A dark tale of the Arkansas woods
Bastard’s Crossing (the title is explained in the final scene) is another of the ‘twelve Westerns in twelve months’ made by producer/director/writer Travis Mills.
These pictures were done on modest budgets and some of the acting in them is distinctly on the amateur side but they are traditional Westerns, by and large, and nicely photographed in suitable locations. This one had Jared Kovacs at the camera, who did another of them too, Texas Red.
It was shot in Mississippi and is notionally set in the middle of nowhere (well, Arkansas) midway between Little Rock and Fort Smith. It centers on an aging fellow, Cam Talcutt (Ward Emling) who won a trading post in a poker game and, with limited resources and even more limited intellect, and all alone, is trying to make a go of it – with equally limited success.
Once a week the Pony Express comes through (the rider hardy drawing breath, though, and certainly not conversing) and every other week a Wells, Fargo stage calls in too, with a handful of passers who purchase next to nothing. Then his freighter goes out of business and so Cam has no inventory. It isn’t going well.
Then one day an old seaman (not sure which actor because not listed as such), heading for San Francisco in a wagon, stops by but in the night, changing a wheel, is crushed and dies. Cam wants to report it but there’s one to report it to. He buries the poor man in a rough grave and uses the contents of the wagon to restock his store.
After that, another stranger (Jeff Buchwald, I think, but the cast list on IMDb is inadequate) comes in, and his wagon is laden with supplies destined for the gold camps, where he can sell them at top dollar, but he won’t get to do that because angry words are exchanged, a pickaxe is planted in the stranger’s chest, skewering him to the table (with intellectually-challenged Cam asking plaintively if he is alright) and so another grave is dug and now the store shelves are plentifully stocked. This death and re-stocking the store becomes a habit.
One of the murderees leaves a widow (Ashleigh Lewis, whose poor diction makes her hard to understand) and this will cause plot developments, especially when a visiting mountain man (possibly Creek Wilson) with extravagantly bad teeth arrives and casts lustful glances at her. More I shall not say.
The worst aspect of the film is the quite dreadful music , which I think is supposed to create an atmosphere of menace, but its one-note twanging creates instead boredom and irritation in equal measure (quite hard to do, actually).
The best aspect is the look of the picture, with muted colors, often almost sepia, a lot of rain and mud.
The film is too long at 95 minutes, and drags. Certainly the postscript which explains how Sadie escaped the clutches of the mountain man was extraneous and should have remained on the cutting room floor.
You could watch it, just.