Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Something Big (1971)


I'd never seen nor heard of this 1971 western until the other night, when I caught it on a local TV station. It's a fun, good little film, directed with his usual sense of glee and energy by Andrew V. McLaglen, (son of actor Victor McLaglen), and very much in the vein of the classic westerns directed by John Ford. The scenery, locations and sets are excellent, and the epic scope of cinematographer Harry Stradling, Jr is magnificent. The film stars Dean Martin, Brian Keith, Honor Blackman, Carol White, and veteran character actors Ben Johnson, Albert Salmi, Harry Carey, Jr, Denver Pyle, and Paul Fix, in a small role. 

Martin plays against type - that is, he doesn't play "Dean Martin." He plays it straight as a decent outlaw who abhors violence, isn't much of a fist-fighter, but can shoot a gun and hold his own when it's called for. There's more comedy and character-interaction in this film than there is action. The running gag is that Martin is up to something, but no one knows what that is. All they keep hearing is that he's up to something big. (In the rousing last 20 minutes or so we find out what that "something" is.) Oh, yeah - a woman he promised to marry two years earlier shows up to drag him back to Pennsylvania, while Brian Keith's wife shows up to make sure that this time he truly retires from the United States cavalry. Solid performances by all, especially by the character actors. But it's Albert Salmi and Denver Pyle who steal every scene in which they appear. The only real problem I had with this film is the musical score by Marvin Hamlisch, who was riding high during this period. His score is too modern, too unexciting, and too cartoonish - "Mickey Mousing," they used to call what he does. The title song, written by Burt Bacharach, well . . . IMHO, it's one of the worst songs I've ever heard, although it's sung very well by Mark Lindsay, lead singer for Paul Revere and The Raiders. The song, like the score itself, doesn't fit a western - and both are definitely "products" of some of the early 1970s "soft rock," bland, commercial, Top 40 sound. Other than that, if you like westerns, you should like this one. Not a great film, but like I said, it's well-made and a lot of fun. Check it out, if you've a mind to. Here's the film's trailer.
Something Big (1971)

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