Scraps: “something big” (1971)

bigsomething2                     “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 (thebigsomethingOS 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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About chandlerswainreviews

I've been a puppet, a pirate, a pauper, a poet, a pawn and a king, not necessarily in that order. My first major movie memory was being at the drive-in at about 1 1/2 yrs. old seeing "Sayonara" so I suppose an interest in film was inevitable. (For those scoring at home- good for you- I wasn't driving that evening, so no need to alert authorities.)Writer, critic and confessed spoiler of women, as I have a tendency to forget to put them back in the refrigerator. My apologies.
This entry was posted in comedy, Dean Martin, John Ford, movie reviews, Movies, music, Romance, westerns, women, writing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Scraps: “something big” (1971)

  1. beetleypete says:

    I went to see this at the cinema, attracted by a truly stellar cast. I enjoyed Ben Johnson, but found the presence of Carol White and Honor Blackman strange, as both were trying their best to act, in a film that hardly required that skill. The main issue was my fascination with Brian Keith’s wig, which seemed to take on a life of its own.

    On a side note, I met Carol White in London, when I was an EMT in that city. We were called to a very shabby flat in a run-down part of west London, where a man had taken a drug overdose. It turned out to be the drug-addict boyfriend of the lady of the house, and she turned out to be a much older-looking, and very haggard, Carol White. (Also quite obviously a drug addict) I recognised her immediately, and ended up having a discussion with her about the films ‘Poor Cow’, and ‘Cathy Come Home’. She greatly enjoyed being recognised, and it really lightened her mood to meet a ‘fan’. She talked about having ‘new opportunities’ in the USA, and I wished her well as we left.
    Not long after, in 1991, I read that she had died in America, aged 48.

    Best wishes, Pete.

    • What an interesting anecdote, both fascinating and sad, much like the actress herself. Thanks for sharing that. It seems that in reviewing many of the films lately, the background stories of some of the major stars (especially from England) are touched by a similar tragedy. I am thinking of James Robertson Justice and Terry-Thomas, both of whom had a very hard time of it in the end. It’s sad to think of those who have given so much pleasure to the world, falling on hard times such as that.

  2. johnrieber says:

    I saw this once, and was also confused by the vulgarity, slapstick and violence…and remember, I am a fan of all three, just not mashed together so poorly!

    • Yes, you are right on target! (By the way, thanks for the comment John.) I saw this as very much part of the transitional problem of middlebrow directors and writers who were caught up in the new openness of the cinema once the Production Code was vanquished. Isn’t it interesting to see how quickly many veteran talents withered and died (professionally, that is) within one or two productions into what might be termed the brief New Wave of American movies? (Even Hitchcock was stupidly attacked as a vulgarian for his use of sex and nudity in “Frenzy”.) In McLaglen’s case, his inflexible middlebrow sensibility didn’t jibe with his aiming low just to be hip and relevant. Don’t they realize it takes a special talent to make great trash? Why can’t they leave vulgarity and smut to the professionals?

      • johnrieber says:

        Exactly right…how to stay “current” and “with the times” is difficult for so many people in the entertainment industry!

        • I wonder if it not even more so than we imagine, what with the endless preproduction process that takes the timeframe of any release right out of the “current trend” ballpark. (Hey, imagine all of the money spent annually on films that never get made. We could probably combine those resources to open a chain of drive-in theaters on Mars.) Then again, maybe I’m still trying to find some rationale to explain that “Lost Horizon” musical.

          • johnrieber says:

            HA! You are right: trying to imagine “what these kids today” will want in the 3-5 years from idea to premiere…really tough, which is why we get such bad decisions being made…like the “Monster Truck” debacle when Paramount wrote off $100-mil the day before it even opened?

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