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Saturday, April 13, 2024

10 Most Underrated Western Comedies, Ranked

The Western is one of the quintessential American movie genres. Its roots go back to the early days of cinema and it has revolved dramatically over time, from the straightforward narratives of the ’40s and ’50s to the more complex and revisionist interpretations starting in the ’60s. While its popularity might have waned compared to its heyday, recent acclaimed films like The Power of the Dog and even Killers of the Flower Moon demonstrate that the Western remains relevant.

One of the most entertaining Western subgenres, although one of the trickiest to get right, is the comedy Western. These movies tend to subvert the genre’s tropes while still delivering the action and gunslinging fans love. Everyone’s familiar with hits like Blazing Saddles and A Million Ways to Die in the West, but there are also plenty of humorous Western gems that are a little more obscure. From Evil Roy Slade to My Name is Nobody, these are ten of the most underrated comedy Westerns, ranked.

10 ‘Evil Roy Slade’ (1972)

Directed by Jerry Paris

“If you had six apples and your neighbor took three apples, what would you have?” “A dead neighbor and all six apples.” The titular character (John Astin) is a notorious outlaw who was raised by buzzards as a child. Now, Slade terrorizes the Old West with his band of misfit gunslingers. However, when he crosses paths with the determined and feisty schoolmarm Betsy Potter (Pamela Austin), his world is turned upside down. As their unlikely romance blossoms, Slade finds himself torn between love and his criminal lifestyle.

While rough around the edges, Evil Roy Slade is a decent example of an early Western spoof. Mickey Rooney, as a railroad tycoon fed up with Slade’s antics, and his nephew Clifford (Henry Gibson), provide ample support in the zany department. Throw in Dom DeLuise and Dick Shawn, and you’ve got a recipe for comedic chaos. While not every joke lands, the movie compensates with a few heartwarming moments and a ton of slapstick.

9 ‘The Apple Dumpling Gang’ (1975)

Directed by Norman Tokar

“Will you stop tryin’ to think!” This family comedy follows the escapades of affable gambler Russell Donovan (Bill Bixby) and the trio of orphans – Bobby (Clay O’Brien), Clovis (Brad Savage), and Celia (Stacy Manning) – who are thrust into his care. Things get complicated when the kids inadvertently come into possession of a large sum of gold, drawing the attention of various swindlers, varmints, and cretins.

The Apple Dumpling Gang was produced by Disney, making it a bit of an odd creation. It’s essentially a kid-friendly Spaghetti Western with all the edges sanded down. This doesn’t really work, as a key part of a Western’s appeal is the grit and the meanness. Nevertheless, the movie should still appeal to many younger viewers. It makes up for its lack of tension with plenty of slapstick, especially a pair of incompetent bandits. This strategy seems to have paid off for Disney. Although it received lukewarm reviews, the film was a solid hit, grossing $36m domestically. Rent on Amazon

8 ‘The Shakiest Gun in the West’ (1968)

Directed by Alan Rafkin

“Just because I’m rough ‘n’ dirty and don’t wear underwear, doesn’t mean I’m not artistic.” The Shakiest Gun in the West recounts the misadventures of Dr. Jesse W. Heywood (Don Knotts), a timid dentist who finds himself thrust into the rugged world of the Wild West. Heywood must confront a gang of outlaws, armed only with his dental tools and an unsteady hand, all while being tricked into a sham marriage by the bandit Penelope (Barbara Rhoades). However, there’s a chance that her fake feelings might become real.

This is another movie that deserves props for tackling the comedy Western before it was really an established subgenre. There are some entertaining moments here that parody earlier Westerns, particularly The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. In the process, The Shakiest Gun in the West laid the foundation for a number of tropes and gags that would be executed more smoothly by later movies. The animated Rango, for instance, consciously took inspiration from the film.Watch on Hoopla

7 ‘Rustlers’ Rhapsody’ (1985)

Directed by Hugh Wilson

“I’ll curse if I wanna curse! Damn! Damn, damn, hell, damn!” Rustlers’ Rhapsody is another send-up of classic Hollywood Westerns. It centers on Rex O’Herlihan (Tom Berenger), a naïve “singing cowboy” who finds himself transported from the black-and-white world of 1940s B-movies into the colorful realm of an actual Western town. This new environment is far more wild and dangerous than the fake ones he’s used to.

Along the way, Rex encounters a cast of eccentric characters, including the dastardly Colonel Ticonderoga, played with gusto by Andy Griffith, and the feisty Miss Tracy (G.W. Bailey). It makes for an odd but solid affair from Police Academy director Hugh Wilson. It’s no masterpiece, but it’s worth checking out for the satire, catchy musical numbers, and affectionate homage to genre tropes of the genre. In particular, the movie playfully dismantles the traditional hero archetype, taking tongue-in-cheek jabs at cowboy stereotypes. Watch on Hoopla

6 ‘Cat Ballou’ (1965)

Directed by Elliot Silverstein

“Ma’am, I apologize for my disgusting condition and I assure you I will not inflict myself on you any further.” Catherine “Cat” Ballou (Jane Fonda) is a young woman seeking revenge for the murder of her father by a ruthless outlaw gang. With the help of two bumbling and inept hired guns, Kid Shelleen (Lee Marvin) and Jackson Two-Bears (Tom Nardini), Cat sets out on a mission to bring her father’s killers to justice. Marvin has a dual role, also playing the villainous Tim Strawn.

