Once in a while someone you love dies and you almost don’t hear about it. A quick look at the Arts and Entertainment page of the BBC News website this afternoon almost wasn’t enough. There was a story about an Asian man making history by winning an acting BAFTA. Quick, go out and fetch some fireworks – The BAFTA’s are so much more forward looking than The Oscars! There was another equally bland half-story about some other BAFTA’s rubbish and there was also a story about Sheldon off of Big Bang Theory getting married to another bloke. Only in real life.
I know all that’s very worthy but when a man like Powers Boothe dies it really should be the only headline. When anyone called Powers Boothe dies it should be the bloody headline! What are the chances of him meeting someone with the same name in a branch of Wickes? They only really make names like that in Texas anyway. According to the BBC Mr Boothe was famous for his roles in Sin City (which is ok) and some lame Marvel Comics spin off for which life is too short to bother watching. For me he was so much more than that.
He’s very good in Tombstone, though that’s a film in which almost everything else is also very good (special nod to Val Kilmer). He’s also good in Oliver Stone’s U-Turn and in Walter Hill’s Extreme Prejudice; the latter a deeply flawed but sweatily entertaining effort to update The Wild Bunch. Note to all filmmakers – The Wild Bunch is as perfect a film as you’re ever likely to see and is beyond updating. I’ll forgive Walter Hill for trying though because he’s made some of the other greatest films in the book.
I’ll keep this brief but if you want to know why Powers Boothe is so great (and why Walter Hill is a massively under-appreciated director) then clap your eyes on Southern Comfort. It’s unfortunate that Southern Comfort sort of slumped into that vast category of early 80’s second rate action movies, those usually featuring one person you might have vaguely heard of. In actual fact it’s a terrific thriller with edge and bite and a chewable atmosphere, as well as a brilliant cast (some of whom almost literally vanished after it). It has a stunning screenplay, full of lines which I still quote to this day (though I should try not to do so as often in public, to myself, out loud) and if someone ever bothers to properly release the impeccable Ry Cooder soundtrack then that day will be a very happy one.
And pulling it all together, the beating heart of Southern Comfort is Powers Boothe, who frankly could have just done this one film and made it into my acting heroes list. And I never got to tell him, sob. If you get the chance then please grab a copy and wallow in the Powers and the glory (sorry) and everything else that makes Southern Comfort a genuine classic, even if it probably is just a B-Movie. It kicks lumps out of pretty much anything today has to offer. Take my word for it; it’s the only film called Southern Comfort with a man called Powers Boothe in it. RIP.
G B Hewitt. 15.5.2017