We love and miss Westerns, so we invited friends to watch “Lady Lawman,” a fictitious movie based on the first real female marshal, Francis Miller, of the Indian Territory in the 1890s.
Jake Jecmenek, a friend from high school, was kind enough to give me a DVD of the movie he co-produced and starred in, which is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
To provide a fair review, I combined the ratings of all six of us, so as not to skew the results. (Dodie has known Jake since at least the 8th grade and we are both fond of him).
We had popcorn and tasty beverages for our guests to enjoy as we prepared to project the film outdoors like an old fashioned drive-in theater. The DVD cover and packaging is beautiful, but the first hint something might be amiss was when one of them read the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) movie description:
“A women (yes, plural instead of ‘woman’) is offered a job and because the Shieriff (yes, misspelled, rather than ‘Sheriff’) is short handed to a woman (yes, ‘short handed to a woman‘) whom lost her recent husband (instead of an older spouse?) to the same gang of outlaws as the tracker (so the tracker was in a gang of outlaws?).
Brett William Mauser is the executive producer, writer, director, editor and, among other responsibilities, an actor in the movie.
Here is the good, bad and the ugly with our ratings of Lady Lawman:
The best acting into this 95 minute movie was by Ryan Jasso (Francis Miller) and Jake Jecmenek (Buck Johnson) who played the prime characters.
Other notable actors included Ernest Martinez (ditch the whiskey bottle in every other scene – you’re better than that), Carlos Leos and Kody Nace.
According to our small six-person audience, among the good features of the movie were:
🔹How a momentous pocket watch was weaved into the story.
🔹Dodie and her girlfriends all “liked the beautiful horses.”
🔹Everyone agreed the background music helped the movie.
🔹”My favorite were the gag shots in the Bonus Features” of the DVD, one said. “Especially when it showed someone actually wearing stiched-in red letters– ‘FLASH’–on black jockey underwear, the obvious rage in 1890s fashion I suppose.”
🔹”The acting and horses saved the movie,” Dodie exclaimed.
Mauser may be an improved movie maker since his western, Bass Reeves. It was the only movie I reviewed of his, way back in 2010.
In Bass Reeves, a film about the first Black U.S. deputy marshal, there were some good performances by actors James A. House and Craig Rainey, but audience members were distracted by things like 1970s style paneling and plastic light switches on interior walls during the times of the Old West.
In his latest offering, Mauser releases what could have been a more pleasing movie without two primary familiar disturbances:
1. lack of authenticity.
2. long drawn out dialogue that was sometimes difficult to understand.
🔹Practically every actor sported brand new cowboy hats, bejeweled with Route 66 type trading post or Buckee’s style ornaments and headbands. 1890s? No way.
🔹It’s significant enough as major diversions–as are the shiny new saddles on every horse; pristine and more modern day style shirts, jackets and attire–or replicas–on some of them.
🔹An asphalt road in front of a seamless metal-roofed house with a concrete sidewalk during the 1890s was way out of the time period. People notice that Brett!
(Asphalt first appeared in North America in the 1870s in Virginia and was used for the centennial of 1876 on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C. It took years for cars and buggies to be driven on asphalt roads in Oklahoma or Texas.)
He could work his way towards something more exceptional if he would not still be making the same mistakes. You can’t blame it on budget restraints. Used and authentic can cost less! At the very least, change the camera angles to hide these errors.
Everyone in our small focus group agreed and used descriptives like “annoying,” “obvious,” “blaring” and–
🔹”I couldn’t concentrate, especially when the shine from Wal-Mart stainless bowls were laid out on the table.”
🔹”I couldn’t concentrate on the acting because the clothes looked like they came from Sears, K-Mart or Wal-Mart,” a husband and wife team explained as I took their notes.
🔹”This is a cowboy movie,” she said. “One guy looked like a Low Rider who should be driving a jumping ’65 Chevy.”
🔹”And what about so many of them wearing new outfitter clothes, complete with matching bandanas?” another asked. “I’m sorry, this would have been a fairly decent movie for theater release if they would get help with the dialogue writing, costuming and location help.”
🔹”Look, I enjoy westerns and watch the Western Channel all the time,” said a veteran cowboy western fan. “After awhile, I just tried to ignore all this, and tell myself ‘hey, give them a break, it’s independent greenhorn tenderfoot hour,’ and then was able to enjoy it better. It’s not High Noon or The Searchers after all. It’s some good people making a movie with what they’ve got. I’d give them at least a B for effort. For dialogue, not so much.”
🔹”I did the same,” the second man said. “Maybe it’s because we live around and raise horses, livestock, and goats, that I was being hard on them, but a movie shouldn’t have to make me give excuses for it. I did enjoy it alright, but it took some effort.”
🔹”The rain scenes at night on the closeups looked like the drops were coming down superimposed on the screen,” he continued. “I wanted to concentrate on the struggle, but by this late in the movie I was trained to look at mistakes.”
🔹”It seems like they went overboard with all the shooting and killing,” our first lady friend said. “The pocket watch part was good, but I kept wondering if they even had musical watches that played Fleur-de-lis in the 1800s. It’s not hard to think that way with so many other noticeable such instances.”
“Since it is in Bonus Feature we can laugh and be forgiving, but those red stiched lettering “FLASH” in the black underwear band was bad, but funny as hell,” her husband noted.
By Jack Dennis
In a quirky sort of way, after the movie was over, guests had left and with alone time to reflect, I actually enjoyed Lady Lawman in a campy, nonsensical sort of fashion.
It reminded me of the same illogical, but fun emotions I experienced when my neighborhood pals and I would take the bus downtown to the (now defunct) Texas Theater in San Antonio to watch old 1950s Ed Wood horror and sci-fi movies. The props were ludicrous and the actors (an old Bela Lugosi, Doris Fuller, Vampirella and Tor Johnson) were baffling strange–only Lady Lawman had far, far better acting.
Mauser seems to be sticking to his formula, making independent low budget movies the best he can with what resources he has. Personally, I think he’s better than this. If he would accept writing, continuity and professional costuming help, rather than attempt to tackle as much of it as he can by himself, he could churn out some better products. He has some of the talent and much experience around him, but perhaps this is his comfortable niche.
Acting, B overall.
Acting, Ryan Jasso and Jecmenek, A-
Total Movie: B-
(Low) 1 to 10 (High) Scale, Five Person Composite
Effort = 8.2
Acting = 6.6
Production = 6.9
Music = 8.6
Authenticity = 5.2
Total Movie = 6.7
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