Posts Tagged ‘Babbacombe Lee’

By John Hallberg 08:20 pm on Nov 26th 2009


Greetings, my first ANNOUNCEMENT is that the 1st public screening of our filmThe Man They Couldn’t Hang‘ is next sat the 19th at 2pm at CDIA in Georgetown. Address is 1055 Thomas Jefferson Street NW. The film is 75 minutes so we’ll go till a bit after 3. Hope to see a few of you there..for folks out this way the Rappahannock screening will take place in Jan (tba). DVD’s ARE forthcoming but likely just after x- mas. As for a world premiere, we are looking at the 125th anniversary of the ‘hanging’ in feb. Our website will be up in a couple days-I’ll cue you as to the addy etc. and will have more updates. Thanks again!

Clip #1: Dream Sequence

Clip #2: Incarcerated

Note from John Hallberg

I suppose it is a misnomer to say “The Man They Couldn’t Hang” is completely a Rappahannock film, as the story of John “Babbacombe” Lee takes place over a century ago in jolly old England. It is a Rappahannock film insofar as it is largely shot in our fine county, a backdrop that frequently mirrors a faraway time and place. The film is also a Rappahannock venture as the actor list reads like a Who’s Who of area actors both younger and older. The story of Mr. Lee, who survived three hanging attempts one morning in 1884, was apparently compelling enough to garner attention from experienced actors from as far away as Charlotte, N.C. Regional actors including John Sexton (Charlotte), J.C. Lira (Richmond), and Brandon Wilson (Warrenton) lend their talents to this extraordinary tale of fate and redemption. Local actors include Howard Coon, Morgan and Austen Cloud, Maureen Day, Bill Spiedel, 1000 Faces and many others.

Our post-production efforts are just now concluding and that means we will hopefully have a local public theatre showing very soon. DVD authorization and replication will be complete soon as well; an early- to mid-December release is planned. Copies will be available through a site we are setting up now, through Larry Keel’s site (he performs two songs in the film and has an acting cameo), and at several other local venues. They will likely be around $10.

Our time in the studio editing (post-production) has been slower than I expected — we finished shooting in June. This is due to several factors . . . musical score, scheduling time in the booth, etc. — all of which make me more nervous about any public showing. The cast and crew had a party recently and we viewed a not-quite-done version that everyone seemed to like . . . of course it was a friendly audience. I hope to show the film publicly soon after smoothing out the fine-tune stuff (audio glitches, etc).

The story itself is a remarkable tale that so far has eluded filmmakers except right after the events (it was worldwide news and gave the area some infamy). “The Man They Couldn’t Hang” was released in 1918, I believe. A documentary was shot in the 1970s about Mr. Lee and was heavily associated with the folk-rock band Fairport Convention. David Swarbrick was extensively interviewed and the band played much of their landmark record “Babbacombe Lee” live. The physical culmination of the events leading up to the gallows, the trapdoor jamming, was extraordinary but a mundanity compared to the ultimate issues involved: free will, character assassination, redemption, fortitude. These are all things that seem to stand the test of time immortal and to touch our sentiments during any time period. Such is the reason I believe this story may ring true despite any few continuity issues (”Coke can in the Civil War,” I like to call them). The fact of the matter is we didn’t shoot it in old England . . . or even New England, for that matter. That said I think we simulate a lot of things nicely. As I mentioned in the first article in June, Warrenton Jail Museum acts as the location for several sets, all quite compelling and kinda creepy. Speaking of creepy, a film was to be shot in the ’80s about John Lee but so many things went wrong that it was canceled; it was postulated that the spirit of Mr. Lee didn’t approve.

It’s very surreal both doing a project of this magnitude but also doing it where the community and others can so visibly see the results of the work . . . on a big screen. I will make available a link to our soon-to-be finished web site here on Ragged Mountain Voice. My thanks again go out to the many folks who gave their time and effort — behind the camera and in front, with locations, etc. This is truly a community and regional effort and this is a proud region. See you on the red carpet!

John Hallberg

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