Tag Archives: Albert Salmi

“something big” (1971)

something big 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Kidnapping the colonel’s wife.

Joe Baker (Dean Martin) is an aging bandit looking to do “something big”. He becomes aware of a hoard of treasure being hidden inside a church that sits just across the border and safely guarded by a throne of Mexican bandits. Joe figures that to be able to overpower them he’ll need a Gatling gun and turns to black market dealer Jonny Cobb (Albert Salmi) who agrees to sell him one in exchange for a woman as he’s been without the company of one for “too long”. Joe then begins robbing stagecoaches in a mission to find a woman attractive enough for Jonny’s tastes. After several attempts he finds one who just happens to be the wife of the cavalry colonel (Brian Keith) who then goes on a mission to rescue her while attempting to put a kibosh on Joe’s plans.

This is another film that was given a ‘bomb’ rating by Leonard Maltin that I didn’t think was all that desrved. It’s certainly no classic but James Lee Barrett’s script if full of dry humor and offbeat touches that manages to keep things consistently amusing. Some of my favorite bits include Martin traveling around with a small pooch in his saddle pocket, or his horse having gold crown teeth. Don Knight as his Scottish travel companion Tommy who carries his bagpipes with him at all times and will even occasionally play them as they enter new frontier towns is funny too.

Keith is spot-on as the slightly stuffy colonel who is stuck with incompetent underlings and just wants to move on with his impending retirement in peace, but can’t. His facial expressions alone are terrific and he gives a far more nuanced performance than co-star Martin and should’ve been given top billing.

The attractive and sassy Honor Blackman is great as Keith’s wife and could easily be considered a ‘milf’ by today’s male audience. Joyce Van Patten and Judi Meredith as two women living on a lonely ranch willing to have sex with any man that comes along, including the uptight colonel, are quite funny as is Salmi with his garishly discolored, tobacco stained teeth.

The climax features some nifty gun action including seeing Martin use his Gatling gun to shoot down the bandits in domino-like fashion, but for the most part the script is too leisurely paced and in desperate need of more confrontation and elaborate scenarios. Marvin Hamlisch’s soft-rock score is out-of-place for the time period and the theme song sung by former Paul Revere and the Raiders front man Mark Lindsey doesn’t have any type of western feel to it. I also got tired of hearing the phrase “something big” mentioned over and over again. Initially it seemed cute and clever to repeat the film’s title in the dialogue, but it eventually goes overboard.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: November 24, 1971

Runtime: 1Hour 48Minutes

Rated GP

Director: Andrew V. McLaglen

Studio: National General Pictures

Available: DVD

The Crazy World of Julius Vrooder (1974)

crazy world 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Pretending to be crazy.

Vrooder (Timothy Bottoms) is a Vietnam Veteran who has returned from the war and is unable to cope with the stresses of everyday life, which eventually gets him checked into the psychiatric ward of a local VA Hospital. There he falls in love with Zanni (Barbara Hershey, but billed as Barbara Seagull) who works as a nurse there, but he is unhappy to find that she is already engaged to Dr. Passki (Lawrence Pressman). To escape his frustrations he hides out in an underground bunker that he has created near a local highway. The place comes complete with electricity and telephone service as well as an array of booby traps to tip him off if anyone comes near, but the heads of the local power and telephone companies’ start trying to track him down in an effort to stop his pilfering of their services, which could ultimately lead to an end to his days of freedom.

The film is cute, but a little too cute and was produced, believe it or not, by Hugh Hefner. It likens itself to being an offbeat comedy, but there really isn’t that much that is original about it and it comes off more like a tired anti-establishment flick with the proverbial authority figures portrayed in stale, one-dimensional ways. One could actually consider this as a weak cousin to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest with Vrooder being McMurphy, Passki being a toned-down male version of Nurse Ratched and the suicidal Alessini (Michael Cristofer) being like Billy Bibbit.

The only slightly diverting thing about this film, that otherwise suffers from having a limited budget and looks like it was shot initially on video and then later transferred onto film, are the scenes involving the heads of the power and telephone companies (Jack Murdock, Lou Frizzell) working together to track down the culprit who’s stealing their service. The climactic scene in which Jack Colvin plays an over-the-top Dirty Harry type cop obsessed with getting Vrooder and sending an entire armed police force into the forest to find him is amusing as is the mugshots shown of past felons who had stolen electrical and phone service, which were all made up of headshots from the film’s behind-the-scenes crew.

Bottoms is rather transparent, but Hershey, with her effervescent smile and naturally carefree persona, is far better as her simple presence naturally exudes the film’s hippie-like theme. This was the second of four films in which she was billed with the last name of Seagull and this was done as a personal tribute to seagull that she had accidentally killed while filming a scene in the movie Last Summer.

Albert Salmi, in a rare appearance without his mustache, is excellent in support as Vrooder’s good-natured, fun-loving friend Splint and I found it hard-to-believe that this same man who could play such a peaceful character so well would years later in real-life murder his wife before turning the gun onto himself. Elderly film director George Marshall also does well as the aging Corky and his performance should’ve merited supporting Oscar consideration.

This obscure movie also marks the film debuts of several performers, which includes not only Murdock’s and Cristofer’s, but Ron Glass’ as well who plays an hospital orderly and Dena Dietrich playing Vrooder’s mother who later became best known as Mother Nature in a series of commercials that ran during the ‘70s.

crazy world 1

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: October 18, 1974

Runtime: 1Hour 38Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Arthur Hiller

Studio: 20th Century Fox