Around The Rim Country

Tinseltown comes to Rim country


What with the national economy trending downward, and with the Rim country's economy being a magnified reflection of that same national economy, what we need to avoid bread and soup lines are some new ways to generate revenue.

After rejecting such cheap and sleazy solutions as a topless mud rodeo and a high-wire trapeze act performed by a troupe of really dumb crows with large wingspans, I have hit on the perfect solution: We make a movie up here.

As collateral support I offer the fact that the Arizona Film Commission estimates that a film production crew can spend as much as a half million dollars a day on location. By any measure, that's a lot of juniper berries.

My first thought is a Western. After all, it's what we like to think we're all about.

But while dozens of Hollywood Westerns have used the fabled scenery of the Rim country as a backdrop, they haven't put a Zane Grey novel on the silver screen in quite some time now. Westerns are not exactly the hottest thing these days.

Given that reality, my second choice is to reach out in new cinematic directions, something in the spirit of "Kingdom of the Spiders" which was filmed just up the road and over the Rim in Camp Verde back in 1977. In case you've somehow managed to avoid this film that my "Video Movie Guide" describes as an "unsuspenseful thriller," it stars William Shatner, who, of course, played Captain James T. Kirk on the original "Star Trek," and a passel or two of local tarantulas who picked up a few "bugs" as extras.

I have to tell you that I am somewhat of a local authority on this movie. We had it on tape for a while and I watched it several times with my son during his formative years which is probably a few times more than most anybody else watched it.

With its scenes of tarantulas literally crawling all around, over and inside fairly good-sized houses, it probably has done more to give those oversized arachnids a bum rap than the fact that they don't shave those big hairy legs of theirs.

And since it's never a bad idea to let sleeping spiders lie, let's look at some recent examples of films shot in rural Arizona communities films that dared to go places films don't very often go:

Twentieth Century Fox recently dispatched a crew of 150 to Page to film a new version of "Planet of the Apes," the 1968 sci-fi classic that was also filmed there. Putting on the big ape mask and taking the role played by Charlton Heston in the original version is none other than rapper turned underwear model turned actor Mark Wahlberg. In explaining the studio's decision to return to Page, Arizona Film Commissioner Linda Peterson Warren said, "There's only one Lake Powell in the world.... I tell people it's like the Grand Canyon with water."

He's baaaack. William Shatner just wrapped up shooting in Bisbee on a low-budget sci-fi thriller called "Groom Lake." Of course low budget by Hollywood standards means "less than $1 million," and the movie also proved to be lucrative for nearby Sierra Vista and Douglas, where the cast and crew stayed. In all the three towns received an economic boost of about $400,000.

And finally, Lake Havasu City is hosting the filming of a new Miramax motion picture called "View from the Top." It stars Gwyneth Paltrow as a young woman raised on a houseboat who aspires to be get ready for this a flight attendant!

Carbon monoxide pockets notwithstanding, you can see how profitable a movie could be for the Rim country? So let's wipe our clapper slate clean and see what we can come up with.

First, whatever kind of film we do, it must have William Shatner in it. He's been a part of the local film scene for so long that an Arizona "B" movie just wouldn't be the same without him.

And if what they say is true about the Rim country being 20 years behind the times, then we should feel real comfortable with Shatner who is 20 years out of date.

But most important, it is rumored that there are still legions of original Trekkies wandering aimlessly around the country waiting for Shatner to appear somewhere anywhere. They will help make our movie economically viable.

I'm thinking a female lead has to be somebody who made Mr. Blackwell's latest ranking of Worst-Dressed Women. It is topped this year by Britney Spears and Angelina Jolie, and includes Elizabeth Hurley and Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris.

As tempting as it would be to give Harris her big break, I vote for the tired-but-true lady ranked 4th worst-dressed Madonna. When you read the verse Mr. Blackwell penned about the newly married sex symbol, I think you'll agree she's perfect to play opposite Shatner:

"From ghetto glam to rhinestone cowgirl to Mrs. Guy Ritchie.

Any way you label it, she's still just kitschy, kitschy, kitschy."

When a woman rates three "kitschies" from the big guy, she has to be in our film.

But in case you think our choice of a female lead was inspired by anything prurient, we won't leave out you female film fans. No, we aren't going to have Russell Crowe running around up here in the Rim country making us guys look like less than the manly men we are.

No, what I had in mind was old Marky Mark himself. You know, the underwear salesman. Studies show that when the economy softens, underwear is one of the first places people begin cutting back. He should come cheap.

Now that we have our setting and our cast, all we need is a plot. I could go for a sequel to "Kingdom," since tarantulas are not only cool, but also work cheap.

But I think we need to create an identity for the Rim country that is totally ours. And since there is definitely cinematic value in having some kind of outlandish creature wreaking havoc on a community, I'm leaning toward killer javelinas.

You know, it could be some kind of mutant, one-eyed albino beast kind of a Moby Pig. Or it could be a whole herd of javelinas crazed by fermented juniper berries.

So maybe Madonna plays a local girl who aspires to one day become, let's say, a drive-in carhop. Shatner, who owns the local drive-in, is actually from another galaxy as evidenced by frequent close-ups of his ears, which seem to be just a little more pointed than your average ear.

While Madonna and Shatner will ultimately prevail, somebody big has to be sacrificed to the pigs in the interest of maximum suspense. That would be good old Marky Mark, because the underwear bit has started to wear a little thin by now.

I won't ruin the ending, but I will remind you that Shatner and Madonna come well equipped to survive the most vicious javelinas.

Captain Kirk used to triumph over ugly creatures from other worlds on a regular basis. And Madonna has been attracting and repelling a motley collection of pigs all her post-pubescent life.

And to those who leave the theater asking, "Why?" we will justify our film similar to the way Madame Film Commissioner justified the one in Page: "Because the Rim country is like the Grand Canyon turned inside-out and upside-down."

Commenting has been disabled for this item.