Sunday, October 27, 2019

Tonight's Movie: Support Your Local Gunfighter (1971) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

James Garner stars in SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL GUNFIGHTER (1971), recently released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber.

SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL GUNFIGHTER was inspired by the success of SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SHERIFF! (1969), reviewed here earlier this month. The films share the same director, Burt Kennedy, and cinematographer, Harry Stradling Jr., along with several of the same cast members, but other than that, the films are unrelated.

Whereas SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SHERIFF! was written by William Bowers, this time around the script was by James Edward Grant. Grant did some fine work over many years, including one of my favorite John Wayne films, ANGEL AND THE BADMAN (1947), but GUNFIGHTER is not one of his better efforts. The best line is even stolen from another John Wayne film, TALL IN THE SADDLE (1944)!

This time around Garner plays Latigo Smith, who as the film begins sneaks off a train filled with ladies of "easy virtue," including Goldie (Marie Windsor). He lands in the town of Purgatory, where through a series of circumstances he finds himself posing as the business manager of a famous gunfighter, Swifty Morgan. The only problem is that "Swifty" is a phony; he's really just a drunk named Jug May (Jack Elam)...and the real Swifty (Chuck Connors) is on a train headed toward Purgatory.

Latigo also gets involved with the trigger-happy Patience (Suzanne Pleshette), who dreams of leaving Purgatory for a finishing school in New York. When she finally kisses Latigo, what thrills her most is that she's kissing a man who's set foot in New York!

I've seen SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL GUNFIGHTER almost as many times as SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SHERIFF!, always hoping that I'll finally find it as funny as the earlier movie, but it just never gets there. SHERIFF is one of my favorite comedies, and on this viewing I set out to figure out exactly why GUNFIGHTER falls short. I believe I've hit on some answers.

First, the humor in general is less creative and more juvenile. Instead of focusing on smart gags like the painted "door" of the jail or Garner's bemused reactions to the madness around him, as occurred in SHERIFF, in the later film we get childish scenes such as a dog using Garner's leg as a "fire hydrant" early in the movie. I'm sorry, that's just not funny, nor is some of the other humor; this film is also missing some of the great dialogue of the earlier movie. Grant simply wasn't able to catch the same lightning in a bottle that Bowers nailed, comedically speaking.

In GUNFIGHTER's Latigo Smith, Garner plays a character who in many ways is unattractive, in terms of both character and looks. (Yes, looks! Garner was at his absolute most handsome in SHERIFF, but those sideburns in GUNFIGHTER were a terrible mistake.) Latigo is a lazy chiseler and a gambling addict, and one of his major issues is how to remove an unfortunate tattoo from his chest. Compare and contrast with Garner's SHERIFF character who is constantly busy solving problems, albeit in unusual ways, and making the town a better place.

Similarly, in the earlier film Joan Hackett's character is...exuberant...but she's also smart; she just happens to end up in some crazy situations! Pleshette's Patience, on the other hand, comes off as plain nuts for much of the film.

That's not to say there's absolutely nothing good about the movie. It's got James Garner, which is certainly worth something, and it's mildly amusing, which are two reasons I have gone back to it every now and again. Chuck Connors is particularly deserving of kudos for his small role as the real gunfighter.

All in all, there are surely worse ways to spend an afternoon, even if the movie's not on a level with SHERIFF, which I view as one of the funniest films ever made. It's pleasant hanging out with the great cast of faces, and it's especially fun that John Dehner was cast as a villain, given that he guest-starred opposite Garner and played the villain in the greatest MAVERICK episode of them all, "Shady Deal at Sunny Acres."

Returning from the earlier film, along with Garner and Elam, are Harry Morgan, Kathleen Freeman, Henry Jones, Willis Bouchey, Walter Burke, Gene Evans, Dick Haynes, and Bill and Danny Borzage. Joan Blondell, Ben Cooper, Herb Vigran, Dub Taylor, and Ellen Corby are also on hand this time around.


The Kino Lorber Blu-ray is a very good-looking print. The disc includes two deleted scenes, a commentary track by Michael Schlesinger, the trailer, and four additional trailers for Westerns available from Kino Lorber.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


Blogger Hamlette (Rachel) said...

Like you, I try hard to like this one, but it just... suffers terribly from comparison to Support Your Local Sheriff, and isn't all that funny on its own either. Oh well. Can't love 'em all.

11:33 AM  

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