Young Tommy Tilwicky isn’t really all that aware of his single Mom’s worries. He knows things have been tough since his dad died in a farming accident some while back. But Sandy Tilwicky keeps the real weight of the farm’s financial situation, and her worrisome tears, hidden quietly away.
Sandy figures that it’s enough that Tommy just be a boy for a while—keeping his mind set on things like daily chores and his cowboy pulp novels—and leave the concerns of life to her. 1929 is a tough time, to be sure. But if they can get the horses to market soon enough, and maybe take in a few short-term boarders, things’ll work themselves out.
Problem is, the only boarder they’ve had show up is a drifter named Sam Barnes, and he’s poorer than they are. He can’t even cover the dollar-a-day fee. But the older man is kind and a hard worker. And he knows horses. So, Sandy lets him earn his keep with work about the farm. That’ll do for a short stretch anyway.
The older man hits it off with young Tommy, too, weaving stories about one “Shooter Green,” a character right outta one of Tommy’s Wild West paperback storybooks.
But Sam insists that Shooter Green was a real-life cowboy, and one of the best-known stories surrounding the guy (Shooter Green and the Legend of 5 Mile Cave)was a pretty well-known tale that supposedly really happened, too. Sandy has her doubts, but Sam tells Tommy about Shooter’s sharpshooting feats and talks as if he actually knew the man. My goodness, men and their stories.At least it’s keeping Tommy’s imagination going. And it’s good to see the boy smile again.
What Sandy and little Tommy don’t know, however, is that there was a prison break some several states away not long ago. And there’s a hard-edged sheriff out tracking that escapee. In fact, there’s some $200,000 in missing gold in the mix, too—money that ties way back to 1896 … and the very real story of Shooter Green. Sometimes, you see, wild, pulp-novel stories ain’t just stories at all.
Sandy prays for a family dinner “in Jesus Christ’s name.” In the midst of his stories, Sam tells Tommy that Shooter Green was left as a baby at the front door of a local church and taken in.
In flashback, we see Shooter Green and his true love, Josie, kiss on several occasions. The two marry. Later, Josie announces that she is pregnant, much to Shooter’s great joy.
Two men are shot and killed in cold blood. A man is shot in the shoulder, then falls off his horse and strikes his head on a rock—losing his memory in the process. (These bullet wounds are all shown as small bloody spots on the victim’s clothing without any accompanying gore.) A young boy attempts to shoot out a tire on a moving vehicle. He does so, but in the process a stray bullet wounds someone in the car.
There are several moments when bad men threaten innocents with firearms. Two men wrestle and punch one another in a short-lived struggle on the ground.
Nothing much to speak of here other that the exclamation of a single “heck no!”
Men drink glasses of whiskey in an old Western saloon.
Lies are told and an innocent man is eventually shot and sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit.
We’re used to the typical movie Western having quite a bit of scrub grass grit and lawless gunslinging crammed into its saddle bags. But there was a time when TV Westerns took a gentler amble into the Old West.
There was still hornswogglin’ bad guys, hard-fisted action and sharp-shootin’ in those telly tales of the ‘50s. But there was a bit more story emphasis placed on the romantic yearning for a wide-open prairie and the dreams of a young loving couple wanting to make a home of their small stretch of land.
The Legend of 5 Mile Cave falls neatly into the look and feel of that latter buckaroo category. As the flashback story jumps back and forth between the late 1890s and 1920s, there’s some hard liquor tossed back and a prison escape in the mix. Some suffer gunslinging wounds or throw dusty punches.. But the action never gets too hard, nor is it foul-mouthed in the least.
You might even think of this Western tale as a blending of the not-so-Wild West with a Hallmark special. It’s a story with a sense of gentleness and hope, and it carries a longing for the loving embrace of family bonds from days of yore.
The Legend of 5 Mile Cave may not come with all the high production dollars of a Hollywood blockbuster. But like a good pulp-novel cowboy, it can easily mosey on into your family’s front parlor, take off its hat and sit proper-like.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.