Judge Russell Engebretson rides into town to bring some law and order to this lawless Western farce.
It's the code of the West, to your own self be true—do unto others before they do it unto you.
Waterhole #3—a farcical take on Sergio Leone's man-with-no-name Westerns—provides a few laughs, a few winces, and the chance to see the comic acting chops of several actors who have shuffled off this mortal coil.
Facts of the Case
The film opens to the strains of Roger Miller singing, "I'll tell you a story that's never been told—of rapin' and killin' and government gold" as a mule-drawn army wagon laden with a shipment of gold bars is delivered into the hands of larcenous Master Sergeant Henry J. Foggers (Claude Akins, The Devil's Brigade). The gold is hidden (in waterhole #3, naturally) by Doc Quinlen (Roy Jenson, Chinatown)—one of Foggers's other two accomplices—and the three thieves are to meet in the town of Dolores, Arizona to divvy up the loot. However, the truculent Quinlen has a fatal encounter with card shark Lewton Cole (James Coburn, In Like Flint) in a less than fair gunfight on the main street of Dolores. Cole uses the map that was drawn on one of Quinlen's twenty-dollar bills to lead him to the hidden gold.
When Foggers and surviving accomplice Hilb (Timothy Carey, Minnie and Moskowitz) discover that Cole has absconded with the stolen gold, they follow in mad pursuit. In the meantime, Cole imprisons Sheriff John H. Copperud (Carroll O'Connor, All in the Family) and his deputy (Bruce Dern, Smile) in their own jail, and makes his way to Copperud's homestead to steal the sheriff's horse. He encounters the sheriff's daughter, with whom he enjoys a roll in the hay. The rest of the movie is a series of chases and gunfights (one big shootout takes place in and around a bordello) as most of the cast succumbs to gold fever; only Captain Shipley (James Whitemore, The Shawshank Redemption) remains steadfast and true, a straight-arrow character on a mission to recover the gold and bring the thieves to justice.
• The Good
The laid-back comic interactions between O'Connor and Coburn work to good effect in the majority of the scenes, and the story has enough plot twists to keep it all lightly amusing.
• The Bad
The big gun battle scene, which goes on too long, might have benefited from a more judicious edit. Likewise, the finale is drawn out and only intermittently funny. Throwing all the characters together (including a cavalry regiment) for a final chase sequence is as contrived and unwieldy as a slapstick pie fight. Even Blazing Saddles had a problem with its everything-but-the-kitchen-sink ending; and Waterhole #3 compares to Blazing Saddles as a sodbuster compares to a seasoned cowpoke.
• The Ugly
• The Disc
No one will mistake this comedic oater for Blazing Saddles, but the script does display some occasional wicked humor, and the odd comic pairing of Carroll O'Connor and James Coburn actually works.
The court finds the movie not guilty. The screenwriters are reprimanded for a singularly grotesque subplot.
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