Support Your Local Sheriff
Before there was Blazing Saddles there was 1968's Support Your Local Sheriff, perhaps one of film's funniest comedy-westerns. James Garner plays Jason McCulloch, a Bret Maverick-ish gunfighter who passes through a rough-and-tumble gold rush town on his way to Australia. After a run-in with Joe Danby (Bruce Dern), a member of the town's reigning badass family (led by patriarch Walter Brennan), McCulloch accepts a position as sheriff because he needs the cash. The Danbys set their sights on running the new sheriff out of town, sending hired killers and finally rounding up the entire Danby clan, as the wiseass McCulloch bests them time and again in typical James Garner fashion. Support Your Local Sheriff was helmed by the late Burt Kennedy, a veteran director of TV and movie Westerns ("The Virginian," "Wild, Wild West," The Rounders, The War Wagon, Return of the Magnificent Seven) with a screenplay by genre vet William Bowers (The Gunfighter, The Law and Jake Wade, The Sheepman) and faithfully follows standard Western conventions to create a wry, witty comedy. The cast is jam-packed with solid character actors including Harry Morgan as the town's mayor plus Henry Jones, Kathleen Freeman, Willis Bouchey and Walter Burke. The love interest is supplied by Joan Hackett as the mayor's slightly psychotic tomboy daughter, and the sidekick role is filled by Jack Elam, who offers most of the film's laugh-out-loud moments. While Support Your Local Sheriff isn't the side-splitting parody that, say, Blazing Saddles is, the good-natured laughs are still plentiful and hold up well even after repeated viewings. The film was popular enough to inspire 1971's less-successful Support Your Local Gunfighter, also directed by Kennedy with several of the same principal actors. MGM's DVD release, one of their "Western Legends" DVDs (which may be stretching the concept of "legends" a tad thin), comes in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. The rather awful theatrical trailer is included. Keep-case.