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Four stars just for John Astin at his best - As the meanest outlaw in the West
on 7 November 2010
Considered by many of the post war boomer generation to be a cult classic, this made-for -TV film offers an amusing diversion for fans of the Western. The story starts off with Roy as a baby orphaned in the desert after an Apache attack wipes out a wagon train. Left with only his teddy bear for company little Roy tenaciously survives, and growing up starved of any care or affection, he becomes the meanest outlaw in the Wild West: Evil Roy Slade. Mostly his gang attack Nelson L. Stool [Mickey Rooney]'s trading empire and so with the 'aid' of his ineffectual nephew Clifford Stool [Henry Gibson], they set about trying to bring Roy Slade to justice. Roy's thoughts are elsewhere however as he has taken to the liberal minded beauty Betsy Potter [Pamela Austin], who is convinced that there's good in everyone and that she can change Roy for the better. Given Roy's sad childhood and his love of his teddy bear, you even feel a bit of sympathy for evil Roy Slade (and naturally he does endearingly get most of the best lines) - besides I never could look at John Astin's grinning face without smiling.
The movie is pretty much a budget version of Mel Brooke's 'Blazing Saddles', except that this movie preceded it by two years. The humour is very zany, and its a fast paced comedy made up of a rapid series of one-liners. In style Evil Roy Slade is clearly the granddaddy of hit movies like Airplane and Young Frankenstein - although it also has its roots in older screwball comedies like 'It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World' and 'What's up Tiger Lily'. I'm a massive John Astin fan, having loved the Addams family and his infrequent TV guest appearances in series like Eerie Indiana. Being born in the late 50s I'm also very familiar with the Western movie (so popular with my dad and grandad's generation) and Mel Brookes style comedies. Perhaps 'Evil Roy Slade' seems a little dated now, and it's not exactly in the league of the likes of 'Dr Stranglove' for dark humour and serious content, but I found the movie to be a fiver well spent. I could see how some might rate this movie as 1* in 2010, 40 years on - so don't expect too much from a budget TV film. However, if you liked the US 1960s TV series The Addams family (and still do), it should be a safe buy. Plus it's great to see one of my childhood idols Mickey Rooney (and Henry Gibson) again.
I bought Evil Roy Slade  as the double feature NTSC DVD Evil Roy Slade & Brothers O Toole [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] with another similar, but less highly rated, John Astin Western comedy TV movie 'Brothers O'Toole' , for a similar price to this single NTSC DVD so check that DVD out well. My twin feature DVD is full colour 4:3 NTSC, and usefully it's not region locked, and so should play on all but the most ancient DVD TV combinations in the UK (just about any UK TV built in the last 15 years can cope with an NTSC signal). Picture quality and sound is good enough for a standard TV. There was no extras or any subtitles, and it's English Dolby Digital Audio only - being a similar TMG release it's highly likely the same is true of this DVD. If you're new to comedy Westerns, also check out the likes of 'Blazing Saddles', James Garner's 'Support your local Sheriff/Gunfighter', 'Cat Ballou', 'The Cheyenne Social Club', 'Paint your Wagon', 'Two mules for sister sarah', 'Maverick', and perhaps Kenneth More's 'The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw' , and Bob Hope's 'Paleface' & 'Son of Paleface' [1948/1952].