Hex


1h 32m 1972

Brief Synopsis

Set in rural Nebraska following the First World War, six veterans on motorcycles ride into the sleepy little town of Bingo. The locals are friendly until one of the vets beats a local kid in a drag race, after which the six are driven out of town. After coming upon a small farm, the fugitives are allowed to hide out by the two sisters who run the place. Things go smoothly until one of the vets, after smoking the locoweed growing nearby, tries to rape one of the hosts. Being part Native American, her sister decides to get revenge by casting a hex that steadily does in each of the unwelcome guests.

Film Details

Also Known As
Shrieking, The
MPAA Rating
Release Date
1972
Production Company
20th Century Fox
Distribution Company
20th Century Fox; 20th Century Fox Distribution

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 32m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (DeLuxe)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Synopsis

In 1919, a group of motorcyclists encounter two sisters in Nebraska who are practicing witches. One of the sisters kills several of the motorcycle gang with her magical powers, sparing one man to whom she is attracted. He stays with her on her farm and her sister leaves with one of the surviving cyclists and heads to California.

Film Details

Also Known As
Shrieking, The
MPAA Rating
Release Date
1972
Production Company
20th Century Fox
Distribution Company
20th Century Fox; 20th Century Fox Distribution

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 32m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (DeLuxe)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Articles

Hex -


Horror has always been a highly adaptable genre, its practitioners attuned to evolving trends and the demands of the marketplace. When the bogeymen of Dracula (1931) and Frankenstein (1931) were no longer viable on their own, Universal Pictures bulk loaded them into "monster rallies" such as Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1942), House of Frankenstein (1944), and House of Dracula (1945). As the genre was transformed by circumstance and evolving attitudes, studios crossed storytelling streams, creating such hybrids as the horror comedy (Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, 1948), the vampire western (Curse of the Undead, 1959) and the horror-science fiction amalgam (The Vampire, 1957), which reworked Gothic tropes in an Atomic Age milieu. The sea change in Hollywood SOP after the success of Easy Rider (1969) created new opportunities for younger filmmakers eager to make their movies far from the studios and out in the real world while introducing yet another kink in the genre hose: the horror film as road picture.

In its day, the horror road movie ran the gamut from ridiculous (Werewolves on Wheels, 1971) to sublime (Race with the Devil, 1975). Inclining closer to the latter is Leo Garen's Hex (1973), a supernatural tale of World War I veterans who find themselves on the wrong side of Native American magic while motorcycling across the Nebraska plains, which had the backing of 20th Century Fox and visionary producer Max Raab (who had helped bring Nicolas Roeg's Walkabout [1971] to the screen and who was about to reap the windfall of Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange, 1971). Still reeling from such costly failures as Dr. Dolittle (1967) and Hello, Dolly! (1969), Fox was taking its cue from Columbia and Universal, who had sent Dennis Hopper and Monte Hellman into the field to make Easy Rider and Two-Lane Blacktop (1971) with modest budgets and the promise of minimal studio interference. Hoping for, at best, a sleeper and, at worst, recoupable losses, Fox placed the low budget production in the hands of start-up film director Leo Garen, who had no film industry bona fides to speak of but who had earned acclaim and no small amount of infamy Off-Broadway with controversial productions of plays by Norman Mailer and Leroi Jones. Hex had made the rounds as a spec script titled Grasslands, penned by Hollywood hopefuls eager to establish industry cred. Doran William Cannon had been welcomed west on the strength of his indie feature The Square Root of Zero (1963) and had been among the first to see the cinematic potential in Charles Webb's 1963 novel The Graduate. Though he would lose his option to producer Lawrence Turman and director Mike Nichols, Cannon sold his original scripts for Skidoo (1968) and Brewster McCloud (1970) to Otto Preminger and Robert Altman. His Grasslands writing partner was Vernon Zimmerman, who would later helm the grindhouse classic Unholy Rollers (1972) and Deadhead Miles (1973), a road movie written by Terrence Malick. It was Garen's inspiration to make the contemporary Grasslands a period piece and in his search for a writer he reached out to Two-Lane Blacktop scribe Rudy Wurlitzer, then at work on Sam Peckinpah's Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973). Though he demurred, Wurlitzer recommended his friend, prose writer Steve Katz, whose turbulent partnership with Garen extended over several months of writing sessions that took place in rooms at New York's Warwick Hotel, in a fishing shack off the New Jersey shore, and Katz's New York State home, where Garen commandeered the living room.

A mercurial autocrat in the Francis Ford Coppola mode (albeit long before Coppola had established himself as such), Garen had brokered his Hollywood debut by a combination of cajolery, charisma, and bullishness and was sent to South Dakota in September 1971 to make his movie on a Cheyenne River Sioux reservation known as Swift Bird. Though his crew was union, Garen's cast was largely untested. Extensive auditions and screen tests had yielded an eclectic troupe of players headlined by Keith Carradine (whose experience was then limited to the Broadway production of Hair and a small role in Robert Altman's McCabe & Mrs. Miller, 1971), Hilarie Thompson (a former studio contract player coming off of a lead role in the short-lived series The Young Rebels), Robert Walker, Jr. (who had popped up in a wordless cameo in Easy Rider), and Scott Glenn and Gary Busey, costars of the New World Pictures' Easy Rider cash-in Angels Hard as They Come (1971). Though up-and-coming actress Sissy Spacek did not make Garen's final cut, he cast Philippines-born fashion model Tina Herazo (who later changed her professional name to Christina Raines) and Mike Combs, a teenager he had picked up hitchhiking.

