Zachariah


1h 31m 1971

Brief Synopsis

Gunfights and electric guitars in the Old West? You bet! Zachariah gets a mail order gun, practices a little, and kills a man in the local saloon. He and his friend Matthew set out to become gunfighters, joining with the Crackers, a rock band who are also (pitifully inept) stage robbers. Having quickly outgrown that gang, Zachariah and Matthew set out to become bigtime gunslingers. Before long, they part company and a rivalry grows between them.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Release Date
Feb 1971
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 18 Jan 1971; New York opening: 24 Jan 1971
Production Company
ABC Pictures Corp.; George Englund Productions
Distribution Company
Cinerama Releasing Corp.
Country
Mexico and United States
Location
Baja, California, United States; Sonora,Mexico

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 31m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Metrocolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Synopsis

In the 1870s, when Zachariah, a young homesteader who yearns for the romanticism of the Old West, receives a mail-order gun, he howls with glee and rides into town to show his close friend, Matthew, his treasure. After Zach asks Matthew, a blacksmith by trade, to forge him some silver bullets for "fancy shooting," the two friends take up target practice. Soon after, The Crackers, a renegade rock-and-roll band who rob banks on the side, come to town and perform at the local saloon. As Zach and Matthew dance to the music, a disgruntled patron sneers at Zach's gun, calls him a "little fag" and forces him to draw. When Zach outdraws the man and kills him, Matthew is ecstatic, but Zach is shaken by the thought of killing a man. Zach rides off into the mountains to avoid prosecution, and soon after, Matthew joins him to report that the authorities have overlooked the shooting to pursue The Crackers, who robbed the express office. Galvanized by the news, Zach announces that he is going to be a gunfighter, and after Matthew presents him with a silver bullet, the friends ride out to find The Crackers and ask for a job. Zach and Matthew soon discover that the renegades are inept, and as they fail at robbery after robbery, the reward offered for their capture plummets. Consequently, when Zach comes upon a man playing a fiddle who tells him about infamous black bandit Job Cain, who is living in Apache Wells, Zach determines to seek Cain out to learn what "makes him the best." Although Matthew is hesitant at first, the friends pledge to stay together and head for Apache Wells. At the saloon there, the friends watch in awe as a man calls out Cain. After gunning the man down, Cain furiously plays a drum solo. When Zach impulsively blurts out that he wants to join Cain's gang, Cain tries to goad the friends into facing off with each other to see who is faster, but Zach challenges Cain instead. When the mock gunfight ends in a draw between Zach and Cain, Zach tells Matthew that he fears one day he will be provoked into a showdown with him and has decided to leave. Disgusted, Matthew renounces his friendship with Zach and stays behind with Cain. As he rides off alone into the mountains, Zach comes across a way station operated by The Old Man. Greeting him with an armload of organic vegetables, the beatific Old Man directs Zach to hang up his guns and join him for dinner. The next morning, Zach, still yearning for excitement, heads for Camino to meet legendary prostitute Belle Starr. Once there, Zach enters a steam bath in which he is massaged by towel-clad women smoking marijuana, after which he dons a white buckskin suit and presents himself to Belle. When Belle asks what he can do for her, he impresses her with his quick draw and the two fall into bed together, after which Belle proclaims "he is the best." The next day, however, Zach announces that Camino is not what he is looking for and leaves Belle to return to The Old Man. Meanwhile, Cain leaves Matthew in charge of Apache Wells while he goes to Camino with the rest of the gang. Overjoyed by Zach's return, The Old Man takes him into the desert, where they cavort on the sand dunes and Zach discards his dude clothes. The Old Man then advises Zach to slow down and not be in a hurry to die. Later, a stage carrying Matthew, garbed from head to toe in black, arrives at the way station. Matthew, surprised to see Zach unarmed and dressed in a faded work shirt and jeans, boasts to his old friend that he is on his way to Camino to kill Cain. After Matthew leaves, Zach pulls his gun down from the hook and begins to shoot at targets. Distressed, The Old Man shows Zach an innocent animal that he has killed during practice and refuses to talk to him again. Contrite, Zach tries to give The Old Man an arrowhead he found, and after accepting the gift, The Old Man dies. In Camino, meanwhile, Matthew calls out Job and kills him. He then returns to the way station where Zach invites him to stay. Paranoid about being "out in the open," Matthew challenges Zach to a gunfight, and when Zach refuses, tries to provoke him by trampling his vegetable garden. Zach stalls by dismantling his gun to clean it, and by the time he has reassembled his weapon, it is too dark to fight. When Matthew insists upon drawing anyway, Zach protests that he has no bullets, to which Matthew responds by yanking the silver bullet off the chain Zach wears around his neck. Yelling that the bullet is "for a vampire and not a friend," Zach tackles Matthew, then mounts his horse and rides off. Firing his gun and screaming that he is going to kill Zach, Matthew runs after him, then collapses in tears, looks at the bullet and begins to laugh. After tossing away the bullet, Matthew rides after Zach, and when he catches up to him, the two friends hug.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Release Date
Feb 1971
Premiere Information
Los Angeles opening: 18 Jan 1971; New York opening: 24 Jan 1971
Production Company
ABC Pictures Corp.; George Englund Productions
Distribution Company
Cinerama Releasing Corp.
Country
Mexico and United States
Location
Baja, California, United States; Sonora,Mexico

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 31m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Metrocolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

As the onscreen credits roll, shots of "Zachariah" opening the parcel containing his gun are crosscut with shots of a three-man rock-and-roll band peforming in the desert. In onscreen credits, writers Philip Austin, Peter Bergman, David Ossman and Philip Proctor are listed as "known as The Firesign Theatre." According to Filmfacts, the members of The Firesign Theatre, a quartet of improvisational comedians, publicly rejected the film because their original script had been severely edited. An August 1969 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that Joe Massot, who co-wrote the film with The Firesign Theatre, was originally slated to direct. An undated, but contemporary, Hollywood Reporter news item in the film's production file at the AMPAS Library noted that Massot resigned as director over "differences in opinion in regard to production." A January 30, 1970 ad featured in Hollywood Reporter during the film's production stated that Ginger Baker was to play drummer "Job Cain." According to Filmfacts, Zachariah was filmed in Baja, California and Sonora, Mexico. Although Hollywood Reporter production charts place actors Tom Reese and Richard Bull, folk singer Obray Ramsey and songwriter Byard Ray in the cast, their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. Ramsey and Ray did, however, write two songs for the film.
       In an August 1969 Hollywood Reporter news item, Paul Lazarus III, the creative affairs vice-president of ABC Pictures, noted that Zachariah would be the first "rock western", while others sources stated that it was advertised as the first "electric western." Although the film was a period piece, it contained many anachronisms and motifs relating to the 1970s, among them, the use of electric guitars and instruments, a reference to "all natural" food, Go-Go dancers, groupies and used-car salesmen. In 2005, when the film Brokeback Mountain was released, it was touted as the "first gay western." However, in 1971, several reviewers commented on the underlying homosexuality of Zach and "Matthew's" relationship in Zachariah. The New York Times review reviewer commented that Zachariah was "...the first movie to parody the Western with the apparent intention of propagandizing homosexual love." The Village Voice reviewer commented "...The plot is simplicity itself: boy gets boy, boy loses boy; boy gets boy in the end. No pun intended. Just before denouement time...Belle Starr is hustled through to lend a hetero note to the proceedings." In the film itself, one character actually calls Zach "a little fag." Zachariah was the first starring role of John Rubenstein, the son of famed pianist Arthur Rubenstein.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1970

Released in USA on video.

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1970