Imagine getting a fairly young Arnold Schwarzenegger to play a good guy in a Western and have it go wrong. It just could not happen, could it? Oh boy, it sure did. Yet the results didn’t damage Schwarzenegger in the long run. Back in 1979, director Hal Needham was riding on top of the world.
He’d just come off directing the box-office smash from 1977 Smokey and the Bandit. This time, he’s looking to bring a little slapstick humor and sight gag work to the big screen. So, Needham put together a cast featuring Schwarzenegger, Kirk Douglas, and Ann-Margret. What in the world could go wrong here? Pretty much everything.
The movie was called The Villain and Needham thought it’d be a pretty cool idea to have some Looney Tunes-style humor in the mix. That’s right. Take a couple of gags from the world of The Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote, then have real actors repeat them.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Others Could Not Save ‘The Villain’
While the concept might sound cool, the finished product fell way, way short. Douglas played the bad guy in here, trying all the different ways he could think of to stop Schwarzenegger and Ann-Margret, his squeeze. One scene had Douglas paint a roadway cave on the side of a mountain.
When Schwarzenegger and Ann-Margret approach this, they are able to go through. Remember about the Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote? Come on, you’ve seen this bit before. Douglas’ character sees this happening, so he takes off at a high rate of speed. Yes, and does he make it through? Just like our “Super Genius,” he didn’t and pretty much fell flat on his face.
The Villain ends up simply being a one-joke picture. It’s not the fault of Douglas, Schwarzenegger, Ann-Margaret, Paul Lynde, or anyone else caught up in this catastrophe. Lynde, who in this movie portrays a Native American, doesn’t really have a solid stretch of one-liners.
Director Hal Needham’s Vision Falls Short
In addition, there’s no way in hell that anyone would get away with portraying a Native American like he did these days.
What in tarnation would make Needham believe this would work? A little history lesson might help, according to Collider. Needham worked as a stuntman on Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles. That movie, which starred Gene Wilder and Cleavon Little, had a lot of funny Western dialogue and sight gags. Needham wanted to do his own version in his style of a Western.
It also needs to be brought up that Needham hired a writer for the script. That’s not a big deal. Yet the writer he had hired proved to be quite proficient in penning one-liners. Yeah, and they were for the Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts in the 1970s. This guy was given the task of writing a screenplay. It might be said that the entire cast was not put in the best place to succeed. Consider it one of many lessons from The Villain.
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