home. His dream of escape comes in the form of a pulchritudinous barbecue vendor, played by Jeanette Wiggins
dropped out of sight after Doc's Full Service
, leaving his body of work behind, with audiences to hope that his 1994 film will not be his last. ~ Rose of Sharon Winter, Rovi
A small town gas station in Texas provides the setting for this comedy drama by cult-movie maker Eagle Pennell. The station is run by Doc, an easy going guy, who is married to a most unpleasant wife who is having an open affair with a used-car salesman. Doc turns his eye upon the cute little barbecue stand owner down the street and begins dreaming of escape. Much of the film focuses upon the many people who frequent Doc's station, but seldom buy a thing. Other characters include Pee Wee, Big Silly and Little Silly, and Cecil. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi
- Kevin Wiggins, Christine McPeters, (more)
This movie is based on the stage play Ice House by Bo Brinkman, who plays the lead in this film. In the story, Pake (Brinkman) has given up a well-paid job in the oil fields of Texas to try to break into the music business. Instead, he finds himself broke and dejected in a hotel room in L.A. He arranges a meeting with his old girlfriend Kay (Melissa Gilbert). She turns up with her current boyfriend and fiancee (Andreas Manolikakis), a Greek immigrant who hopes that by marrying her he will obtain permanent resident status in the U.S. His plans are jeopardized by Pake's efforts to convince Kay that she should go back to Texas with him and become his wife. ~ Clarke Fountain, Rovi
- Melissa Gilbert, Bo Brinkman, (more)
The Alamo is a seedy Houston bar, slated for demolition. The bar's habitues gather for one last binge before the wrecker's ball descends. In the course of a long evening (boiled down to 80 minutes' worth of film), the patrons laugh, cry, ruminate over the past and pontificate on the future. One of the more ambitious barflies (Sonny Carl Davis) stages an eleventh-hour effort to save the bar by touching bases with his old college roommate, who is now an important politician. Last Night of the Alamo is charmingly effective in its own crude, slapdash manner. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
- Sonny Carl Davis, Lou Perry, (more)