Pure Country (1992)

This attempt to transform country superstar George Strait into a chiseled-chin leading man is the feature film debut — and lone feature film — written by Rex McGee, through he returned with Where There’s a Will (2006), a cable movie directed by John Putch (who made his acting debut in the 1981 NBC-TV movie Angel Dusted and appeared as a grown-up Sean Brody in Jaws 3-D).

The film’s director, Christopher Cain, previous helmed 1987’s The Principal starring Jim Belushi (who, in a meta-WTF of of all time, had his character, Rick Latimer from that film, re-appear in the 1991 sci-fi flick Abraxas). Cain also gave us the Brat Pack western — and that overplayed and annoying Bon Jovi song — Young Guns (1988). He followed up Pure County with The Next Karate Kid (1994) starring Hilary Swank from the recent, controversial box office bomb The Hunt. Of course, we are all about the Big Three and cable network TV movies of the ’70s through the ’90s, so we remember Cain at B&S About Movies for Wheels of Terror, which aired on the USA Network (you know, back in the days before USA ditched original content to become an aftermarket shill for NBC-TV series).

While Pure Country barely made back its $10 million budget, the accompanying soundtrack became George Strait’s biggest, best-selling album. And on a sadder note: the film marked Rory Calhoun’s (Motel Hell) last film appearance; he died in April 1999. Calhoun is the wise father of Strait’s love interest played by Isabel Glasser. Retreating into TV work and indie films soon after, she co-starred with Robert Patrick and Rutger Hauer in the 1998 Top Gun ripoff Tactical Assault.

Strait is a character not far removed from his real self: he’s world-renowned country star Wyatt “Dusty” Chandler. However, unlike Strait, Dusty’s a trouble soul: he’s tired of the lights and smoke and the sets. And he’s none to fond of a new song called “Overnight Male” written by Buddy Jackson (Kyle Chandler), his manager Lulu’s (Lesley Ann Warren) boyfriend, being forced on him.

So, in a plot twist analogous to Neil Diamond’s 1980 remake-bomb of The Jazz Singer — Dusty cuts off his trademark beard and ponytail and splits for the open road. And does this sound a lot like when Rick Springfield made his play for the silver screen — and bombed, just like Neil Diamond before him — in 1984’s Hard to Hold?

Yep. It’s the same old he-has-everything-but-really-has-nothing story. And love is always the answer to get back on top.

Just how many of these musician-vanity projects — where the soundtrack always performs better on the Billboard charts than the film on the Variety charts — will Hollywood make before they realize their attempts to transform “then hot” musicians into A-List leading-actors (well, outside of David Bowie, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson) doesn’t work?

Billie Eilish? Hollywood is calling. And for your own sake, don’t pick up the iPhone.

While the story is a simple, hokey story, truth be told: Strait is a pretty decent actor and he would have been better served by breaking into the business with a non-musical role, you know, as with Trace Atkins, Dwight Yoakham, Tim McGraw, Randy Travis, and Tobey Keith.

Oops! I stand corrected. There are musicians that can act. Open mouth. Insert crow.

Hey, wait! Where’s John Doe?

While Johnny D. didn’t make the marquee as a co-star, he — as he always does, and as he did in Great Balls of Fire (also reviewed this week) alongside Dennis Quaid — is excellent in his support role as Dusty’s longtime friend and drummer, Earl Blackstock.

And did you know that director Christopher Cain’s adopted son is Dean “Superman” Cain? And did you know Dean co-wrote — with the Roger Corman-bred George Armitage (Private Duty Nurses, Night Call Nurses, Darktown Strutters, Gas-s-s-s, and the 1979 TV movie Hot Rod) — a female-driven sequel directed by his dad in 2010, Pure Country: The Gift, that starred country star Katrina Elam?

It’s okay. No one did.

And that there was a third sequel: 2017’s Pure Country: Pure Heart?

But we did see the original, thanks to John Doe.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies and publishes on Medium.

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