• Support Your Local Sheriff/Support Your Local Gunfighter



    Released by: Twilight Time
    Released on: February 16, 2016
    Directed by: Burt Kennedy
    Cast: James Garner, Harry Morgan, Jack Elam, Henry Jones, Joan Hackett, Walter Brennan, Bruce Dern/James Garner, Harry Morgan, Jack Elam, Henry Jones, Suzanne Pleshette, John Dehner, Chuck Connors, Joan Blondell
    Year: 1969/1971
    Purchase From Screen Archives

    The Movies:

    Support Your Local Sheriff: The frontier settlement of Calendar, Colorado becomes a boom town when gold is discovered by the pretty yet slightly unbalanced Prudy Perkins (Joan Hackett) during a burial at the local cemetery. Her good fortune quickly attracts all sorts of shady characters, who descend upon Calendar hoping for similar success. Prudy's father, Olly Perkins (Harry Morgan), becomes mayor of the town as constant drunken violence becomes the norm. Enter Jason McCullough (James Garner), a wise-cracking gunslinger passing through Calendar on his way from New York City to Australia. In dire need of cash, he temporarily takes on the position of sheriff, with the similarly hard-up but far less imposing Jake (Jack Elam) joining him as deputy. The two run afoul of local bad guys when McCullough arrests Joe Danby (Bruce Dern) for murder. It turns out that Danby's family—headed by the mean, cranky, and not at all lovable Pa (Walter Brennan)—has a lot of clout thereabouts, controlling the sole route in and out of town and using that leverage to financially gouge everyone as they take their gold elsewhere. Throughout it all, romantic sparks fly between the laid-back McCullough and the weird and feisty Ms. Perkins. It would be mean to spoil it by telling how it all turns out.

    Support Your Local Gunfighter: In the Old West, con artist/gigolo Latigo Smith (James Garner) escapes an impending marriage to his wealthy, over-the-hill sugar mommy, Goldie (Marie Windsor), by sneaking off their train during a midnight stop at the mining town of Purgatory, Colorado. There, he's mistaken for notorious gunslinger Swifty Morgan by the pretty yet violently unbalanced Patience Barton (Suzanne Pleshette), among others. Smith decides to take advantage of the townsfolk’s misconception by recruiting the unimposing Jug May (Jack Elam) to pose as Morgan and scamming two competing mining companies—run by Taylor Barton (Harry Morgan) and Colonel Ames (John Dehner)—out of their wealth. Ames discovers the deception, however, and telegrams the real Swifty Morgan (an uncredited Chuck Connors, wearing the worst skin-head wig to be seen in modern cinema), alerting him to May's impersonation. As Morgan heads toward Purgatory to defend his reputation, romantic sparks fly between the snarky Smith and the psychotic Ms. Barton. It would be mean to spoil it by telling how it all turns out.

    With Rotten Tomatoes ratings just below 70, both Support Your Local Sheriff and Support Your Local Gunfighter are more fondly regarded today than they were upon their initial release. In 1969, Roger Ebert called Sheriff “a textbook example of the evil influence TV has on the movies… essentially a lousy TV situation comedy dragged out to feature length for no good reason.” He was equally harsh two years later on Gunfighter, Sheriff's sort-of sequel/remake/reimagining, asserting that “Actor for actor, you probably couldn't find more entertaining characters than Jack Elam, Joan Blondell, Marie Windsor, Harry Morgan, etc. But after half an hour or so it becomes painful to see these skilled professionals laboring to save a movie that should never have been made.”

    Watching the films back-to-back today, one can certainly see Ebert’s point, but depending on the viewer's capacity for lightening the fuck up, there's a decent amount of dumb fun to be had here. (Let's keep in mind that these movies weren't intended as serious drama in the first place.) Sheriff is easily the better of the two, thanks to a script by William Bowers that successfully straddles the line between low-brow wit and silly slapstick. It takes about 15 minutes to find its voice, but once it does, it remains a hoot until the very end. There’s a surprising number of laugh-out loud lines (from “He stuck his finger in your what?” to “They didn’t use words like that in third grade, did they?”—to see why these lines are hilarious, watch them in context). Of course, none of this would work if it weren’t for the convictions of the actors, particularly James Garner and Walter Brennan; the latter steals every scene in which he appears.

