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Schrader: Movie was good, bad and ugly

Out of 103,000 residents of DeKalb County there must have been 7,000, give or take a few thousand, who saw the locally-filmed movie “At Any Price” starring Dennis Quaid (as Henry Whipple) and Zac Efron (as his race car-driving son Dean) at the local theater. Probably another 3,000 will rent it on DVD when it becomes available.

But the movie was “R” rated so that leaves out a lot of the younger set who would probably like it better than their parents and grandparents.

I saw it two times. The first was the Friday night it debuted in DeKalb County with friends from Oak Crest DeKalb Area Retirement Center where one couple shown in the movie (Jane and the late Wilbur Bastian) resided. The second time was the next day with family.

The first night had a theater full of people either included in the film as extras, or friends and families of those in the film. There was a lot of applause and cheering when they saw familiar faces in one particular scene or another. That was good because theater patrons normally don’t cheer and applaud a movie like spectators at a sporting event.

Kudos are due Dennis Quaid who did an excellent job of acting and playing the role of the “bad guy.” I remember him most recently as the star of the TV series “Vegas” which unfortunately was canceled before its first season ended. The third thing to like about the movie was the thousands of dollars it brought to DeKalb County businesses, a church and farms.

And I shouldn’t forget to mention that DeKalb resident Marilyn Thompson got paid for the use of her empty house for one brief bedroom scene where Henry and his wife, Irene Whipple, were shown talking. If you live around here and ever went to the Sycamore Speedway, the First Lutheran Church on North Third Street or the Junction eatery on West Lincoln Highway in DeKalb you would have found those scenes familiar as well.

I had a talk with church member Sadie Lund who was shown sitting directly in front of Quaid during the second funeral of the movie and she said the director specifically placed her there for some reason. I think it is because she looks so grandmotherly and offset the nastiness of Whipple, who by that time was clearly the villain of the film.

Now for the bad stuff: Farmers told me after the movie they were incensed that Quaid depicted the farmer as conniving, unethical, unfaithful and downright crooked in his dealings with the Liberty Seed Company (which could have been Monsanto).

And how about the safety violations? Going inside a giant corn bin to have sex – no farmer would go there in real life because of the dangerous conditions inside a filled bin. In my day (and Don Moser’s, too) they used to “make out” with their first love in the haymow (we called it “having a romp in the hay”), but now there just aren’t any full haymows left in the county I guess.

Now the ugly: The “accidental” killing of another farm kid by young Dean and his father’s complicity in the cover-up was not a pretty thing to witness. But I dare not reveal more or it will spoil the ending for those awaiting the release of the DVD.

All in all, I would recommend it – for the beautiful rural scenes, the local places and people you can identify with, and the fact it brought in lots of revenue for local businesses. By the way, did you recall the names “Mr. and Mrs. Pritchard” in the opening cemetery scene? I doubt if Rep. Bob Pritchard and his wife Mary were consulted about the script. Must have just been just a coincidence ... .

Here’s a suggestion to local chambers of commerce: Why not organize a bus tour on TransVac of the local places shown in the movie? I would pay $20 to see those locations; except for Marilyn Thompson’s bedroom of course.

• Barry Schrader can be reached via email at or at P.O. Box 851, DeKalb, IL. 60115. His column appears the first Tuesday of each month.

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