WINDWALKER: A Fantasy Masterpiece

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010 | Posted by John R. Fultz

windwalker“He conquered love and death…
now he walks the winds of eternity.”

Some movies have the power to sweep you away into a fantastic world and take you on an adventure that you will never forget. These films are legends in and of themselves, enduring visions that you want to revisit again and again. They are pure magic.

When I was about 11 years old (circa 1980), I entered a small-town theatre in Kentucky and discovered a film that transported me through space and time into the lives of a Cheyenne family struggling to survive in a savage world of stunning beauty.

The film was Kieth Merrill’s WINDWALKER. It starred Trevor Howard, James Remar, and Nick Ramus. Recently I obtained a copy of this masterful film on DVD. Once again I took a journey into the primal world of two centuries ago, and once again I was mesmerized, moved, and thrilled by its powerful story, vivid characters, and sheer cinematic beauty. WINDWALKER is a film of quiet genius that never truly earned the praise it deserved, and if you’ve never seen it, you have a rare pleasure awaiting you.

The film hit theatres the same year as George Lucas’ THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, one year before Steven Spielberg’s RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, and two years before John Milius’ CONAN THE BARBARIAN. It came at the tail-end of 1970s cinema, one of the most creative and vital periods of American filmmaking. Three years earlier, STAR WARS had changed the Hollywood landscape by breaking all the records for box office success and setting a premium on pure movie bombast and the blockbuster “formula.” Perhaps that’s why a more subtly magnificent fantasy like WINDWALKER soared gracefully under the radar. In the 30 years since its release, the movie’s masterpiece status has been largely recognized by experts and critics.

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