Wagons East (sometimes stylised as Wagons East!) is a 1994 American Western adventure comedy film directed by Peter Markle and starring John Candy and Richard Lewis. The film was released in the United States on August 26, 1994. Filming took place in Sierra de Órganos National Park in the town of Sombrerete, Mexico, and in Durango, Mexico.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Peter Markle|
|Written by||Matthew Carlson|
|Music by||Michael Small|
|Edited by||Scott Conrad|
|Box office||$4.4 million|
During the final days of the film's production in Durango, Mexico, John Candy died of a heart attack at the age of 43. Script re-writes, a stand-in and special effects were used to complete his remaining scenes and it was released five months after his death. The film marked Candy's penultimate performance. His last film, Canadian Bacon, which he had completed before Wagons East!, had a delayed release in 1995.
In the 1860s Wild West, a group of misfit settlers including ex-doctor Phil Taylor (Lewis), prostitute Belle (Ellen Greene), and homosexual bookseller Julian (John C. McGinley) decide they cannot live in their current situation in the west, so they hire a grizzled alcoholic wagon master by the name of James Harlow (Candy) to take them on a journey back to their hometowns in the East.
Comedic exploits ensue as the drunken wagon master lets his horse choose the correct fork in the road, leads them to a dried out watering hole, and eventually guides them into Sioux territory where they are captured. The Chief (Russell Means), however, is sympathetic to the idea of 'white-men heading back east', and offers an escort off Sioux land. Meanwhile, they must also contend with (inept) hired gunslingers who have been sent by railroad magnates to stop the journey, as they fear the bad publicity it could create for the settlers about to commence a 'land-rush' into the west.
Harlow's secret, that he had been wagon master for the infamous Donner Party, eventually comes out, and the group confront Harlow about his past; he chooses to walk away from the group and they proceed on their own. As he resumes his drinking at the closest tavern, he overhears that the cavalry will be confronting the group the following day, and intends to wipe them out, as directed by the head of the railroad company.
As the cavalry arrives the next day, and the group 'square their wagons', Harlow rides in to the rescue and 'calls out' the cavalry leader to single combat. After a drawn out and comical fight scene, Harlow is victorious, and the group celebrates.
Harlow and Belle decide to pursue a relationship, Julian departs for somewhere 'even further west' (San Francisco) and the group rides toward the now visible St. Louis to finish the journey.
- John Candy as James Harlow
- Richard Lewis as Phil Taylor
- John C. McGinley as Julian
- Ellen Greene as Belle
- Robert Picardo as Ben Wheeler
- William Sanderson as Zeke
- Joel McKinnon Miller as Zack Ferguson
- Abraham Benrubi as Abe Ferguson
- Thomas F. Duffy as Clayton Ferguson
- Russell Means as Chief
- Rodney A. Grant as Little Feather
- Ed Lauter as John Slade
- Lochlyn Munro as Billy
- Melinda Culea as Constance Taylor
- Don Lake as Lt. Bailey
- Gailard Sartain as J.P. Moreland (Uncredited)
- Ethan Phillips as Commander S.L. Smedly
- Charles Rocket as Gen. Larchmont
The film was released five months after Candy's death and was a box office bomb. It has a 0% approval rating on the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes based on 29 reviews, with a weighted average rating of 2.4/10. The site's consensus describes the film as "a witless, toothless satire of Westerns that falls far below the standard set by Blazing Saddles, and is notable only for being John Candy's final screen performance." Film critic Roger Ebert, who called the film "a sad way to end John Candy's career", stated that his legacy was already permanent and would survive this film.
In the book The Comedy Film Nerds Guide to Movies, Wagons East! is listed at number one on its list of The Ten Worst Westerns.
- Phil Reeves (1994-03-05). "Actor John Candy dies in Mexico". The Independent. Retrieved 2017-01-16.
- Holden, Stephen (August 26, 1994). "Wagons East (1994) FILM REVIEW; Starring John Candy and Various Crude Jokes". New York Times.
- Willman, Chris (1994-08-26). "MOVIE REVIEW: 'Wagons East!'-Candy's Final Film-Just Pokes Along - Los Angeles Times". Los Angeles Times.
- Bates, James (2008-09-22). "COMPANY TOWN : SEC Filings Show Carolco Has Little to Sing About : Movies: The company expects to lose money this year and next, despite a major financial reorganization negotiated last year". Los Angeles Times.
- "Wagons East! (1994)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved July 2, 2019.
- Ebert, Roger (August 26, 1994). "Wagons East!". RogerEbert.com.
- Graham Elwood and Chris Mancini. The Comedy Film Nerds Guide to Movies Morgan James Publishing, 2012. ISBN 1614482225.