November 2, 2011 -- A friend of mine who is a huge fan of this movie loaned me a DVD of it recently, so I finally got around to watching it while waiting for the end of year screeners to come in. This clumsy farce is funny in places, but the comedy is uneven, with an equal number of hits and misses. It is a kind of tame, low-rent version of “Blazing Saddles.” It is helped by the full-tilt performance of John Astin (of “The Aadams Family” TV show) as the irrepressible Roy Slade. While Slade is certainly evil, it is a joyous kind of evil. He has a lot of fun being evil.
An orphan raised by vultures in the desert (when Indians and wolves comically refuse to adopt him) Slade grows up to be a supposedly angry man and a very successful outlaw with his own gang. The trouble is, he doesn't really seem to be angry. He laughs a lot and seems to be having too much fun for his motivation to be anger. His so-called evil is a joke and he is definitely in on the joke. During a bank robbery, he meets a pretty young girl, Betsy Potter (played by Pamela Austin of “Blue Hawaii”) and falls in love. The two start an unlikely romance. She is able to persuade Roy to go straight and he does, for a short time, with the aid of psychiatrist Logan Delp (Dom DeLuise of “Blazing Saddles”). His attempts to become a successful shoe salesman in Boston spells comic disaster for the most part.
The movie comes back to life when Slade resumes his outlaw ways in the Old West, where he is pursued by legendary Marshal Bing Bell (Dick Shawn). There is a clumsy attempt to make doorbell joke out of Bing Bell's name, which falls flat, but the writers (Garry Marshall and Jerry Belson) doggedly keep repeating the same joke over and over in the movie, hoping to wear down the audience into acceptance of this joke. Here, Shawn seems to be playing the same sort of outlandish character he played in the 1968 Mel Brooks film “The Producers.” He comes off as a kind of a gay cross between Gene Autry and Groucho Marks. You may have noticed that not only is this western spoof idea similar to those of Mel Brooks, but a few of Mel Brooks' favorite actors have been borrowed for this film as well. Maybe Mel Brooks saw this movie and thought to himself, “I can do better than this,” and did, two years later, when he made “Blazing Saddles.”
There are some other very well known actors in this film, including TV pioneer Milton Berle, the old man of film, Mickey Rooney of “Cockeyed Cowboys of Calico County,” Henry Gibson of “Nashville” and “The Blues Brothers,” Edie Adams of “Love with the Proper Stranger,” Pat Morita, star of “The Karate Kid,” Ed Begley Jr. of “The In-Laws,” Penny Marshall of “Laverne and Shirley” (also sister of the director of this film, Garry Marshall). The narration of the film is by the unmistakable voice of Pat Buttram, who appeared in many westerns, and was a regular on the popular, rural-themed “Green Acres” and “Petticoat Junction” TV shows. This film rates a C+.
Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.