There are key movies in people’s lives, ones that change you in ways you could never imagine. One’s that touch you and help develop who you become in the future. Then there are those that you end up actually in that give you a good story to tell later in life. This one is of the latter.

While I have posted this before I felt we needed to bring it back in light of the sad loss of one of it’s stars this week, Kenny Rogers.   While I can’t say I had the most pleasant experience with Kenny on the set, he is still an icon and one that will be remembered for his incredible talent.  So, without further adieu, my friends, this is Rio Diablo.

(Originally posted on 2/22/2018)

Today’s Key Movie:

Rio 3
I’ll be honest, he wasn’t that nice of a guy in real life.

Rio Diablo comes from a time when made-for-TV westerns were all the rage. Everything from Gunsmoke, to Lonesome Dove, Streets of Laredo and many more. One man that made a ton of films was none other than Country Music star Kenny Rogers with The Gambler Parts 1 through 500. I have to say, The Gambler Episode 1 The Phantom Songbook was the low point in the series but that really wasn’t his fault. It was a terrible prequel and honestly ill conceived.

Today’s film stars Kenny Rogers, Travis Tritt and Naomi Judd, so for the time it was a major to do for the folks in Texas, I mean this film had Country Music Royalty so it had to be good! Right?

Rio 4
Travis Tritt in the height of the Mullet craze!

The film follows Benjamin Tabir (Tritt) who teams up with a Bounty Hunter Quentin Leach (Rogers) after Benjamin’s new bride is kidnapped by a group of bank robbers in the small town of Del Rio. They track the brigands across the land, seeking revenge and retribution. Tabir only wants to save his new wife while Leach only wants to collect his bounty on the gang. Along the way they become companions and, maybe even friends. So, yeah a typical 90’s western.

Why this movie?

Typically this would not be a film I would have been interested in. Don’t get me wrong, I do dig a good Western film, The Magnificent Seven is one of my all time favorites, but A) I was never much of a country music fan and B) 90’s TV westerns weren’t always…the best?

Rio 2
Me with my ‘family’ as Quentin rides into town.

The reason that this film is a Key Movie in my life is that, well, I was actually in it. Yeah, your faithful retro reviewer was in a film as a kid and it was certainly a highlight in my youth. No, It wasn’t a speaking role or even one that got credited but I do show up in a few cool spots.

I only show up in the beginning of the film in the ‘Del Rio’ segments before and after the wedding but there are some pretty good shots of me ‘acting’.

Rio 5
Grabbing a shot at the wedding. One way or another, I was gonna be seen!

One of my favorite stories that I like to relate about this film was my lunch encounter with some of the cast. You see, the official rule was that extras ate last and anyone caught eating with the stars could face expulsion from the set and the movie. To get caught not only meant not getting to be in the film but also losing the $50 per day paycheck we were making (alot for a teenage kid in the 90’s!). Regardless of the risk, we didn’t care. Sneaking over, we ended up in line without anyone saying anything. Everything was going well for us until we got our food and started looking for a place to sit. Out of nowhere a voice yelled out ‘hey kids!’. We were sure that it was over for us both, our time on set was done and we were busted.

Turns out it was none other than Brion James inviting us to sit with him and the rest of the ‘bad guys’ including Louis Contreras and Casey Sandler. Brion and the gang were amazing folk and I will forever cherish that memory. It was a highlight of my youth for sure.

Rio 6
And my favorite shot, me grabbing money from the bank robbery. No, I don’t have any of that cash anymore…

Okay, you like this film, but is it really a ‘good film’?

If you like 90’s westerns, then yes, it’s not bad. It’s not 3:10 to Yuma or even The Alamo (even though it was filmed in the same place as the the original The Alamo with John Wayne) but it’s not bad. Yes it is full of classic western tropes and cliche’d dialogue like ‘I’m saying, There’s a big difference between living, and being alive.’ The story, though predictable, is decent and well it’s a made for tv movie of the 90’s so you pretty much know what you are in for with that alone.

On set Travis Tritt was a really nice and down to earth guy, not a bad actor either really. I can’t say the same for Kenny Rogers (on the nice and down to earth part, he’s not a bad actor for the most part) but then again, he was a ‘star’ back then and also getting a little up in age so maybe he just didn’t like kids.

Sadly the filming location has been abandoned since 2010 and is falling to ruin. So many great films were filmed there and so many classic actors walked that ground. I wish someone would purchase the property and restore it to working order but I imagine it will only end up nothing but ruins.

OK, where do I get this movie?

Amazingly you can still find this film on DVD for around $15 on occasion. For such a forgotten part of Television history, I am amazed when I run across a copy still. If you do run across a copy, and you enjoy campy 90’s westerns, it’s worth picking up for your collection. I did manage to find it on Youtube and seeing that it has only had around 500 views, it does not look like many folks remember seeing it.

Late To The Game 3/22/2020

If you would like to read more reviews please check out the rest of the Key Movies Of My Life that comes out every Thursday.

For more retro TV goodness check out the rest of the Retro TV Reviews here. and, If you dig Music, I have a semi regular series called Stand Out Albums that covers some of my favorite records I have come across in life.

As always, please feel free to comment below and share your experiences with these episodes as well. If you just happened by, tell me what you think! Don’t Forget To Follow me if you like the blog!

rio 7
Hanging out with Brion James. He was a cool guy. RIP.

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