When I came across a listing for The Villain (aka. Cactus Jack, 1979), I was amazed that there was a comedy western, starring Kirk Douglas and Arnold Schwarzenegger no less, that I had never heard of. The clichéd response is one of two: a)...and now I know why, or b) ...and I wish I hadn't! Or something like that.
Now, I remember cracking up watching Mel Brooks' glorious Blazing Saddles (1974) with my dad as a kid, and I have often tried to plug the wildly underrated Rustlers' Rhapsody (1985). (I must state here, however, that as much as I am a fan of Spaghetti Westerns, I'm no fan of the comedy Spaghettis.) In fact, as bad as The Villain flopped, I'll have to admit that I'm amazed Rustlers' ever got made...though director Hugh Wilson was coming off the success of the first Police Academy at the time. Which also makes this one confusing as famed stuntman turned director, Hal Needham, also made two of the biggest hits of the era with Smokey and the Bandit (1977) and Cannonball Run (1981). Not that either one of those were plot-heavy masterpieces...but whoa nelly...
|This photo looks like the opening to a pretty good joke...|
The movie starts off well enough in the town with a series of gags that has Cactus Jack failing to rob the bank from the drunken comedian Foster Brooks, and a hilarious sequence between Handsome Stranger and the telegraph operator played by the stuttering country singer Mel Tillis. In fact, the first half-hour is pretty consistently good, but once Charming and Handsome hit the trail, the movie becomes one Looney Tunes-esque failed robbery attempt after another. They start off somewhat fun, but by another twenty minutes in, I was liberally employing the fast forward button. And it all leads to a wildly unsatisfactory ending...not that I was expecting much by then...but it still managed to evoke a feeling of "What the hell was that?"
|Like me, Mel Tillis is not amused...|
|Whatever was going on here was likely funnier than what was getting filmed...|
|The happy face but heavy heart of a man that could have blazed a saddle...|