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SAM WHISKEY (director: Arnold Laven; screenwriter: William Norton; cinematographer: Robert Moreno; editor: John M. Woodcock; music: William Norton/Herschel Burke Gilbert; cast: Burt Reynolds (Sam Whiskey), Clint Walker (O.W. Bandy), Ossie Davis (Jedidiah Hooker), Angie Dickinson (Laura Breckenridge), Rick Davis (Fat Henry Hobson), William Shallert (mint superintendent), Del Reeves (The Fisherman), Virgil Warner (Narrator); Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Arthur Gardner/Jules Levy/Arnold Laven; United Artists; 1969)
“Proves tiresome under the belabored direction of Arnold Laven.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An amiable Western, whose tagline is “Don’t mix with Sam Whiskey. It’s risky!”, that nevertheless proves tiresome under the belabored direction of Arnold Laven (“The Glory Guys”/”Geronimo”/”The Monster That Challenged the World”). The flat screenplay is by William Norton. It’s set shortly after the Civil War, where itinerant gambler and saddle tramp Sam Whiskey (Burt Reynolds) is seduced by pretty widow Laura Breckenridge (Angie Dickinson) into getting paid $20,000 to retrieve a quarter of a million dollars in gold bars from a sunken riverboat in Colorado’s Platte River and then returning the stolen loot to the Denver mint. The gold was stolen by Laura’s late husband and she wishes to have it returned before the theft is found out and her illustrious family name is disgraced. The enterprising Whiskey recruits local blacksmith Jedidiah Hooker (Ossie Davis) and O. W. Bandy (Clint Walker), an Army friend turned inventor, to go along as partners on this mission.

It turns out that the sunken riverboat is being watched by a dude with thick glasses, Fat Henry Hobson (Rick Davis), the film’s villain, who wants the gold for himself. After Fat Henry and his boys steal the loot from the unsuspecting good guys, the boys use O. W.’s homemade machine guns to chase the baddies down. After recovering the loot, Whiskey poses as a government inspector and enters the mint and deliberately damages a bronze bust of George Washington. Whiskey then insists on having it repaired and takes it to a blacksmith’s shop, where Jedidiah recasts the gold into the shape of the bust.

The cornball antics, the uninspired acting and the wearisome plot so slackly handled all add up leaving this dull Western in a state of mediocrity. This one might appeal only to die hard fans of Reynolds.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”