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Don’t Go In The Yard

My West Virginia roots run deep and long as a mountain stream. My great-grandparents lived in an antebellum mansion along the Bluestone River in Bramwell down in Mercer County – the very same mansion we rented decades later to film Don’t Go In The Yard. They earned their fortune selling coal carts and other equipment to the Pocahontas mining companies and also owned a major share in the famous Bramwell Bank. Of course, like most of the so-called “Bramwell Millionaires,” they lost almost everything in the crash of ’33.

However, unlike a lot of the “Bramwell Millionaires,” my family was as savvy about arts and culture as they were about the coal business. I think it was this twin heritage – lost wealth and a passion for art – that compelled me to make Don’t Go In The Yard

I thought of the movie as a metaphorical retelling of the history of Bramwell; of the hazards of becoming small-minded and insular and of the way that the world can turn on you in unexpected ways and take away everything. I had to keep these intentions hidden pretty deeply, because I also wanted to make a commercial film, not a boring old history lecture. So I used a lot of “exploitative” and “supernatural” elements to hook the audience, which at that time, for this type of film, was almost exclusively the drive-in market…

I hear now that [Don’t Go In The Yard] is considered a prime example – and by some, the premier example — of something called “hicksploitation.” I understand that the term is affectionate and is not intended in a derogatory way. But I want to be clear that we aspired to an honest, sympathetic portrayal that honored Appalachia and its people – albeit within the context of a horror film about a man-eating door-yard!

Years after its first release, Don’t Go In The Yard was still making the rounds in the Southern and Appalachian drive-in circuit. Clyde [Wooley] called me and said he saw it at a sold-out drive-in in Reston, VA in the mid-eighties and that it still played well with the crowd. I’m very proud about that.

Jackson J. Canon. How I Made Movies In West Virginia And Never Lost A Dime. 1986.

Don’t Go In the Yard poster copyright 2011 by Jake Kelly, Don’t Go In the Yard review copyright 2011 by Todd Whitten

Clipping from The Plain Dealer, Friday, July 28th, 1972.


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