Sunday, November 11, 2012
I finally got to watch a western which has been eluding me since it’s original release by National General Pictures in 1971 and its NBC tv debut in 1977….SOMETHING BIG starring Dean Martin and Brian Keith. Also in the cast are Ben Johnson, Honor Blackman, and Carol White, along with noted character actors, Albert Salmi, Harry Carey, Jr, Denver Pyle, Joyce Van Patten (sister of Dick the dog food magnate) Robert Donner, David Huddleston, Bob Steele and Edward Faulkner (I’ve met him and he is a very warm and friendly person.) Location scenery and photography are top notch but Andrew V. McLaughlin’s direction distractingly moves from serious to slaptick. He tries to emulate his mentor John Ford and doesn’t succeed several times. Dean Martin is very good as the good-bad guy Joe Baker whose aim in life is to do “something big” so he’ll be remembered and so is his fuzz ball dog sidekick. SPOILER ALERT!!!! Nothing bad happens to the dog. However, Brian Keith overacts with his part and his huffing and puffing makes him comes off as sort of a buffoon. (Why his command is so fond of him is a question unanswered?) Brian should have played the role straight and the humor would have come out at the right times, McLaughlin should have reined him in on numerous occasions. Ben Johnson, Harry Carey Jr and Denver Pyle have never turned in a bad performance and the rest of the cast , including Honor Blackman Carol White and Joyce Van Patten are right on with their characterizations. Albert Salmi and Robert Donner as a pair of hombres who operate just on the wrong side of the law are very good and funny. Their humor is not forced as Keith’s is at times. Keep an eye out for a very funny bit with Salmi and Donner that involves the spitting of tobacco juice. Anyways, the “something big” that Dean and his crew come up with is….trading a woman to Salmi for a gatling gun and then using that gun to rob a mission held by bandits of its gold and treasures. The woman being Honor Blackman who just happens to be Brain Keith’s wife. And during this time Dino is trying to avoid the sister (Carole White) of his Scottish henchman played by Don Knight who has been promised to him as his bride and is on her way west to claim him. Martin lets his hair turn a bit silver for this role and even though he looks a bit puffty in the face, at times, he still commands the screen and dominates every scene he is in. Kind of funny, though to see him wearing a poncho when he leads the gang on their quest to do “something big.” As far as all the character actors……they just don’t make them like this any more. Overall I enjoyed this oater much more than I thought I would.