“Lost River Bessie” served up chicken dinners, her husband’s moonshine, her own home brew, and offered favors to the Slate Creek miners who passed by her roadhouse on HES (Homestead Entry Survey) No. 96, according to Doug Devin’s “Mazama, The Past 125 Years.” (RIP, Mr. Devin. Thank you for leaving us a record of so much of the rich history of Mazama.)
When the crew of “Berenice” (sounds like barren-icy) arrived at Bessie’s roadhouse on Lost River Road to determine whether it was an appropriate setting for their film, they looked at each other and exhaled, “This is it!” The award-winning filmmaker team of Richard and Jessica Valentine were able to secure the site location through connections with the current property owners in their hometown Bellingham.
Richard and Jessica wrote the screenplay for “Berenice” loosely based on Edgar Allen Poe’s short horror story of the same name. Poe’s story was first published in 1835 to the horror (no pun intended!) of his contemporary readers because of the violence portrayed in it. Valentines’ screenplay is set in the 1990s and both the characters are female rather than Egaeus, a gloomy man, and Berenice, his vivacious cousin, in Poe’s original work.
The Valentines and Jessica’s sister Jocelyn teamed up with New York brothers James and Teddy Orfanos to produce the film. The group transformed Bessie’s “fine house” with furnishings that would have been seen in the house in the early 1900s, its heyday. The grounds surrounding the house have been designed with eeriness fit for the story setting. Attention to detail is apparent, as even the trees and grasses portend what might take place in the tale.
The actors were cast for their ability to play the characters Jody and Moon, as well as their perfect physical attributes for the young women who have happened upon this creepy cabin, as they are train traveling across the country. New York actor Diana Salina plays Jody, who with her fresh face, tall stature and long, thick mane of strawberry blonde hair, does not give a hint of the darkness that lies beneath. Fair-haired MacKenzie Wynn, based in Seattle, plays Moon whose unknown fate carries the plot forward.
Experienced as a writer, actor and director, Richard Valentine is directing “Berenice” in all the classiness of a professional filmmaker. Richard and all of the crew were welcoming of this small-town newspaper columnist. It was a privilege to meet them and experience a movie set in our own little Mazama.
My personal recollections of Poe works are “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” and the famous line “Quoth the Raven ‘Nevermore’” from the poem “The Raven.” If you are like me and do not know the plot of Poe’s “Berenice,” look for a clue in the Crew badge. It’s there.
A surprise guest showed up and graced us with a new scent. Would have been nice if it had been lavender or lemongrass, but instead — ripe old skunk! At least it appears that the gnasty gnat plague is subsiding. One out of two ain’t bad (old Montana saying!).