Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

New name given to same old role

Cleveland Press May 22, 1971

Like its predecessor, "Support Your Local Sheriff," "Support Your Local Gunfighter", is a comedy-western that offers James Garner in essentially an extension of his old TV Maverick characterization.

Again he is a con-man hero, a man who generally takes the sneaky way out but who, in the end, can come through in semi-heroic style.

"GUNFIGHTER" is directed by Burt Kennedy who specializes -- but not well -- in comedy westerns and whose style, such as it is, is clearly derivative.

Jim Garner portrays a con-artist whose specialty is sponging money from wealthy women. Finding himself about to be permanently hitched to bordello owner Marie Windsor he jumps train at a town called Purgatory.

In Purgatory there is a battle raging between rival gold mine owners, one of whom has supposedly imported a professional gunfighter. Garner is mistaken for the killer.

He in turn hustles a dumb but mean-looking cowboy, Jack Elam, to assist him and starts earning -- after a fashion -- money from both sides of the street.

In order to extend a half hour plot into a 92-minute movie there are such minor complications as Garner's problems with roulette, a tattoo on his chest and the shrieking, gun-toting daughter (Suzanne Pleshette) of one of the mine owners.

SOME OF THIS is genuinely funny, other parts fall flat. It probably chalks up a first in funny violence -- Garner's unique method of leaving a gunfighter incapacitated.

Donkeys also figure heavily in the humor in a great deal of double entendre dialog in which the animals are referred to by a more common and vulgar reference to a part of the anatomy. And if that sounds complicated, how the heck else can I explain it in a family newspaper?

Altogether "Gunfighter" comes out as Disney - type movie that is not quite for the kiddies. Garner is fine in a portrayal that by now is as much science as art. Jack Elam, around for years as a heavy, tends to steal the movie -- especially in a closing speech.