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October 25, 2012

Thomas Jane’s ‘Dark Country’ gets 3-D screening, graphic novel

Posted in: Books,Comics,Movies

"Dark Country" and the 1953 film "Inferno" are screening Oct. 28 at the Downtown Independent in Los Angeles. (LA3dClub.com)

The cover for "Dark Country," written by Tab Murphy and illustrated by Thomas Ott. (Raw Studios)

The "Dark Country" graphic novel also includes nearly 50 pages of behind-the-scenes material from the 2009 film. (Raw Studios)

Actor/director Thomas Jane, left, and illustrator/production designer Tim Bradstreet co-founded Raw Studios, a publishing and production company. (RawStudios.com)

Thomas Jane, the star of “The Punisher,” “Hung” and “The Mist,” is bringing his 2009 horror film “Dark Country” to the Downtown Independent in Los Angeles on Sunday as part of a desert noir 3-D double feature and Q&A. A cult darling, “Dark Country,” about a newlywed couple on a desert drive who find a badly injured man, is based on a short story by Tab Murphy, the screenwriter behind Disney’s “Tarzan” and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”

Sunday’s screening (alongside 1953′s “Inferno”) comes on the heels of the publication of a graphic novel adaptation of “Dark Country,” written by Murphy and illustrated by Zürich-born cartoonist Thomas Ott. The graphic novel, on sale in comic book stores and on Comixology, also includes behind-the-scenes material by Tim Bradstreet, who consulted on the film and co-founded Raw Studios with Jane.

Hero Complex caught up with Jane, who will be signing books at 5 p.m. Sunday before the 7 p.m. screening. Check out some pages from “Dark Country” in the gallery above, or click on the links below for larger images.

HC: Why do you think “Dark Country” has such a devoted cult following? What is it about that story that sticks with people?

TJ: In the world of cookie-cutter, low-budget horror flicks, “Dark Country” is an anomaly. A lot of the shots are stolen from 1940s B movies like “Detour.” The film takes place in a netherworld, not quite modern, not quite period. The 3-D in the film is quite effective; today too many 3-D films play it way too safe — so safe that five minutes in you forget it’s 3-D! I guess “Dark Country” is a throwback film – fans of film noir, fans of “Twilight Zone” and fans of old EC comic books have all taken the film under their wing. In other words, fans like me. It was really Eddie Muller and his Film Noir Foundation that helped discover the audience for the film.

HC: How did you come across the original story by Tab Murphy? Did you know at once that you wanted it to be a film?

TJ: “A friend of a friend,” as they say, gave me the short story by Tab Murphy years ago. When I was hunting around looking for a subject for my first film [as a director], I remembered reading and loving it. It was a small, contained a story about a newlywed couple driving through the desert at night, and they come upon a body in the road. Perfect for a first-time director. And then I decided to shoot it in digital 3-D, which had never been done before at the time. But the look of the film was inspired by the work of Thomas Ott, and I carried around a copy of Thomas’ “Dead End” on set with me.

HC: Thomas Ott’s work in the graphic novel adaptation is haunting. How closely did you two collaborate? What made you decide he was the best fit for the book?

Page 17 of the graphic novel “Dark Country.” (Raw Studios)

TJ: When I read the short story for the first time, Thomas’ images kept popping into my head. It was a perfect marriage of mood and story. If I could have, I would have shot the film in moody black and white — we did manage to get pretty close in some of it — and I stole a lot of framing devices from Thomas Ott’s work. So it seemed only fair to seek him out when it came time to do the graphic novel.

HC: What do you think each medium offers that’s different? Does the comic bring something that the film doesn’t?

TJ: Thomas decided not to watch the film before adapting the short story to graphic novel. He didn’t want to be influenced by his own influence, you might say. So the short story becomes the fulcrum by which two artists turn, each offering their own unique viewpoint of the same story. Both mediums rely on viewer participation to work, but a graphic novel is kind of the bridge between the written word and the filmic image. Since we reprint the original short story in the book, “Dark Country” now offers itself in three ascending incarnations — the written word, the graphic image and the film.

HC: Why do you think graphic novels are such an enduring medium?

TJ: Because they allow room for your imagination to roam and create, to fill in the spaces between the images. They are kind of like assisted novels, or slowed down movies, depending on how you want to look at it, or depending on the artist or writer’s style. Thomas is famous for telling his stories with pictures only. There is no dialogue, no narration; you assemble the story in your mind using only what Thomas chooses to illustrate — or not illustrate — for you. It’s very powerful.

HC: Your filmography is quite diverse … what is it you look for in a role?

TJ: I always look for that which thrills me as an actor. It’s a feeling I get when I read a role.

HC: What’s next for Raw Studios? What’s next for you?

TJ: We are working on a Gothic horror/romance called “The Lycan.” Sean O’Connor from the UK is working on the art as we speak. And we are reviving “Alien Worlds,” an anthology by Bruce Jones. Oh, and we’re shooting a western next year, revamping our website and opening up a Raw Studios store called Raw Deal.

HC: Why horror? Why do people love movies that are creepy, scary and bloody?

TJ: This is the season where humans try to remind each other that Death is around the corner, in a way that celebrates life. Horror is a celebration.

Cover | Page 11 | Page 12 | Page 13 | Page 14 | Page 15 | Page 16 | Page 17

– Noelene Clark

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