Though initially tolerant of Leo Garen's eccentricities, Fox executives grew increasingly frustrated by his slow progress and alarmed by reports from the crew (who were billeted in the nearby town of Gettysburg) that the first-time filmmaker and his young cast were spending more time smoking marijuana than making a movie. After the production had dragged on for three months, from September through November, and with a harsh winter settling in on the prairie, Fox called Garen and his team back to Hollywood, where principal photography was wrapped with scenes set in a frontier border town built on the Fox backlot. The studio then seized Grassland, denying Garen final cut, and shelved the film for a year. (Lost in the edits was an appearance by Keith Carradine's father, John Carradine.) Fox would ultimately attempt two limited releases of the film, as Grassland in September 1973 (at which point the ads suggested a lighthearted, vaguely druggy experience) and three months later as Hex (with ad copy that brokered in more standard exploitation superlatives). Under either title, the film drew no audience and Fox vaulted it - ultimately dumping Hex onto video cassette in the mid-80s under the equally incongruous title The Shrieking.

Both a product and a victim of its time (the window of tolerance and permissiveness in which it had been incubated did not stay open long), Hex developed a renewed reputation as an unjustly neglected cult film and remains fascinating forty years after the fact as a hybrid horror/biker movie emblematic of the quixotic state of American horror in those few, innovative years between the watershed of the micro-budgeted Night of the Living Dead (1968) and of the cooption and legitimization of genre tropes by such A-list studio releases as The Exorcist (1973), Jaws (1975), The Omen (1976), The Amityville Horror (1979), Dracula (1979), The Shining (1980), and Poltergeist (1982). While most of Hex's cast went on to greater things (Carradine, Raines, and Glenn would turn up in Robert Altman's Nashville, 1975) or to continued work within the entertainment industry, Leo Garen proved an ill-fit for Hollywood. Though he retained a writing credit on the Michael Mann-produced Band of the Hand (1986), Garen's professional trail grew cold as he lost himself in sailing and bouts of paralyzing manic depression. Stranded in Cartagena, Colombia, without funds or medication, Leo Garen committed suicide in December 2006.

By Richard Harland Smith

Sources:

Time's Wallet, Vol. 1 by Steve Katz (Counterpath Press, 2010)
The Unmaking of Skidoo: An Interview with Doran William Cannon www.ChristianDivine.com
John Nichols on Leo Garen: He Was a Friend of Mine by John Nichols, www.PeskyTaosInsect.com, January 16, 2007
"Since You've Been Gone: An Interview with Christina Raines," Hill Place: Random Musings on All Things Related to Movies and Television June 2014
e-mail from Hilarie Thompson, July 23, 2015
e-mail from Vernon Zimmerman, July 27, 2015
Hex -

