A movie that was made in Kansas and shown at last year’s Tallgrass Film Festival was released on DVD, digital and on demand this week.
“Bender” is a thriller about a real-life Kansas family, the Benders, America’s first serial-killing family (what a title to proclaim). They became known as the “Bloody Benders,” living in Labette County during the 1870s.
In the film, when people start to mysteriously vanish on the plains, a troubled doctor goes searching for answers and stumbles upon the Benders, who have an unnatural (to say the least) way of living off the land.
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When the doctor also disappears, local townspeople sense that the Benders may be farming more than wheat, and a sheriff investigates.
In real life, the Bender family left Kansas before law enforcement found out about their killings. Legend says the family killed up to 21 people, although only 11 bodies were found buried in the yard, according to state records.
“Bender” is the directing debut of John Alexander, who came from Los Angeles to shoot the film in Kansas in 2013 (Wichita’s own Cowtown was one production location).
“I had no choice but to travel to Kansas to shoot this film,” Alexander said by email while on location in Vietnam. “The authenticity of the landscape was what brought us there initially, but it was the eagerness of all the local people to get involved and help with production which kept us there. And which has kept us coming back for more.”
Alexander wrote the script with his wife, JC Guest, and together they produced the film. Alexander calls “Bender” an “understated thriller” and says he discovered the story while doing research of the Old West.
“When JC and I dug the legend of the Bloody Benders out of the Harvard library’s stacks, I couldn’t believe it hadn’t yet been made into a feature,” Alexander said. “It’s the mystery of it all that intrigued me the most, the innate lack of resolve, the infinite theories of their disappearances, the bottomless questions rather than the answers.”
The cast includes Linda Purl (“Homeland”), Bruce Davison (“X-Men”), Buck Taylor (“Gunsmoke”), Reylynn Caster (“Speechless”) and James Karen (“The Return of the Living Dead”).
Although most of the main cast and crew was brought in from Los Angeles and other places, local people were used to fill out the crew. Alexander credits locals such as Ginger Bynorth and Shawn Rhodes with being “ambassadors to what Kansas could do for me.” Other Kansas people that worked on the film include Jamie Rhodes, Tim Gillen and Mark Good, among others.
For more information on the film, go to www.candyfactoryfilms.com.
Quick movie news from the week
▪ European tabloid site Mirror reported a rumor that the next James Bond film may be titled “Shatterhand,” and it may feature a blind villain. Guess that will be blind casting, then? Ha! Daniel Craig is returning to play the suave spy. The film will be released in November 2019.
▪ Here’s a real stinger: Marvel released a cute little teaser promo confirming that filming on “Ant-Man and the Wasp” has begun. Paul Rudd returns as Ant-Man and Evangeline Lilly will play Hope van Dyne/the Wasp. The film comes out in July 2018.
▪ I am a massive “Star Wars” fan, so it was a great relief to have Ron Howard tell the Hollywood Reporter that the Han Solo, well, solo film is “coming along great.” Whew! Howard took over in late June after the original directors were fired (ouch). He has since been posting teases on social media, including a glimpse of Donald Glover as Young Lando Calrissian.