Appellate Judge James A. Stewart wants to do something big, but the DVD Verdict brass objects to 800-point type.
"All my life, I've wanted to do something big—really big."
Remember Brisco County Jr.'s quest for "the next big thing"? It seems he was a couple decades late to the hunt. Dean Martin beat him to it in a tale of an outlaw who's out to do Something Big. If he's talking about getting into big trouble, he might just succeed.
Facts of the Case
Baker (Dean Martin, The Ambushers) is an outlaw with a tough little dog and a horse with gold fillings. As he plans "something big," he gets a letter that disturbs him; it seems his fiancee (Carol White, Prehistoric Women) is coming to bring him back to Pennsylvania. Adding more pressure is Cobb, who has the gatling gun Baker needs for his big caper, but wants nothing—except for a woman. Baker's idea of matchmaking involves taking a woman from a stagecoach. Naturally, Mary Anna (Honor Blackman, Goldfinger) is going to turn out to be the wife of Col. Morgan (Brian Keith, Hooper), a soldier whom Baker doesn't want to cross.
Something Big is a bawdy movie. It's PG-13 (actually GP in 1971), but it packs a lot of suggestion. At the same time, the characters—not just Cobb—pretty much seem to be alone, and the jokes come out of that loneliness.
Dean Martin's Baker is being pursued by Dover, the gal he left back east, as he pursues his something big. At the outset of the movie, he's running away from a woman who he seems to see as a nuisance. Somewhere in there, though, he becomes fond of Mary Anna Morgan, and a soft spot begins to appear. Dover could be seen as a comic pest, but she lets Baker know that this is her last try at getting him to the altar before settling down with another suitor. She loves him, but she doesn't want to be alone.
At first, Brian Keith's Morgan seems to be running away from his wife, too. It's assumed widely throughout the West that Mary Anna is "a cold, barren woman." Why else would he willingly come out here? However, viewers will notice that Mary Anna actually is a lady, as she tells Baker she is upon their first meeting, dealing with the Western hardships with dignity. Moreover, we learn that she and her husband both look forward to the month he spends back East each year. Blackman gives the role a grace that makes it the best thing about the movie. Along the way, the men encounter two comically lustful prospector sisters, Polly (Joyce Van Patten, Mame) and Carrie (Judy Meredith, Queen of Blood), completing the picture of loneliness in the Old West.
Something Big largely relies on the charm of the leads, whether it's Martin delivering his lines with a self-effacing drawl, Honor Blackman's warm smile, or Brian Keith's shift from jaded soldier to chivalrous tough guy as he learns his wife is in jeopardy.
Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, the scenery looks suitably majestic, the blue sky coming through brightly against the arid landscape. On the audio front, we get a Dolby 2.0 Mono track in which the musical choices—including a theme sung by Burt Bacharach (not Dino?!?) and the light, bouncy music that accompanies Baker's stagecoach holdups—tilt the scale toward farce rather than Western action. The lone bonus feature is a trailer, which reveals a lot about the story.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Even as I'm writing the review, the jazz radio station I'm listening to online is playing a cover of the theme to The Tender Trap, reminding me that, while Something Big isn't bad, it's far from the best farce you'll ever see.
Something Big shoots for a Vietnam War-era irreverence, but it's a rather predictable movie. You'll probably see every joke and every plot twist coming a mile away. At least you will if you know the basic rule of this style of sexual farce: suggestion runs rampant, but in the end, marriage is what really matters. Moreover, the plot point of the women coming West to round up their men hits home that ultimate conclusion a little less subtly than in similar movies.
If you've seen enough of Dean Martin and risque farces to know what you're going to get, you'll probably enjoy Something Big. It did lighten an otherwise boring night for me. If the idea of a risque Dean Martin farce didn't pique your interest in the first place, though, I can't see that Something Big would change your mind.
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