Hex -

Horror has always been a highly adaptable genre, its practitioners attuned to evolving trends and the demands of the marketplace. When the bogeymen of Dracula (1931) and Frankenstein (1931) were no longer viable on their own, Universal Pictures bulk loaded them into "monster rallies" such as Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1942), House of Frankenstein (1944), and House of Dracula (1945). As the genre was transformed by circumstance and evolving attitudes, studios crossed storytelling streams, creating such hybrids as the horror comedy (Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, 1948), the vampire western (Curse of the Undead, 1959) and the horror-science fiction amalgam (The Vampire, 1957), which reworked Gothic tropes in an Atomic Age milieu. The sea change in Hollywood SOP after the success of Easy Rider (1969) created new opportunities for younger filmmakers eager to make their movies far from the studios and out in the real world while introducing yet another kink in the genre hose: the horror film as road picture. In its day, the horror road movie ran the gamut from ridiculous (Werewolves on Wheels, 1971) to sublime (Race with the Devil, 1975). Inclining closer to the latter is Leo Garen's Hex (1973), a supernatural tale of World War I veterans who find themselves on the wrong side of Native American magic while motorcycling across the Nebraska plains, which had the backing of 20th Century Fox and visionary producer Max Raab (who had helped bring Nicolas Roeg's Walkabout [1971] to the screen and who was about to reap the windfall of Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange, 1971). Still reeling from such costly failures as Dr. Dolittle (1967) and Hello, Dolly! (1969), Fox was taking its cue from Columbia and Universal, who had sent Dennis Hopper and Monte Hellman into the field to make Easy Rider and Two-Lane Blacktop (1971) with modest budgets and the promise of minimal studio interference. Hoping for, at best, a sleeper and, at worst, recoupable losses, Fox placed the low budget production in the hands of start-up film director Leo Garen, who had no film industry bona fides to speak of but who had earned acclaim and no small amount of infamy Off-Broadway with controversial productions of plays by Norman Mailer and Leroi Jones. Hex had made the rounds as a spec script titled Grasslands, penned by Hollywood hopefuls eager to establish industry cred. Doran William Cannon had been welcomed west on the strength of his indie feature The Square Root of Zero (1963) and had been among the first to see the cinematic potential in Charles Webb's 1963 novel The Graduate. Though he would lose his option to producer Lawrence Turman and director Mike Nichols, Cannon sold his original scripts for Skidoo (1968) and Brewster McCloud (1970) to Otto Preminger and Robert Altman. His Grasslands writing partner was Vernon Zimmerman, who would later helm the grindhouse classic Unholy Rollers (1972) and Deadhead Miles (1973), a road movie written by Terrence Malick. It was Garen's inspiration to make the contemporary Grasslands a period piece and in his search for a writer he reached out to Two-Lane Blacktop scribe Rudy Wurlitzer, then at work on Sam Peckinpah's Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973). Though he demurred, Wurlitzer recommended his friend, prose writer Steve Katz, whose turbulent partnership with Garen extended over several months of writing sessions that took place in rooms at New York's Warwick Hotel, in a fishing shack off the New Jersey shore, and Katz's New York State home, where Garen commandeered the living room. A mercurial autocrat in the Francis Ford Coppola mode (albeit long before Coppola had established himself as such), Garen had brokered his Hollywood debut by a combination of cajolery, charisma, and bullishness and was sent to South Dakota in September 1971 to make his movie on a Cheyenne River Sioux reservation known as Swift Bird. Though his crew was union, Garen's cast was largely untested. Extensive auditions and screen tests had yielded an eclectic troupe of players headlined by Keith Carradine (whose experience was then limited to the Broadway production of Hair and a small role in Robert Altman's McCabe & Mrs. Miller, 1971), Hilarie Thompson (a former studio contract player coming off of a lead role in the short-lived series The Young Rebels), Robert Walker, Jr. (who had popped up in a wordless cameo in Easy Rider), and Scott Glenn and Gary Busey, costars of the New World Pictures' Easy Rider cash-in Angels Hard as They Come (1971). Though up-and-coming actress Sissy Spacek did not make Garen's final cut, he cast Philippines-born fashion model Tina Herazo (who later changed her professional name to Christina Raines) and Mike Combs, a teenager he had picked up hitchhiking. Though initially tolerant of Leo Garen's eccentricities, Fox executives grew increasingly frustrated by his slow progress and alarmed by reports from the crew (who were billeted in the nearby town of Gettysburg) that the first-time filmmaker and his young cast were spending more time smoking marijuana than making a movie. After the production had dragged on for three months, from September through November, and with a harsh winter settling in on the prairie, Fox called Garen and his team back to Hollywood, where principal photography was wrapped with scenes set in a frontier border town built on the Fox backlot. The studio then seized Grassland, denying Garen final cut, and shelved the film for a year. (Lost in the edits was an appearance by Keith Carradine's father, John Carradine.) Fox would ultimately attempt two limited releases of the film, as Grassland in September 1973 (at which point the ads suggested a lighthearted, vaguely druggy experience) and three months later as Hex (with ad copy that brokered in more standard exploitation superlatives). Under either title, the film drew no audience and Fox vaulted it - ultimately dumping Hex onto video cassette in the mid-80s under the equally incongruous title The Shrieking. Both a product and a victim of its time (the window of tolerance and permissiveness in which it had been incubated did not stay open long), Hex developed a renewed reputation as an unjustly neglected cult film and remains fascinating forty years after the fact as a hybrid horror/biker movie emblematic of the quixotic state of American horror in those few, innovative years between the watershed of the micro-budgeted Night of the Living Dead (1968) and of the cooption and legitimization of genre tropes by such A-list studio releases as The Exorcist (1973), Jaws (1975), The Omen (1976), The Amityville Horror (1979), Dracula (1979), The Shining (1980), and Poltergeist (1982). While most of Hex's cast went on to greater things (Carradine, Raines, and Glenn would turn up in Robert Altman's Nashville, 1975) or to continued work within the entertainment industry, Leo Garen proved an ill-fit for Hollywood. Though he retained a writing credit on the Michael Mann-produced Band of the Hand (1986), Garen's professional trail grew cold as he lost himself in sailing and bouts of paralyzing manic depression. Stranded in Cartagena, Colombia, without funds or medication, Leo Garen committed suicide in December 2006. By Richard Harland Smith Sources: Time's Wallet, Vol. 1 by Steve Katz (Counterpath Press, 2010) The Unmaking of Skidoo: An Interview with Doran William Cannon www.ChristianDivine.com John Nichols on Leo Garen: He Was a Friend of Mine by John Nichols, www.PeskyTaosInsect.com, January 16, 2007 "Since You've Been Gone: An Interview with Christina Raines," Hill Place: Random Musings on All Things Related to Movies and Television June 2014 e-mail from Hilarie Thompson, July 23, 2015 e-mail from Vernon Zimmerman, July 27, 2015

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1972

Released in United States on Video April 4, 1991

Released in United States 1972

Released in United States on Video April 4, 1991