“something big” (1971)
Joe Baker (Dean Martin) is an outlaw with a desire to do “something big” before returning to a Pennsylvania life of domesticity with his Scottish fiancé Dove McBride (the always welcome Carol White). In the course of realizing this wish, he and his gang will rob several stagecoaches, kidnap the wife of Army Colonel Morgan (Brian Keith), indulge in a bit of white slavery in order to steal a Gatling gun, hijack a shipment of whiskey which they then unlawfully deliver to an Indian tribe and slaughter an entire village filled with Mexican bandits. The film is presented as a comedy.
There are many problems with Andrew V. McLaglen’s “something big”, not the least of which is the film’s violent mood swings which appear to be by design, as if the screenwriter James Lee Barrett and the director (both also acting as producers, so the usual backstage alibi of executive interference seems unlikely) were unsure as the direction they wished their opus to follow and instead decided to unwisely incorporate influences from a variety of forms within the genre. Both Barrett and McLaglen cut their creative teeth steeped in the traditional western form, and their desire to move beyond such a long standing comfort zone is admirable, though the resulting cut and paste quilt of styles seems an ill-conceived effort to appease genre enthusiasts of every stripe, yet producing a work almost guaranteed to please none.
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