Chad Carpenter’s love of Western movies wasn’t a great fit for his shoestring budget, but he made it work.
Carpenter, the Wasilla resident behind the “Tundra” comic strip for the past 28 years, had to get creative to make the live-action movie “Sudsy Slim Rides Again.” The movie Carpenter dubbed a “Spaghetti Northwestern” that will be shown at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 4, at the Gold Town Theater.
“One of my favorite genres is Westerns, but to make a real Western movie is cost prohibitive,” Carpenter said in an interview with the Capital City Weekly. “So the question was how can I still make one with the same feel to it?”
The answer was to write mostly a movie starring and helmed by Alaskans set in the present day in the fictional tourist town of Scratcher Pass, which like Colonial Williamsburg or other such attractions, draws in visitors by keeping one foot firmly planted in a past period.
“The townspeople still dress the part,” Carpenter said.
“Sudsy Slim” was ultimately made for $150,000, Carpenter said. As a point of comparison, the Spaghetti Western classic “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” was made for $1.2 million in the mid ’60s, according to multiple online sources.
“Half of that money was raised by Kickstarter,” Carpenter said. “The other half came from me, sadly. Making movies is a great way to spend money, I’ve found.”
Carpenter said volunteers also helped a lot in making sure the movie, which was shown in film festivals last year, happened.
“It couldn’t be done without them,” Carpenter said.
“Sudsy Slim Rides Again” is the cartoonist’s second full-length, live-action film.
Like the previous effort “Moose the Movie,” “Sudsy Slim…” was co-written by Carpenter’s brother, Darin, and directed by G. Logan Dellinger of Nomad Cinematics.
A fondness for history and the exploits of real-life Alaskan conman Soapy Smith served as an inspiration for the movie.
“I love history, and I love Alaska history in particular,” Carpenter said. “So I thought, what if we do something very loosely based on Soapy Smith.”
In the film, aside from antiquated clothing Scratcher Pass hearkens back to its days as an asbestos-mining boom town by keeping the corpse of famed outlaw Sudsy Smith on display in a gift shop.
The film’s plot is driven by rapscallions who steal the body of the long-deceased bad guy in hopes of a handsome ransom.
“It’s very, very fun and very, very silly,” Carpenter said.
Despite a story that hinges on the bug-eyed corpse of a criminal, Carpenter said “Sudsy Slim Rides Again” is a fairly family friendly film.
“We’re calling it PG-10,” he said.
Carpenter said it just makes sense to him for his films to feature the same irreverent humor for an all-ages audience found in “Tundra.”
Making “Sudsy Smith Rides Again” took about two years to make, and Carpenter said it was an enjoyable process, especially in the context of his other creative efforts.
“Being a cartoonist is a solitary thing in a lot of ways,” Carpenter said. “It’s really fun to have a lot of creative people surrounding you.”
He said that quality has made movie making incredibly helpful for the comic strip.
“It gives me something else to focus on because it takes me out of the comic strip world,” Carpenter said. “A creative break is exactly what it is.”
• Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.