HestFest is one of my longest running traditions. Once a year, I gather some folks together and make them watch some Charlton Heston movies. It started way back in the 90s, and it’s grown over the years. Thanks in large part to my wife, we now make it a day filled not only with films, but with good food, too. This year, our theme was “Heston Lends a Hand.” The movies all featured Heston in a supporting role. I was glad to be able to show some movies that don’t normally make the cut, and we watched two movies that were not just new to HestFest, but new to me as well.
Sunday morning started with “Cats & Dogs,” allegedly a comedy about animals that are actually spies in a silent war between cats and dogs. This was a first time view for me, and I don’t really know who this was supposed to be for, as it was too insipid and annoying for adults and far too boring for kids (and adults). Heston does the voice of The Mastiff, who is the spymaster of dogs. For breakfast, we had bacon jerky and sausage jerky. We also had orange rolls and some Scooby-Doo fruit snacks.
Up next was “Treasure Island,” directed by Heston’s son Fraser. It was made for TV, but looks surprisingly good and has an excellent cast, including a young Christian Bale as Jim Hawkins. Charlton Heston plays Long John Silver, and he’s quite good in the role. This movie was a surprise discovery maybe 5 or 6 years ago. I didn’t expect it to be very good, but it turned out to be a very entertaining adaptation. For a little lunch with the movie, we had ham sandwiches on Hawaiian rolls. We’d also picked up some tropical themed beer (Kona mixed pack).
The second new-to-me and new to HestFest movie was 1982’s “Mother Lode.” Charlton and Fraser co-directed this film, which was (apparently) inspired by “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.” The movie is not good. I don’t exactly know what Heston was thinking, but his performance is really bad. Half the time he’s completely unintelligible. He’s doing an accent. It’s bad. Kim Basinger is in it. She’s not good. Nick Mancuso is there. He’s trying, I guess. Somehow the film is only an hour and forty minutes. It felt much, much longer. I had some birch beer for folks at this point, but I think I was the only one drinking it.
Speaking of long movies, the next film was “True Lies,” and let me tell you, it goes on. It should definitely not be a two hour and twenty minute movie. The last third of the film drags and drags, and when you think it’s over (at the climax), it’s still got a long winded and goofy action scene to subject us to. There’s a pretty good Arnold performance. Jamie Lee Curtis is charming. And Charlton Heston plays the best classic, Jim Steranko-style Nick Fury I’ve seen (sorry Hasselhoff). Guests had brought cookies and millionaire shortbread, and Rebecca made peanut butter bars (peanut butter was the food Heston had to always take with him when he filmed out of the states, because you can’t get it everywhere). We also had a few cans of Moxie passed around.
For the main event, we watched “Big Country.” This is a Western I really like. It’s one of those cliches to say that the film subverts the genre, but this one definitely seems to do so. Gregory Peck plays a guy who doesn’t solve things with guns or fists, and nobody seems to know how to handle it. He has dignity, honor, and he believes that who you really are is what you do when nobody’s looking. Heston plays the surly ranch hand who becomes Peck’s romantic rival. There’s a lot of good stuff in this one, and it has a very powerful message. “You take a helluva long time to say goodbye” indeed. With “Big Country” we enjoyed chili and cornbread.
At that point, almost everyone left, but one friend and I stayed up a little longer to watch “In the Mouth of Madness.” It’s a favorite of mine, and has a great, if very small Heston performance.
Another HestFest in the books. I’m kicking around themes for next year. One that I kinda like is “Fantastic Hest, and Where to Find Him.” That would be some more Sci-Fi/Fantasy type Heston films. Maybe “Hercules” and “Solar Crisis” or something. I’m not sure, yet.