King of Texas (2002) is an adaptation of King Lear within the western genre. Lear (Patrick Stewart) decides to divide his empire among his three daughters. In keeping with the original Shakespeare, the daughters must first tell their father how much they love him. At this point, Lear is on top, too self-centered to be bothered by an ornate, pompous letter from Sam Houston on Texas Independence Day. There is more than a hint, nevertheless, that however well-suited Lear is for Texas, and vice versa, certain misdeeds may have gone unpunished, but not unnoticed, that is, by man and God. As the film begins, two men have been hung under Lear's command over a spat involving a cow.
Suzanne expresses her love and receives an area east of Las Animas Creek. Rebecca takes her turn and walks off with the land west of a certain creek and south of Spanish Fort. Who knows where these places are, if they are indeed for real, but the greater point is that not only the two daughters, but their husbands as well, Highsmith and Tumlinson, are ecstatic. Claudia, the third daughter, again in keeping with the original, refuses to say anything, and gets nothing in return. In fact, she is ordered to leave and takes shelter with Menchaca.
So, who is Menchaca? Well, suffice it to say that while seemingly innocent, Lear has set in motion a mess of turmoil that only gets worse and more hideous with the unfolding of each new event or piece of mostly venomous dialogue. Theoretically, it is unnecessary to have more than a passing familiarity with King Lear, the character, and others, such as Gloucester, less noble but no less loyal, re-interpreted by Roy Scheider as Henry Westover. But it is nonetheless humbling to see how readily adaptable Shakespeare is. His settings can be altered and modified. This sort of thing has been done before, with varying degrees of success more than failure. As a western, this particular play is very nicely re-worked -- not necessarily to everyone's liking. There are, of course, differences of opinion.
English majors and film professors can speak or write at length on the subject of comparison/contrast as befits the topic at hand. But it is a fair claim to say that the cinema also champions good raw material as much as the more accepted and revered arts, as well as to assert that the western is only dead if it wants to be. This film breathes life into an old, sad tale, and exhibits a robustness that westerns are not noted for at the time in which this one was made, in Mexico.