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Finally, after years of trying to catch up this movie on various movie channels, Tracy and I had a chance to watch - and enjoy - Fighting Mad, the 1975 Peter Fonda movie which was filmed in Washington County.
Over the years, there have been a number of motion pictures shot in Northwest Arkansas; in 1994, the train car that is now the Dickson Street branch of the Bank of Fayetteville served as the background for a scene for the HBO movie Frank and Jesse, featuring Rob Lowe and Randy Travis.
All part of the magic of movie making. Anyone who has been to Estes Park in Colorado has been amazed when they see the hotel used for The Shining, which overlooks (a cheap movie pun for you) a bustling tourist community mere streets away.
Leaving the Waters of Digression behind us, let’s get back to Fighting Mad, with Peter Fonda - which is also a Roger Corman production, though he didn’t direct it.
Fighting Mad tells the story of a man who returns to his home after many years, only to find that a greedy land developer, played by Philip Carey (Laredo, One Life to Live), has his eyes set on the land in the area. There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of any legal help as folks are driven from their homes, both by shady moves and then by outright murder.
Fonda doesn’t want trouble, but soon he must - as all stalwart heroes must - takes the law into his own hands to stop those who would drive folks from their homes simply to make a dollar.
Along the way, he engages in what some might describe as “eco-terrorism,” in that he blows up some equipment belonging to the company, but in the absence of any effective law and order . . .
The film is notable for its many scenes shot around Fayetteville, including the old Swinging Door on Dickson Street (which is actually referred to by name), old county buildings, an area I’d swear was Wilson Park and Mount Nord.
Supposedly there is a shot of Brenda’s Bigger Burgers in there somewhere, but it must have happened so quickly I missed it; I was probably talking.
But as I watched Fighting Mad, even more than the fun of spotting Fayetteville landmarks, I was taken with the idea of greedy developers managing to move folks out of their homes. Thank god something like that has never happened in Fayetteville!
Or . . .
Like the folks forced to leave their land and homes in the movie, many are the folk in Fayetteville who have been moved out of places they call home, even though they may not actually own them, so that newer, pricier, more “environmentally-friendly” apartments can be built.
In at least one case, folks were shunted out so that a . . .
. . . parking lot could be created.
Where do they go, and do the folks who gather around the developers hoisting a glass of wine and a hunk of cheese in a salute to the future really give a tinker’s damn? After all, in a sense they are just swapping out one set of voters for another, in the long run.
There are lots of movies on my “Movies I Would make Other People Watch” list, but just maybe, this one could be suggested viewing for anyone who wants to run for office in Fayetteville or Washington County.
Fighting Mad may essentially be a modern-day western, along the lines of Shane, but there is an immediacy to watching this movie when you see the issues raised with your own city and county as the backdrop - even though we’re never quite sure where we are, those in Fayetteville will know. And maybe as we see Fayetteville backdrops, we might see the issues raised with new eyes.
Perhaps seeing a bulldozer rip through a small house might give someone pause before they go ga-ga over the next development which would require the removal of a few human beings.
I’m sorry, did I say “removal?” That sounds so harsh.
I meant to write “eviction.” That’s much more humane.
Quote of the Day
One thing must be said for idleness; it keeps people from doing the Devil’s work. The great villains of history were busy men, since great crimes and slaughters require great industry and dedication. - Philip Slater