Hill Country

by Randy Fuller Aug 05, 2023

Pairing‌ ‌wine‌ ‌with‌ ‌movies!‌  ‌See‌ ‌the‌ ‌trailers‌ ‌and‌ ‌hear‌ ‌the‌ ‌fascinating‌ ‌commentary‌ ‌for‌ ‌these‌ ‌movies‌ ‌and‌ ‌many‌ ‌more‌ ‌at‌ ‌Trailers‌ ‌From‌ ‌Hell.‌ This week, Blood of the Vines comes up with wine pairings for three films directed by Hill, Walter Hill. It’s Hill Country.

Hill is known as something of a cowboy, a rough-hewn writer in a cowhide director’s chair. He brought his bravado in 1984 to Streets of Fire, a rock and roll musical that melded together the MTV ‘80s and the High School Confidential ‘50s.

Everyone involved with the picture was excited about the prospect of a trilogy featuring the hero character Tom Cody, until the film tanked at the box office. Then, it was a race to see who could distance themselves from it the fastest. The critics of the day seemed to be rooting for Streets to be a good picture, while admitting that it just didn’t cut the mustard.

Hill says he found that shooting music was tougher than he thought it would be. He may have come away with a newfound respect for directors of those MTV music videos, which his film tried to emulate.

It was reported that Hill also found it tough to work with a cast full of “kids” – nobody in the film was over 30. One actor remembered Hill saying, “Don’t ask me how to act! I’m a director!” Those “kids” – Diane Lane, Willem Dafoe, Amy Madigan, Bill Paxton, Rick Moranis – who would want that bunch of toddlers asking their questions and making you late for happy hour?

I don’t know if anyone calls Walter Hill “Walt,” but maybe they will after this pairing. Sonoma’s WALT Wines specializes in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. That may be a little fancy for a rawhide guy like Hill, but he might drink it if there was no bourbon laying around.

Hard Times was Hill’s 1975 debut as a director. The casting gods gave him a lot to work with in his inaugural outing. Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Jill Ireland and, as if those names weren’t enough, Strother freaking Martin. The names look great on a marquee or a one-sheet, but as with music and younger actors, Hill managed to find some difficulty. Bronson got along with him great, until after the film. The he-man was reportedly upset with the way Hill edited scenes involving Ireland, Bronson’s wife. Hill says that Coburn and Martin provided some difficult days on the set.

The Depression-era, bare knuckles streetfighter portrayed by Bronson in Hard Times struck a good nerve with people. The south Louisiana setting worked well and critics liked the film enough to scrawl out some kind words about it. The general public was even kinder, giving up their hard-earned dollar bills to see it.

How could we not enjoy a good ol’ Temecula wine with Hard Times, particularly when it is a Bare Knuckle Malbec? Don’t sell Temecula short. There are some high quality wines being made in Riverside County.

Hill went back to the Bayou State in 1981 for Southern Comfort, an action film set in the swamp. The story is a military version of Deliverance. A squad of National Guardsmen are slogging through bivouacs and get on the wrong side of some of the locals. Watch Southern Comfort and Deliverance for a textbook lesson on what happens when you and your dumbass friends antagonize the hicks. Squeal like a pig, indeed. Squeal like a nutria rat.

Hill says he is proud of the movie, even though it failed to attract an audience. Looking back, it is hard to understand how people didn’t flock to see Keith Carradine, Powers Boothe, Fred Ward and Peter Coyote. Even the music, by Ry Cooder, was outstanding. Hill remembers that he would have been happy had Southern Comfort found fans somewhere, anywhere. He probably exaggerates when he says that nobody liked the film, anywhere.

The movie was shot outside of Shreveport, Louisiana. There is little to justify going into Shreveport, unless you are particularly fond of meat pies. Never mind finding something to do outside of Shreveport. Keep in mind that this crew spent close to two months in Shreveport. I’ll bet they consumed a fair amount of Southern Comfort in their off hours, and maybe in their on hours as well.

The pairing for Southern Comfort? It would be so easy to grab a bottle of Southern Comfort and start swigging. Too easy, even if you do as the maker suggests and craft a Manhattan from it, using bacon slices for garnish. Let’s dig a bit deeper, even though it is tough to dig in the swamp.

Wines produced in Louisiana are a little hard to come by. There are only a small handful of wineries, and shipping is a problem. If you are in a beer mood, Abita Brewery makes a number of mighty fine ones which are available all over the nation. The brewhouse is located just down the road from Bogalusa, across the lake from a little place called New Orleans. If you happen to find yourself in Shreveport for some reason, stop in for a sample of the wines at On Cloud Wine. My feeling is their Pinot Noir probably grew somewhere else, but I’ll bet the Muscadine is a Cajun original.

Randy Fuller

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