Tom Berenger in Rustlers' Rhapsody (1985)


(director/writer: Hugh Wilson; cinematographer: José Luis Alcaine; editors: Zach Staenberg/Colin Wilson; music: Steve Dorff; cast: Tom Berenger (Rex O’Herlihan), Andy Griffith (Colonel Ticonderoga), Fernando Rey (Railroad Colonel), G.W. Bailey (Peter), Marilu Henner (Miss Tracy), Patrick Wayne (Bob Barber), Sela Ward (Colonel’s Daughter), Jim Carter (Blackie), Christopher Malcolm (Jud), Thomas Abbot (Saloon Owner); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: David Giler; Paramount; 1985)

“Its one-note joke wore thin for me mighty soon.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Hugh Wilson (“Police Academy”/”Burglar “) directs this gentle spoof of “B” movie westerns and singing cowboys from the 1940s (think Roy Rogers or Gene Autry!). Its one-note joke wore thin for me mighty soon and I found the whole genre spoof thing tiresome and not very funny. The film tries to imagine how a B-western would look like if they made it today, as it opens in black-and-white and switches on the fly to color as it goes modern.

Singing cowboy Rex O’Herlihan (Tom Berenger) rides his dancing white ‘wonderhorse’ Wildfire into the stereotypical baddest town west of the Pecos, Oakland Estates. The film then strings out every B-western cliché possible. The guitar singing Rex, with matinee idol good looks, is adorned in a fancy western outfit and wears silver spurs as he enters the town bar and promptly gets into a gun duel with the bad dudes who work for the corrupt cattle baron, Colonel Ticonderoga (Andy Griffith). After showing that he’s a fast draw and shoots only for the hands, Rex sides with the good-guy settlers against the cattle baron and his railroad tycoon partner (Fernando Rey). Rex also partners with the town drunk (G.W. Bailey), who reforms and also serves as the film’s narrator.

The film’s best scene, in fact the only slightly funny one, has Rex in a duel with the town’s other good guy, Bob Barber (Patrick Wayne), hired by the cattle baron to out moralize Rex by outdoing him in acting proper during a gun duel.

Sela Ward plays Griffith’s pretty spoiled daughter, while Marilu Henner plays the saloon hostess who talks dirty with the patrons but has a heart of gold. Both ladies try to woo Rex, while both colonels, railroad and cattle baron, try to kill Rex.

The film is too lengthy, too dull, too wordy and the supporting performers are too stiff to be funny. Since the singing cowboys never took themselves too seriously in the first place, a spoof on them is not only unnecessary but difficult to do since the originals were already a western spoof.