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Home » Culture and Criticism

The Crushed Film Festival presents: Tex

Submitted by on March 26, 2012 – 8:06 AM23 Comments

The Movie: Tex

The Crush Object: Jim Metzler

The Story: Tex McCormick (Matt Dillon, rocking the standard-issue lank-haired butt-cut of the era) is having the customary operatic S.E.-Hinton-verse adolescence: his mother died of pneumonia when he was teeny, leaving him in the care of a rodeo-clown father (…mmmmmmm hmm) who's constantly on the road, so really he's in the care of his older brother, Mason (Metzler), a grouchy basketball prodigy so stressed out by taking care of Tex while trying to get a full athletic scholarship to college that he's given himself an ulcer. Tex's best friend, Johnny Collins (Emilio Estevez, with an even more splendiferously feathery butt-cut), lives just down the road from the McCormicks, but his super-rich father Cole (TV-western HITG! and John Wayne double Ben Johnson) doesn't approve of the McCormicks one bit. They're poor, is mostly the reason, but also McCormick Senior isn't around (and went to jail…and is a terrible actor, although in Ben McKinney's partial defense, I'd probably be monotoning my lines too if I had a pair of two-sizes-too-small Wranglers cleaving my nutsack), and Tex and Johnny get into trouble together constantly, and also Tex has eyes for Johnny's sister, Jamie (Meg Tilly).

Things start to go pear-shaped for Tex not long into the story when Mason sells his and Tex's horses for grocery money. Then their old friend Lem (Phil Brock) shows up, wanting to show off his sweet new ride and brand-new baby, but the reality isn't so shiny; he had to marry his wife because she got pregnant, and he's supporting his new family (and buying expensive cars) by dealing drugs. McCormick Senior finally reappears after seeing his sons on the news — an escaped convict (Zeljko Ivanek, with a full head of hair) (no, seriously) kidnapped them at gunpoint (no: seriously) — and obviously everything is going to turn out okay. Except obviously it isn't, because this is an S.E. Hinton adaptation, which means McCormick Senior isn't Tex's biological father and that Matt Dillon's character has to get shot.

Edited to add this photo, since all y'all don't believe me about Ivanek. Sorry about the screen glare.

But this time, he lives; Mason gets a full ride to Indiana University; Tex and Johnny reach a détente about the whole sister-canoodling thing; weird scene between Mason and Tex in which it's implied that Tex is now living on a quarter-horse farm (?); credits.

As Hinton on film goes, Tex is the least melodramatic of the four. Hinton's writing captivated me as a kid, and though the prose itself holds up reasonably well, the boy characters do more crying and analyzing their own emotions, both to themselves and between each other, than the average straight girl in real life. As a filmmaker working with that material, you have two choices: go completely over the top with the Technicolor, the wan clarinets, and the meaningful close-ups of peach-fuzzy lower lips trembling; or butch it up with a more straight-ahead approach. Charles S. Haas and Tim Hunter, the writer/director team behind Dillon's debut feature, Over the Edge, went with the latter for Tex. The soapy plot twists every ten pages plus the limited range of their leading man may not have added up to any other option, but it's the right decision; the result is not epic, but nor is it as epically self-serious, and therefore extremely dated, as the others in the genre.

But is it me, or is it kind of weird that a character in early-'80s rural Oklahoma would have a car horn that plays the Godfather theme?

The Backstory: Tex is the ne plus ultra of my crush tendencies: Matt Dillon is the one I'm "supposed to" have a crush on as a 10-year-old, and failing that, I'm "supposed to" "settle for" Emilio Estevez. …Nope! I wanted me some Jim Metzler, who is serviceable-looking, fills out the teeny sports shorts of the era decently, and disgorges Hinton's often treacly dialogue at a pounds-per-minute clip — but was THIRTY YEARS OLD at the time of filming.

The Embarrassment Level: It's more like the bafflement level, really, but: solid 5.

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  • attica says:

    I'm tempted to seek it out just to experience Ivanek's hair.