The movie is rated highly by critics but remains under-seen. It’s quirky and undeniably entertaining, with witty humor, and a fantastic soundtrack, featuring the likes of Nat King Cole and Stubby Kaye. The performances are also terrific. Fonda shines as the determined and resourceful Cat, while Marvin is scene-stealing in both of his parts. He went on to win the Best Actor Oscar for his efforts. Not to mention, the film juggles an impressive array of Western references, paying particular homage to 1953’s Shane.Watch on Peacock

5 ‘City Slickers’ (1991)

Directed by Ron Underwood

“Value this time in your life kids, because this is the time in your life when you still have your choices, and it goes by so quickly.” City Slickers revolves around the midlife crises of three friends who embark on a life-changing cattle drive adventure. Billy Crystal stars as Mitch Robbins, a disillusioned sales rep bored by his tedious existence. Alongside his pals Ed (Bruno Kirby), and Phil (Daniel Stern), Mitch heads to the rugged plains of New Mexico for a two-week cattle drive, led by the grizzled cowboy Curly (Jack Palance).

As they navigate the challenges of the trail, including stampedes and river crossings, the trio must confront their own fears, insecurities, and desires for a more meaningful life. This is a solid comedy with a lot of heart, which ultimately succeeds thanks to the talent of the leads. Crystal, especially, has many hilarious moments. Palance, too, turns in a fun performance that won him the Best Supporting Actor Oscar. Buy on Amazon

4 ‘Son Of Paleface’ (1952)

Directed by Frank Tashlin

“You’re just like your old pa. He was the lying-est, crookedest, mangiest, rottenest, low-down critter that never drew a silver breath.” Bob Hope leads the cast here as Junior Potter, the bumbling son of the legendary cowboy hero, Paleface. Returning to claim his inheritance, Junior is soon entangled in a web of schemes orchestrated by the conniving saloon performer Mike “The Torch” Delroy (Jane Russell).

Director Frank Tashlin was also an animator, notably working on Looney Tunes, and he brings an anarchic, cartoonish feel to the film. As a result, Son of Paleface exudes an infectious sense of fun and breezes by at just 95 minutes long. There are visual gags aplenty, like when Bob orders a “Paleface special” at the saloon, with the bartender taking an exaggerated amount of time to prepare it in a comically oversized glass (leading to a hilarious reaction from Bob upon drinking it).

3 ‘The Good, the Bad and the Weird’ (2008)

Directed by Kim Jee-woon

“People must know that they’re going to die, and yet they live as though they never will. Hilarious.” This South Korean movie takes Western elements but relocates them to 1930s Manchuria during the Japanese occupation. The story revolves around three outlaws: the Good, a bounty hunter named Park Do-won (Jung Woo-sung); the Bad, hitman Park Chang-yi (Lee Byung-hun); and the Weird, a thief named Yoon Tae-goo (Song Kang-ho).

When a treasure map falls into Tae-goo’s hands, the three men embark on a frantic race across the desert, pursued by Japanese soldiers, Chinese bandits, and each other. Director Kim Jee-woon clearly revels in excess. The film is a real spectacle, with grand staging, elaborate set pieces, and intricate action scenes. It blends history with fantasy, shootouts with jokes. Everything is flamboyant and stylish. But the unique sense of humor holds it all together and makes it accessible, despite the unusual setting and genre mishmash.

Watch on Tubi

2 ‘Support Your Local Sheriff!’ (1969)

Directed by Burt Kennedy

“What would I want with a reputation? That’s a good way to get yourself killed.” Aimless gunslinger Jason McCullough (James Garner) finds himself unexpectedly appointed as the new sheriff of a rowdy frontier town. Soon, he has to face off against the local bully Joe Danby (Bruce Dern), and his unruly gang of troublemakers. As he outwits outlaws, defuses showdowns, and wins the hearts of the townsfolk, McCullough proves that sometimes all it takes to tame the Wild West is a little bit of wit, charm, and a whole lot of gumption.

Garner is stellar in the lead role as a hero skilled with both words and guns. Jack Elam adds to the fun as his sidekick, while Bruce Dern’s turn as the dim-witted Danby provides comedic relief, while Joan Hackett rounds out the cast as McCullough’s fiery love interest Prudy. Lighthearted and humorous, Support Your Local Sheriff! makes for easy viewing, despite a plot that is sometimes thin.Watch on Tubi

1 ‘My Name Is Nobody’ (1973)

Directed by Tonino Valerii

“Two things go straight to a man’s heart: bullets and gold.” My Name is Nobody features Terence Hill as Nobody, a young gunslinger who idolizes the legendary outlaw Jack Beauregard (Henry Fonda). Nobody hatches a plan to orchestrate a fitting finale to Beauregard’s storied career, hoping to see him go out in a blaze of glory against the notorious Wild Bunch. Along the way, they encounter various colorful characters and, naturally, take part in plenty of shootouts.

My Name is Nobody is essentially a fusion of a Spaghetti Western and a screwball comedy. In fact, it was based on an idea originally thought up by Sergio Leone. Director Tonino Valerii blends classic elements of the genre – sweeping landscape cinematography, an Ennio Morricone score, well-staged gunfights, moments of high tension – with wacky humor. Hill, especially, displays a talent for physical comedy. He’s like a slapstick version of Clint Eastwood‘s Man with No Name. Most of all, the movie doesn’t take itself too seriously, and this is its greatest strength.

Watch on Prime

NEXT: The 10 Best Jason Statham Action Movies, Ranked

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