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Straight-To-Video Move Angers Director

Fri., March 10, 1995, midnight

Most straight-to-video movies are clearly just that, but now and then one comes along that starts arguments. In December, for example, Turner released “The Desperate Trail” on videocassette without a run in movie theaters. The move still angers the movie’s director, P.J. Pesce. It also still makes perfect sense to Turner.

Between the two viewpoints lies an interesting case history. A gritty and bloody western, “The Desperate Trail” won Pesce the award for best director at the Hamptons International Film Festival last fall and earned favorable reviews, if not raves.

The movie stars Sam Elliott, who is appreciated by video dealers for his western roles, and Craig Sheffer, another popular actor.

What’s more, “The Desperate Trail” also stars Linda Fiorentino, who recently won the New York Film Critics Circle award as best actress for her role in “The Last Seduction” and may be the hottest female star in movies today.

In 1993 Pesce was shooting “The Desperate Trail” when the project ran out of money. “I would have dealt with Satan,” he says.

Instead, along came Turner Home Entertainment, which bought out the $2.4 million film with, Pesce says, the stated intention of showing it on TNT, a Turner cable television network. Later, he says, Turner decided the film wasn’t heroic or moralistic enough for television and consigned it to video stores.

Turner never pursued a theater release but allowed the film’s producers to seek one on their own. Then, Pesce says, Turner turned down all offers from distributors.

Allen Sabinson, TNT’s senior vice president of programming, says the company’s plan for the film was always home video first and television second, with no provision for movie theaters.

“The Desperate Trail” will be shown on TNT in July, he says.


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