NEW WORLD PICTURES MONTH: The Shadow of Chikara (1978)

Earl A. Smith was the writer of The Legend of Boggy Creek and The Town That Dreaded Sundown, but he only directed this one movie.

It’s a Western horror, which is rare, and one that places Confederate soldier Wishbone Cutter (Joe Don Baker, who yes, was a 70s lead and near sex symbol) into a treasure hunt after he learns of a cave filled with diamonds from dying soldier Virgil Caine (Slim Pickens).

Wishbone assembles a team that includes Amos Richmond geologist (Ted Neeley, once Jesus Christ), Native American Half Moon O’Brian (John N. Houck Jr.) and eventually Drusilla Wilcox (Sondra Locke), a woman they find after a massacre. The Arkansas mountain is guarded by a demon bird, so of course everything gets strange by the time they get there. Wishbone is already haunted as his wife Rosalie (Linda Dano, who was on more than 1,300 episodes of Another World) has left him for a Yankee soldier.

Wilcox claims that the men that killed her people were silver naked beings and O’Brian claims that they’re being attacked by demons. The movie never gives in and reveals to you what it’s really all about and for that, I like it even more. It’s also got the same crew that Charles B. Pierce used, so it gets the authentic Arkansas rough feel down right. Even the ending makes little to no sense, but hey, I kind of adore that.

The only downer I’ll reveal is that there’s a lot of real animal abuse in this, as several horses plunge off a cliff and I have no idea if any survived. Just know that going in.

On the positive side, somehow, the filmmakers got The Band to let them use “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.”

Also known as The Ballad of Virgil Cane, Thunder MountainWishbone CutterThe Curse of Demon Mountain, Demon Mountain and Shadow Mountain, this is a movie that combines the end of the Western 70s darkness with occult themes and a relentless downer edge. I’d never seen it before and it’s definitely a film I plan on exploring again.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.