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The working title of the film was Gashade. Although there is a 1966 copyright statement on the film for Santa Clara Productions, the film was not registered for copyright at the time of its release. However, the film was registered for copyright by Santa Clara Productions on February 4, 1982 and assigned the number PA-131-810. The opening of the film, in which "Coley" describes "Coin's" flight and "Leland's" death, is told in flashbacks, but because they take place at night or from the viewpoint of Coley's tent, the screen is dark, rendering the action almost indecipherable.
According to the Hollywood Reporter review, the idea for The Shooting and Ride in the Whirlwind, was germinated when Jack Nicholson and Monte Hellman sought funds from Roger Corman to produce a screenplay they had written. Corman, who thought the project was too risky, suggested instead that Nicholson and Hellman film two westerns back-to-back. According to a May 16, 1971 New York Times article, in 1965, Hellman and Nicholson proceeded to film The Shooting and Ride in the Whirlwind over a seven-week period in Kanab, UT. Both films were funded by Corman, directed by Hellman, produced by Nicholson and Hellman, featured Nicholson and Millie Perkins were photographed by Gregory Sandor. Although he is not credited onscreen, Hellman, a member of the film editors' union, edited both films, according to the New York Times article.
The New York Times article noted that once the films were competed, Hellman and Nicholson took them to film festivals in the United States, France, Germany, England and Edinburgh, Scotland. Although no American distributor was interested, Hellman and Nicholson were successful in selling them to a European distributor. However, because the European distributor went bankrupt before he could retrieve the film cans from French customs, the films remained in customs for over a year and a half until Hellman and Nicholson were able to reclaim them and sell them to another distributor. In mid-1967, Corman sold the films to American distributor Walter Reade, Jr. in order to recoup his negative costs. According to a January 7, 1972 Daily Variety article, Reade, who thought the films too difficult to sell theatrically, sold them to television stations. In January 1969, WTTV television in Indianapolis, IN, acquired the films for broadcast. In 1971, Jack H. Harris Enterprises bought the distribution rights to The Shooting and Ride the Whirlwind, and according to a June 1971 Daily Variety news item, Favorite Films acquired the rights to distribute them in Western states.
Many of the reviewers commented that The Shooting and Ride in the Whirlwind were "existential Westerns" because they lacked character motivation and featured a meager story line. The New York Times article described the films as mixing "the myths of the western-the search, the chase, the stranger, the unfriendly mountains and too absolute sky-with something bleaker and more dangerous. They are sparse, austere, stripped of all unnecessary language, stripped and flayed until there is nothing left but white bones drying in the sun." The Hollywood Reporter reviews lauded the films' "magnificent style," and the LAHExam reviewer praised Hellman's films as "a trick of light." The Shooting marked the first collaboration between Hellman and actor Warren Oates, who went on to star in three other Hellman films. The Shooting, along with Ride in the Whirlwind, marked Nicholson's debut as a producer.