A strange yet bountiful partnership forms between a gold prospector and a farmer in the untamed reaches of the Californian mountains. During the tenure of the pairing, they share a wife, hijack a stagecoach, kidnap a clutch of prostitutes and transform their mining claim into a going concern.
Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood together in a Western sounds fine, but a musical Western? Mind you, Eastwood went on the star with an orang-utan, twice, so this is only his third maddest film. Although, it could be his dullest. Which was one thing no one would of expected of this madcap enterprise, born of a what-the-heck attitude from its macho stars — that it would struggle so hard to be fun.
The problem lies in that struggle, director Joshua Logan is working so furiously to establish the grand gusto of the big musical, he forgets his leading men basically can’t sing, and that this in-joke could have lent it a chirpy irony. Thus we only endure Eastwood drifting between through the sunlit woods droning, “I talk to the trees…” with some kind of choral backing (where were they hiding, in the bushes?) or Marvin growling out, “I was born under a wandering star…” at a pitch so low it could cause stomach complaints. The film’s score remains loud and manufactured at all times.
Such an overbearing mock-camp style hardly fits the down-home wilderness setting, either, nor its anachronistically bawdy sense of humour. The story focuses on the fellas threeway marriage with Jean Seberg (who can’t sing either) as well as the clutch of silly adventures as their No Name Town is built from nothing but debauchery and sin (hey, this is America!). How this drones on (literally) for nigh on two and a half hours is beyond all comprehension.
Joshua Logan directs as if he had elephantiasis, but at least fills the picture this is one of those widescreen video releases with action, cowboys, wagon trains and Oregon.