Peter Fonda’s third and final (as of this writing), directorial effort, Wanda Nevada is set in 1950’s Arizona against the backdrop of the Korean War. Fonda stars as Beaudray Demerille, a drifter and grifter, who wins 13-year-old Wanda Nevada (Brooke Shields) in a game of poker. An orphan, Wanda harbors dreams of singing at the Grand Ole Opry. Despite his best efforts, Wanda sticks to Demerille like glue. The two squabble incessantly until they stumble upon a map that will apparently lead them in the direction of the only known source of gold in the Grand Canyon.
While there’s some lovely on location cinematography from Michael Butler, the plot is little more than a disorganized mess. Demerille and Wanda continue to squabble, as a series of bank robbers, murderers, hustlers, pedophiles and other undesirables make their way through the Grand Canyon as well. While the film does have a few bright spots—the initial scenes between Wanda and Demerille in the bar, occasionally in the Grand Canyon—as a whole, writer Dennis Hackin (who also produced the film) created little in the way of a dramatic arc and gave us no real reason to care about the two main characters.
One of the best reasons to check out Wanda Nevada is Henry Fonda’s cameo appearance as a bearded old prospector. While the scene is brief, it marks the one time that father and son appeared on screen together. If you’re an old film fan like me that has to count for something. In the end, there isn’t a whole lot that happens in Wanda Nevada, but Brooke Shields gives a surprisingly strong performance and “Morning Sun” by Carole King plays effectively over the end credits.
Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, Kino Lorber’s 1080p transfer is quite good. Colors are vivid, particularly the browns and reds of the Grand Canyon, which spotlights Michael Butler’s fine cinematography. There’s a fine level pf grain throughout, though fine detail is a bit cloudy. Faces do appear normal and clarity is better than average, though a few shots are on the reddish side.
The Dolby DTS-HD 2.0 track is nothing special, but does the job. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout. The sounds of nature as the characters traverse the Grand Canyon are obvious and the song by Carole King over the end credits sounds lovely. While this track is best described as workmanlike, there’s really nothing to complain about.
No subtitles are included.
There are no real extras available.