We look back at the 1969 western spoof featuring Zero Mostel, Kim Novak and Clint Walker.
Editor's Note: Throughout the month of October, C&I is celebrating the golden westerns of 1969, a year that changed the game for the beloved film genre. Check the Entertainment tab each day to see a different film recommendation by C&I senior writer Joe Leydon. And be on the lookout for the upcoming November/December 2019 print edition, which prominently features one of the 25 greatest films of 1969 on its cover.
C&I reader favorite Clint Walker proves to be great sport when it comes to kidding his image as a larger-than-life straight-arrow hero in this wildly uneven but occasionally hilarious western spoof directed by Hy Averback (I Love You, Alice B. Toklas) and scripted by William Peter Blatty (who later gained fame and fortune as author of The Exorcist). Try to image Cheyenne Bodie with a satirical wink or two, and you’ll have some idea what to expect.
There is, of course, something like a plot: While a fake preacher (Zero Mostel, pictured above) and his sexy assistant (Kim Novak) plot to burrow into a seemingly impregnable small-town Texas bank, stalwart Texas Ranger Ben Quick (Walker) goes undercover as a laundry operator to help a Secret Service agent (Mako) and his comrades with their own plot to enter the bank vault. (Don’t misunderstand: Quick and company are good guys, seeking incriminating evidence against a banker who is laundering outlaw money.)
Claude Akins is a pip as a self-dramatizing bad guy who sees himself as more victim than victimizer, even when he fatally shoots his partner in crime for a perceived insult. (“Why,” he wails, “do I always kill the people I love?”) But Walker is the one who gets the movie’s funniest line in The Great Bank Robbery, when he’s asked by Novak’s character if he enjoyed their smooch. Not surprisingly, his answer is affirmative: “Just ‘cause I talk slow don’t mean I’m peculiar.”
Here is a preview of the movie's opening minutes.
The Great Bank Robbery is available on YouTube Movies.