Gone with the West

Director: Bernard Girard

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Gone with the West Sub-average electric jazz guitar sets entirely the wrong mood as this tale of the west opens on a mule-drawn wagon entering a desert prison-fort. Within is a soup-line.

A handful of prisoners hang upside down & naked, getting a major whipping. A guy who has served his time runs a veritable gauntlet of cruel guards in order to leave.

Now that he's free, he'll be able to pursue his trail of vengeance, in Standard Western Plot Number 1.

Gone with the West (1978, not 1975 as so often listed) is also known by the re-release title Little Moon & Jud McGraw which I rather like, & by the misguided VHS-release title Bronco Busters despite that there are no bronco busters in the story.

It's a western spoof (at least, I think it was intentionally ridiculous) that manages to be goofy without being funny.

Gone with the WestIt's kind of like a drunk who tells a boring meandering joke in a bar, the point of which is that it's boring & meandering.

Plus the theme song "A Man" sung by Bob Ross has got to be in the running for top ten worst movie songs of all time.

James Caan as ex-con Jud was in his physical prime for this film & he was in general a superior action film star. His competence outshines the script, the direction, the editing, the fight choreography, & the performances of the entire rest of the cast. He can't change the fact that this is a bad movie, but he gives heroic measure struggling to save it.

Stefanie Powers plays loony girl Little Moon who lives in the foothills outside of a town she despises. She leaps off a rock shouting "Yahoo!" onto Jud's head. He ends up giving her his mule & his bag of provisions, not caring that she's attacked him, so of course she likes him after that.

Gone with the West Jud comes to a town ruled by a bad guy (Robert Walker) with lots of evil minions. Jud just might as well be called Yojimbo, although unlike Yojimbo, our man is not so much a man of honor or justice who screws up the plans of rotten guys. Rather, he wants to kill everyone in town then light it on fire.

When Sammy Davis, Jr., shows up, he's dressed pretty hip as a cowboy dandy, with the oh-so-clever name of Kid Dandy. Alas, he adds less to the tail than one might hope.

There were one hell of a lot of black cowboys in the wild west & a damn shamed they're so rarely shown in cowboy movies, so kudos for including the character, but no bonus points for giving Sammy nothing significant to be doing within the tale.

Sammy's spurs jingle jangle jingle as he walks, & you can tell he just popped over from Vegas for the day's shoot. His fast-draw twirly-gun tossed back & forth from one hand to the another is the silliest of silly. He did the same routine any number of times on late night talk shows & probably in his Vegas act & it has nothing whatsoever to do with this film.

Gone with the WestThe crazy girl now dressed in men's clothes tries to roll a big rock down a hillside toward town, but she just ain't strong enough. Powers' campy performance is totally ridiculous, though her crazed presence does lend the film a certain air of mystery while we wait to find out who the hell she is, why the hell she's such a nutter, & why she refuses to live in that town she hates so much.

Little Moon is also quite the talent with slingshot, flying kites that drops bombs, doing magic tricks, a balancing act, & doing headstands. Stefanie Powers was nothing if not cute as a button as she scurries about with her kite-bombs helping our hero destroy the loathsome town.

If anyone tries to tell you spaghetti westerns are unrealistic compared to westerns made in America, you gotta show them this moronic piece of hooha as proof Americans have made the worst westerns of all.

Why anything that happened happened is never particularly clear. The joke ending that begins "you killed everyone but the camera man" just seems to acknowledge the enormity of the film's stupidness.

Obviously some of the cast are really talented people in other contexts, but how they got roped into this stinker, who knows. Still, for all its crappiness, it's not unwatchable, kind of like a train wreck, & it could be argued Bernard Girard has done for the western what Ed Wood did for horror.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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