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FASTEST GUITAR ALIVE, THE (director: Michael Moore; screenwriter: Robert E. Kent; cinematographer: W. Wallace Kelley; editor: Ben Lewis; music: Fred Karger; cast: Roy Orbison (Johnny Banner), Sammy Jackson (Steve Menlo), Maggie Pierce (Flo Chestnut), Joan Freeman (Sue Chestnut), John Doucette (Sheriff Max Cooper), Lyle Bettger (Charlie Mansfield), Ben Lessy (Indian Chief), Patricia Donahue (Stella DeWitt); Runtime: 87; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Sam Katzman; MGM; 1967)
“Leaden farce with added country music, which is just as leaden.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Leaden farce with added country music, which is just as leaden. It’s a cheapie via cheapie producer Sam Katzman. This was mercifully one of only a few Roy Orbison movie roles, as the noted shade wearing recording artist country guitarist (minus his shades for this flick) can’t act a lick. This is the other Michael Moore (“Buckskin”/”An Eye for an Eye”) and not the one of documentary fame. The pathetic script is courtesy of Robert E. Kent, who builds the plot, one better suited for an Italian western, on a trick guitar that doubles as a rifle.

In 1865, during the last days of the Civil War Johnny Banner (Roy Orbison) and Steve Menlo (Sammy Jackson) arrive in San Francisco in a horse-drawn medicine wagon. This gives them cover for their spy activities for the Confederates, as they scheme to rob a government mint. Also accompanying them in wagon number two are the dance-hall Chestnut sisters, Sue (Joan Freeman) and Flo (Maggie Pierce), who respectively love Johnny and Steve. Johnny starts giving guitar lessons to Colonel Bascombe’s pretty daughter in order to pump her for information for the robbery. Once the mint has been robbed of $150,000, the foursome in their two wagons set out to deliver the gold to a Confederate general in El Paso but learn the war is over. Rather than be thought of as thieves, the boys decide to return the loot. This proves to be harder than robbing the mint.

Things never pick up from its awkward beginnings, and this terrible film moves into territory reserved for films that are just the pits. Elvis turned down the Orbison role.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”