    I remember thinking of Metzler fondly. He had a solid yet understated and compassionate masculinity which appealed.

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    Ahhh. S.E. Hinton, creator of the Twilight of its day. Her writing was better, but the plot twists and constant crying are pure fantasy. You can bet that if vampires were fashionable back then she'd have tossed one in. (But it's not his fault! His parents were MEAN and he lives on the wrong side of the graveyard!)

  • ferretrick says:

    I refuse to believe that Ivanek EVER had hair. It has to be a wig.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    It was already starting to go…but it looked real to me.

  • MinglesMommy says:

    I second the disbelief of Ivanek with hair…

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    Edited the entry with a graphic. I'm telling you: legit hair.

  • attica says:

    Wow! Not only had he hair, he'd recently eaten a sandwich!

  • Sandman says:

    I choose to believe that's not actually screen glare in the appended evidentiary image: that's a corona of radiance, the visible equivalent of the chorus of angels, telling us "See? Zeljko did SO have hair! Ta-da!" Although it probably didn't seem as miraculous to audiences at the time.

    I also choose to believe that young readers will still be devouring S. E. Hinton's books (with the required subsequent period of embarrassment) when Ms. Meyer is long forgotten.

  • Helen says:

    Ah, Tex. I bought this DVD recently (for nostaglia reasons, I swear), for $5 second hand, and had to endure some very strange looks in the process. I read those books endlessly, although somehow only saw this film once (instead of taping it and rewatching endlessly as I did with The Outsiders). Despite the constant re-readings I failed until very recently to make the connections between this book and That Was Then, This is Now, which I loved the most for it's supremely depressing outcome. (Mark from That Was Then… is the hitchhiker in Tex, Cathy is Tex's teacher.)

    And Jen S 1.0, Hinton did write a book with a vampire, Hawke's Harbor. It's… very weird (and adult fiction, not YA).

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    I must find this Hawke's Harbor IMMEDIATELY!

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    @Jen: Read-Along! Also, check out the first line of the summary on Good Reads:

    It sounds terrible/irresistible.

  • Sandman says:

    … "Jamie Sommers"? So, orphan, bastard, smuggler, gunrunner, and bionic woman? Neat.

  • Nanc in Ashland says:

    "Conceived in adultery and born in sin, Jamie was destined to repeat the sins of his parents." The Good Reads synopsis has all the elements of a hit country music song (seriously, did someone steal his pick up truck, too?) or the set up as a parody of an 80's angsty mini-series. Am I the only one who remembers Fresno?!

    I'm going to have to get this from the library!

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    Oh. my. Lord. Terrible/irrisistable is right. This could be the purplest prose since My Sweet Audrina!

  • MinglesMommy says:

    Wow… Ivanek looked better older, and without hair. Whodathunkit!

  • Sandman says:

    … a parody of an 80's angsty mini-series. Am I the only one who remembers Fresno?!

    @Nanc: No; no, you are not. Fresno was pure sun-dried awesome! Talk about your "Shut up, raisins."

  • ferretrick says:

    And according to some of the reviews, it has something to do with Dark Shadows (the TV series?) WTF?

  • MinglesMommy says:

    @ Jen S 1.0 NO NO NO Do not bring up "Audrina"! I read that when I was 14 and it STILL makes me crazy (in a bad way).

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    @Minglesmommy, whatever you do, don't read the Audrina Read-along thread! (Actually, maybe you should. The takedowns were EPIC.)

  • Jade says:

    Do you think it's at all possible that rule 34 could apply to My Sweet Audrina, or would the universe just implode??

  • MinglesMommy says:

    @Jen – Oh, you have opened up a can of worms… Thank you Sars, for posting the link.

    I think the worst of all time was probably the last book in the "Flowers in the Attic" series – I forget the name but GADDDDDD. I have avoided those books altogether since then. They literally make me physically ill.

  • Niki says:

    I didn't realize Over the Edge was was Dillon's debut. I saw that in the local art house theater with my parents. I don't think I ever saw Tex, which surprises me, since Estevez -was- a crush for me.

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