Browse all reviews by letter     A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0 - 9

USA 1965
Directed by
Elliot Silverstein
96 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2 stars

Cat Ballou

That Cat Ballou was a hit in its day I can kind of understand.  After all Hollywood was at its nadir and hitherto televisions director Elliot Silverstein’s film is entirely typical of the depth to which it had sunk – ersatz production values dressing up pedestrian scripting eked out by witless slapstick humour.  There are probably only two reasons that it hasn’t entirely disappeared from sight. One is that Lee Marvin won an Oscar for his dual performance as twin brother gun-slingers and that Jane Fonda Is captivating as the title character in what was her first hit screen role.

There really nothing to the film which is a kind of Blazin' Saddles (1975) avant la lettre. From the opening scene in which troubadours Stubby Kaye and Nat King Cole (who had died of lung cancer by the time the film was released) making at best rudimentary attempts to simulate playing their instruments narrate Cat’s story in song (they re-appear intermittently to help the story along) the jaunty but styleless tone is set.

The conventional Western plot has Cat avenging her father (John Marley) who is murdered by monied interests who want his land. She is aided by a couple of cattle rustlers on the run (Michael Callan and Dwayne Hickman who both returned to television after this with Hickman achieving some kind of fame as Dobie Gillis) and, eventually, Marvin as Kid Shelleen, a dipsomaniacal wreck of a gunfighter who must go up against his twin who sports a silver nose (it had been bitten off in a brawl).  Also thrown into the mix is an Indian, Jackson Two-Bears (Tom Nardini, who also disappeared into television land after this).

Beyond the idea of the musical narration, although this adds nothing on any level,  and the occasional good line the film is routine stuff and Marvin’s performance is more notable for its being against type than anything of merit in itself (he really only plays Kid Shelleen, Strawn is a one-note character who appears for no more than a couple of minutes). But for fans who have too much time on their hands there’s always Fonda.




Want something different?

random vintage best worst