on 28 August 2003
This is a classic comedy western adventure!. Sure to entertain all the family, even if westerns aren't your thing then I'd still watch it, just for the bit with the horse. I admit that Lee Marvin playing two roles is a little offputting but you get over it, if only because of the constant laughter!. All that confuses me is why wasn't this film been out on DVD earlier?
on 5 July 2006
Take Jane Fonda at her best; Lee Marvin still outacting everyone, and you have a story that will still entertain for years to come. For me, still the hightlight is a very drunken Lee Marvin leaning against the side of a building, and so is the horse he is sitting on.
This spoof sixties western is hard to dislike, engulfing you as it does in a veritable tsunami of good natured exuberant fun! Lee Marvin has a ball in his dual hero/villain role, Jane Fonda is a fetchingly beautiful 'wide eyed in Babylon' heroine and the Colorado scenery looks fantastic. There is definitely something in that high mountain air! Then we have the talented duo of Stubby Kaye and the legendary Nat King Cole, whom this humble reviewer happens to believe was the greatest singer who ever lived, providing the films delightful ballad style storytelling. The ballad formula had been a staple in the western since “High Noon”! The film is worth watching for Nat’s rich silky smooth voice alone!
The story itself is all very predictable with the usual western stereo types. We have the pretty heroine with a score to settle, a villain who wants the family ranch (an unusual villain admittedly), a washed up gunfighter in need of redemption and a hiss boo hired killer. But the fun here is to be had in the detail! Jane Fonda being used as an early type of sex kitten in the way Bardot had done stands out somewhat! Elliot Silverstein was well aware of Jane Fonda’s other attributes aside from acting and shamelessly exploits that. She is seen in very tight fitting trousers and shirts. One scene showing her riding away from behind tells you all that you need to know. Roger Vadim took this to even dizzier heights in the unforgettable “Barbarella”!
Lee Marvin then gives a larger than life Oscar winning performance as the drunken Kid Shelleen and his enemy the gunfighter Tim Strawn. His performance consists mainly of playing the rollicking drunk, a role he had perfected in films like “The Comancheros” and “Donovan’s Reef”. This time blow me down, he goes and gets the Oscar. Now I admit he doesn’t do a bad job, but an Oscar against Laurence Olivier in “Othello” and Rod Steiger in “The Pawnbroker” is perhaps a little fortunate shall we say! Marvin himself said during his Oscar acceptance speech that his horse deserved it more than him, and when you see the memorable scene with that noble beast leaning against a wall with front hoofs crossed and a drunken Marvin on board, you believe he just might have meant it! Veteran stalwarts Jay C Flippen and Arthur Hunnicutt provide good support, whilst the three young bucks Michael Callan, Dwayne Hickman and Tom Nardini are a bit underwhelming! This film is perhaps not the classic that some people believe it to be, but it is an enjoyable enough romp! Sad to note that Nat King Cole was suffering from lung cancer during filming and died 4 months before the films release!
This is a most enjoyable Western, very funny in places, and with marvellous performances from Lee Marvin and a very young (and fetching) Jane Fonda. I first saw it when it came out many, many years ago, and then very recently, and it is as fresh as it ever was - fine entertainment.
I always liked this 1965 western comedy and recently I was pleased to see that it didn't age - at all! Below, more of my impressions, with some limited SPOILERS.
Catherine Ballou (Jane Fonda) is a very respectable young lady who studied hard to become a schoolteacher and is returning now by train to Wolf City, Wyoming, near which her father, Frankie Ballou (John Marley), owns a ranch. After the voyage which is a little bit more eventful than she expected, she arrives home, just to find that her father is in serious trouble. Somebody wants to chase Frankie Ballou from his ranch and a terrifying professional killer, Tim Strawn (Lee Marvin), known for his legendary skills with gun - and also for his fake nose... In order to protect her father, she hires another legendary gunfighter, Kid Shelleen (also Lee Marvin) - but once the latter arrives, she starts to have doubts if it was really wise... And then the film really begins...
The treasures of this film are many, beginning with Jane Fonda, who is at her most beautiful here. The narration is made in songs and the narrators, very much present on the screen, are two - Professor Sam the Shade, played by comic Stubby Kaye and especially Sunrise Kid, played by Nat King Cole in person. A rather clueless cattle rustler and his surprisingly young, insanely happy and extremely "zen" uncle add a lot to the show, as does also an assimilated, educated and very well spoken Indian, named Jackson Two Bears.
But THE greatest asset is of course Kid Shelleen ("Then there came to town, a gun deadly and frightening / A gun quicker than lightening, fastest gun you've seen. / It was the gun in the hand of Eli 'Kid' Shelleen."). Lee Marvin got a very deserved Oscar for playing this absolutely U-N-F-O-R-G-E-T-T-A-B-L-E character! I am quite certain that if Nat King Cole didn't register his immortal hit already in 1951, he would do it in 1965 in tribute to Kid Shelleen - although the rhythm would be probably a little bit less pop and a little bit more country...)))
This is a good, merry, fast paced comedy, skilfully parodying many of the most beloved western clichés: desperados, sheriffs, train robberies, gunfighters, wanted posters, six shooters, frontier justice, etc. There is nothing serious in this film and that is another of its treasure - if a remake was ever done, it should begin with Robbie Williams singing "Let me entertain you" in a country version...))) A recommended viewing. ENJOY!