Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Hippie trippy Zachariah

For Clive, Joe, and old hippies everywhere ...

ZACHARIAH, 1971. 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 ..... both take up with the notorious Belle Starr but Zachariah finds peace working at a desert outpost with an old man, until gun-slinger Matthew turns up, dressed in black. Can the boys rekindle their old friendship and ride off into the sunset together? Youbetcha.

That in a nutshell is the hippie trippy rock western ZACHARIAH, a totally forgotten 1971 flick now (I never got to see it at the time but remember the photos in movie magazines), but it captures that crazy era perfectly, as much as ZABRISKIE POINT or EASY RIDER or ALICE'S RESTAURANT, or Robert Benton's 1972 western BAD COMPANY (more young guys getting guns and getting into trouble...) or the show HAIR and it paves the way for those Eagles and country rock groups (Poco, Notorious Byrd Brothers) with their outlaw and cowboy fantasies, spaced out in the desert ("Desperado", Elton's "Tumbleweed Connection", The Band's entire output). It was also that time of Leon Russell and Joe Cocker's rock'n'roll circus MAD DOGS AND ENGLISHMEN ... so, lots of music, lots of dope, groovy chicks and guys, gay vibes, anything goes.... It must have been ideal for the Midnight Movie circuit. 

The blurb says: The adventure begins when Zachariah, who has just received a mail order gun, convinces his blacksmith friend Matthew to ride off with him on the trail of The Crackers, a roving band of bandits. At a saloon where The Crackers are entertaining Zachariah gets embroiled in a gunfight but manages to outdraw and kill his assailant. Flushed with success he decides that he is good gunfighter material and he and Matthew set out on a trail of gun-slinging adventures throughout the West.

I dare say boot hills were full of guys like Zach and Matthew, as they encounter outlaws and madams in saloons - Belle Starr's establishment is particularly lush with those dancing go-go girls. Young Don Johnson is stunningly attractive as Matthew - particularly in that black leather and chaps ensemble, while Zach favours the all white look. John Rubinstein is our hero Zachariah - he is he son of Arthur Rubinstein and starred as Fosse's PIPPIN on Broadway, among other roles), and Country Joe and the Fish (WOODSTOCK) are hilarious as the clunky group The Crackers. Its almost like JOHNNY GUITAR territory but with an acid rush and a rock group playing in the desert. Cue long drum solos and various rock numbers .... Johnson had already done another hippie trippy THE MAGIC GARDEN OF STANLEY SWEETHEART in 1970, and the prison play FORTUNE AND MENS' EYES.

This was one we totally forgot, until an IMDB pal Jorge re-discovered it and its a treat. I loved it, and it will be played again. Oh, those early '70s. There's a gay vibe here too as the two boys seem more than best pals .... but hey, the wild west was like that. Zach openly loves Matthew and wants them to stay together. The guy in the saloon refers to Matthew as Zach's girlfriend and even calling Zach "a little fag" does not provoke him. Pat Quinn's Belle Starr seems to be working a Jayne Mansfield vibe too ... This surreal crazy movie was produced and directed by George Englund. Thanks, George. With Elvin Jones, Doug Kershaw and William Kallee as the old guy.  

Quite a different ending to
Brokeback Mountain
Jorge says: Hi Mike. 'Zachariah' is certainly worth a look, it's an inventively loose take on Hesse's novel "Siddhartha”, has a great soundtrack, but is above all a love story between two handsome cowboys, John Rubinstein and Don Johnson. This unexpected and strong gay aspect makes 'Zachariah' even greater than the already fun acid western it is. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did! 

And this is a fascinating piece on it:


  1. I'm obviously going to have to see this again. I hated it when it came out but you have managed to make it sound appealing. I told you I saw Rubinstein on Broadway (oh dear, name-dropping again) in CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD for which he won the Tony.

  2. Well for a forgotten rubbish movie this has a lot of admirers who read a lot into it, but unlike BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN it seems a happy gay cowboy story and is really rather sweet and adorable. Certainly a discovery.

  3. ZACHARIAH isn't a movie you would judge like any other, its a hippie fantasy which one either gets or one doesn't, I tried to put it in context of that era - HAIR, EASY RIDER etc. its certainly a lot more fun than Warhol's LONESOME COWBOYS ! and its sweety gay subtext has, as indicated, been picked up by others, making it quite exceptional for its time.

  4. Forgot to add: Rubinstein and Johnson both still look good now and both are still working - both are also December boys like me, in fact Rubinstein born December 8, while I am Dec 7.

    1. Johnson is in DJANGO UNCHAINED (as Big Daddy!) - which I still have lined up to watch in the pending pile ...

  5. Zachariah' is a blast. And you're absolutely right, Don Johnson and John Rubinstein are simply two adorable cowboys in their own paths of self-discovery, who just happen to not only love each other, but, miraculously, allowed to go out in the sunset!!! So glad you enjoyed it, wonderful post on your blog.