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Rustler's Rhapsody

Underrated and little remembered, 1985's Rustler's Rhapsody is a hilarious spoof of classic Westerns, taking virtually every cliché in the book and turning it on its ear. Tom Berenger stars as singing cowboy Rex O'Herlihan, who's growing weary of righting the exact same wrongs in every identical town he visits — towns that are uniformly stocked with shady cattle ranchers hiring black-hatted thugs to terrorize the kindly sheep farmers, saloon girls with hearts of gold, funny town drunks and dishonest sheriffs. But disheartened though he may be, Rex has an array of spiffy, color-coordinated Good Guy fashion ensembles, a faithful horse named Wildfire, and the heart of a hero — and he always shoots the guns out of the bad guys' hands. Transported via the magic of satire from his usual black-and-white environs into a full-color "modern" Western, Rex takes on the town of Oakwood Estates, with the town drunk (G. W. Bailey) as his comic-relief sidekick. But this time, things are very different from what he's grown to expect — the local cattle baron, Colonel Ticonderoga (Andy Griffith), has teamed up with his sworn enemy, the Railroad Colonel (Fernando Rey), and they've hired a white-clad "good guy" to fight Rex, which breaks every rule our singin' hero has come to live by. Add in Rex's romances with the Colonel's daughter (Sela Ward) and a local saloon hostess (Marilu Henner) who charges men for her conversation, and Rex finds his new gig is far more complicated than he'd expected. Director Hugh Wilson (Police Academy, Guarding Tess) misfires on the jokes occasionally, but his direction of the usually non-comic Berenger as a blasé Gene Autry type is priceless — he also has an impeccable eye for every location, shot, and angle of the classic Westerns, and a section spoofing Sergio Leone-style spaghetti westerns is inspired. Paramount's DVD release of Rustler's Rhapsody is a beautifully clean, bright transfer with virtually no noticeable specks or scratches on the source-print. Colors tend to lean heavily to the yellow and red, however, including skin tones. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (with optional English subtitles) is superb as well. No extras, keep-case.
—Dawn Taylor



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