MGM // 1969 // 93 Minutes // Rated G
Reviewed by Judge Norman Short (Retired) // March 29th, 2001
I'm basically just on my way to Australia.
When I bought my first DVD player and eagerly went looking for movies to play in it, one of the first I looked for was Support Your Local Sheriff, one of my favorite Western comedies. It wasn't available then, but it finally is now, and you owe it to yourself to see it if you haven't. This is one of the few movies I still laugh out loud at no matter how many times I've seen it, and I've seen it a lot. It may be a bare bones catalog title from MGM, but it's never looked better than now, with a very nice anamorphic transfer.
Calendar, Colorado strikes gold, and the sleepy little place becomes a wild and wooly town where people get shot every day; often by one of the Danby clan, who kill, rob, or extort from everyone. Jason McCullough (James Garner) rides into his town on his way to Australia, a journey that has taken four years so far and doesn't seem to have an end. Seeing how expensive it is to eat or sleep in this boomtown, he applies for the job of sheriff, which the town council and mayor (Harry Morgan) are only to happy to give him. It seems the last sheriff ran off after an hour, and the two before him were killed outright. Fortunately Jason seems to be the best shot and the quickest wit anyone has ever seen, and it doesn't take long before he starts getting things under control. Whether it's convincing a killer to stay in a cell without bars, or putting off the advances of the mayor's daughter (Joan Hackett), he's always one step ahead of the game. Of course the Danbys don't take kindly to being shoved around or arrested, and the patriarch of the clan (Walter Brennan) will face off against the Sheriff, only to be beaten by a single finger.
This movie is the most rollicking good time you can have from a G-rated film. It's simply one of the funniest movies I've had the pleasure to watch in a very long time. Hardly a minute goes by without a chuckle or a belly laugh. Even though it is rated G, there is plenty of subtle things for adults to get without the kids batting an eye, such as "Madame 'Orr's House" where the town council spends an inordinate amount of time. The only blood is fake, shown when the Sheriff dribbles some red paint on the floor to convince his prisoner of what happens to those who walk out of the cell with no bars. It's a real Western, with plenty of people getting into fights and getting shot, but nothing is serious in the film.
The cast is simply marvelous, and takes the stereotypical western story and turns it into a comedic wonder. James Garner has the friendly Western character down pat from his "Maverick" days, but is playing even more tongue in cheek here. Harry Morgan leads a group of well-known faces in the town council. Joan Hackett gets a laugh every time she's on the screen with her physical comedy and mishaps caused by her attraction to James Garner. Jack Elam is every bit as good as the sidekick deputy who just yesterday was shoveling horse...err working in the stable. Bruce Dern plays the stupid Danby son who is always about three steps behind the sheriff, and pulls off the part with naïve charm. But the real gem of the supporting cast is Walter Brennan, the veteran Western actor. He's never been funnier or more offbeat. There isn't a false note in the whole film.
I've been eagerly awaiting this films release on DVD so I can retire a badly worn VHS tape from my collection, yet I was worried since it was a United Artist release and therefore fell under the MGM umbrella. Fortunately, this is one catalog title that was done justice in the video department. The film certainly has never looked this good in my experience, with great color saturation. Made in 1969, the film occasionally shows its age with some wear and a couple blemishes, but it looks surprisingly good. The image becomes a little soft at times, but usually is sharp and always clear. Of course one great plus is finally getting the film in widescreen; the first time I've seen it in its original aspect ratio since watching it at a drive-in when I was young. The soundtrack is a very decent two-channel mono, with a low noise floor and no hisses or crackles to distract. Every bit of dialogue is clear, and the music effects that accentuate the scenes come through clearly. Certainly it isn't reference quality compared to what we take for granted with multi channel soundtracks today, but it works just fine. Only a trailer is presented as extra content, which is usual for MGM catalog titles. It's fairly funny but even back then they gave away too much in the trailer.
Except for the lack of English subtitles and any extras besides a trailer, I have no complaints. Such a wonderful film deserved more, but I'll take what I can get in this case.
I can't recommend this movie highly enough. It's fun for the whole family, it's a hugely funny film, and it's not to be missed. There was a sequel made the following year called Support Your Local Gunfighter using the same formula, and it is funny, but the original is the real gem. Buy this disc!
MGM again gets a slap on the wrist for not paying proper homage to their catalog titles, particularly films from catalogs they acquired later. The film, of course, is released, to no doubt go to Australia.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (French)
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Release Year: 1969
MPAA Rating: Rated G