I wrote an article a couple of years ago about Forgotten Laughs – comedies that are worth watching, but never attained classic status. I overlooked Support Your Local Sheriff from 1969, which is now available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.
Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Laurel and Hardy, the Marx Brothers, Bob Hope, Mel Brooks, and Jackie Chan have all made comedy westerns. But William Bowers and Burt Kennedy did something special with Support Your Local Sheriff. Instead of putting a comic character into a western setting, they took the conventions of the genre and twisted them just a bit to make them funny. Often, very funny.
The plot is a mixture of Rio Bravo, High Noon, and My Darling Clementine, with references to Red River and Winchester ’73 (I may have missed some). You know that scene in almost every western where the hero must explain to his girl that there are some things that a man just can’t run away from. This time, the sheriff plans to run away. (Joan Hackett gives us a very unique frontier gal.)
James Garner stars as the sheriff of the title, doing his laid-back, unflappable persona at its calmest. While playing the fastest draw, the most accurate sharpshooter, and the smartest man in town, Garner shows off a sense of comic timing that seems almost unfair in such a handsome leading man.
The cast is packed with western veterans. Walter Brennan plays a funny variation of his evil patriarch from Clementine. Wild-eyed Jack Elam (Vera Cruz, The Man from Laramie, The Comancheros) steals every scene he’s in as the deputy sheriff – and became a comic actor. Bruce Dern was hardly a western veteran in 1969, but he gives a rare comic performance as a murderer so stupid he can’t escape a jail with a big hole where the bars should be.
So how come you never heard of this movie? The title was timely satire in 1969. Back then, a popular conservative bumper sticker told us to “Support your local police.” The title has aged badly; the movie hasn’t.
Funny as it is, Support Your Local Sheriff has one big flaw: the music score. Composer Jeff Alexander tried to make the music funny and succeeded only in making it annoying. Luckily, most of the jokes aren’t ruined.
There’s also one scene that doesn’t work. It involves prospecting and the Sheriff is completely out of character.
But overall, it’s 91 minutes of laughs…assuming if you know westerns. I wrote another article on this movie in 2014, and I plagiarized myself a bit here.
How It Looks
Support Your Local Sheriff was shot quickly on a small budget, and cinematographer Harry Stradling Jr. didn’t have time to make it look like an epic western. In other words, it’s not an exceptionally beautiful or atmospheric film.
The 1080p transfer looks fine for what it is, but I wouldn’t use this disc to show off your HDTV.
How It Sounds
The original mono mix is reproduced in DTS-HD 2.0. This is probably the best it’s ever sounded.
And the Extras
- Commentary: Michael Schlesinger discusses the actors and crew, notes the references, and discusses comedy westerns in general. He agrees with me about the music.
- Trailer: It’s one of the weirdest trailers I’ve ever seen, and I doubt it made anyone want to see the movie.