    Too bad director Kennedy didn’t bring writer Bowers back for the second film, which is its own mixed bag of chuckles and groans. Instead, he settled for a writer with an obsession for slapstick. The wit is gone, but that doesn’t make the film dull. It’s anything but, thanks to stalwarts Garner and Elam, who pretty much play the same roles they had essayed in the former film, though with different character names. If there’s any problem with either film, it’s that the music too often telegraphs what’s supposed to be funny, much of which, at least in the second film, doesn’t work.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Support Your Local Sheriff and Support Your Local Gunfighter come to Blu-ray courtesy of Twilight Time. Both films are provided in 1080p high definition with an MPEG-4 AVC encode. Both films are also presented in their original 1.85:1 aspect ratios on a single 50GB disc. Given the relative lack of extras, the disc is more than capable of holding the two Western comedies with no serious compression issues. Of the two films, Sheriff features the better—though still problematic—transfer. Grain is mostly organic, though there are a few instances in which it appears a little blown out, while colors range from rich to slightly faded. More often than not, there’s a sharp level of detail, particularly in outdoor sequences lit by bright sunlight, though a few sequences suffer a distinct lack of detail. (These scenes mostly appear early on, but as the film progresses, it becomes considerably sharper.) By comparison, Gunfighter features a much weaker transfer, albeit one that never looks downright terrible. Colors are decent, as is detail; the problem is that neither impresses as much as it should. All that said, neither film suffers from defects such as scratches, dirt, and debris to any serious degree.

    For the primary soundtracks of each film, Twilight Time has opted for lossless DTS-HD Master Audio Mono tracks. These tracks perform solidly, with fairly dynamic range and no hiss or defects of any kind. Given how annoying the music score can be at times, it’s never allowed to drown out dialogue or other important sound effects, all of which are nicely balanced. Per their usual offerings, TT provides subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired as well as isolated scores for both films in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. Sheriff also features an audio commentary by film historians Lee Pfeiffer and Paul Scrabo. The two men discuss cast, crew, and just about everything else related to the film. The commentary is certainly informative and well worth a listen for anyone with an investment in the film.

    There aren’t many extras, but the few there are have been included in HD. These include a trailer for each film (3:03/2:45), as well as the standard MGM 90th Anniversary Trailer (2:06).

    Rounding out the package are liner notes by film historian Julie Kirgo; these come in a handsome and colorful 8-page booklet. Anyone familiar with Kirgo’s writing should give the notes a read; anyone not familiar with Kirgo’s writing should get familiar with it by giving the notes a read.

    The Final Word:

    Support Your Local Sheriff is a great little comedy with surprisingly witty humor that largely remains fresh to this day. Support Your Local Gunfighter is a comedown from its predecessor but still worth watching. And if one is only interested in the first (or the second) film, then he or she can regard the other as a freebie. Picture quality is mixed but never terrible, and sound quality is nice. There’s also a commentary, liner notes, and two trailers to consider. Overall, most viewers will likely find this Twilight Time twofer a safe bet for three solid hours of pleasantly wasted time.

    Christopher Workman is a freelance writer, film critic, and co-author (with Troy Howarth) of the Tome of Terror horror film review series. Volume 2 of that series (covering the 1930s) is currently available from Midnight Marquee Press, Inc., with Volume 1 due out later this year.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!
























    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Barry M's Avatar
      Barry M -
      "How dare you walk into my office and pull a gun on me?"
      "Get your finger out of the end of my gun."

      Nice review, I guess I'll probably have to get this. Thanks, Chris.

      Edit: Fifty bucks Canadian shipped. Going to need more gold nuggets.
    1. C.D. Workman's Avatar
      C.D. Workman -
      That's a lot. I didn't realize Twilight Time titles cost so much to ship to Canada.