Once Upon a Horse (1958)

The first, modern, full-length movie parody (Universal-International) starred Dan Rowan (1922-1987) without moustache and Dick Martin (1922-2008) as bumbling outlaws who become cattle-rustlers and try to sell a stolen herd in Empty Cup, Colorado.  This is not a good movie but there are some clever scenes that are early parodies of the western movie format.  The movie was a flop in 1958 because audiences were not ready for this type of humor.  One reviewer (Hal Erickson) called it "too smart for the room."

The Rowan and Martin characters discover to their chagrin that they cannot sell the cattle because the price of beef has dropped to one cent per pound, and the price of cattle feed is two cents per pound.  The only person in town with money is the pretty banker (Martha Hyer) who was the previous owner of the stolen cattle.  The boys try to leave town without their cattle because they cannot afford to feed them but the posse - led by Sheriff Leif Erickson (1911-1986) - keeps bringing them back to their herd.

Martin poses as a dentist and pulls the bartender's tooth for five dollars.  They try to parlay the earnings into feed money by playing mouse roulette.  They lose and go back for more teeth.  This process continues until the bartender is toothless.

Dan and Dick finally decide that they need to steal the banker's money to buy feed for their cattle.  However, they soon find that they are unable to spend the money because everyone in town knows that only the bank robbers have money.  The boys are forced to return the money to the safe so they can get a bank loan at ten percent interest compounded daily.  They use the borrowed money to feed their cattle until the price of beef increases.  By the time they try to sell the herd, their loan balance has grown to $3,700.18.

In one scene at the saloon, Dick spends his last quarter on beer.  The waitress brings him a huge glass that holds about a gallon of beer.  Dick says: "Is that all I get for a quarter?"  The waitress (Nita Talbot) replies: "That's a nickel's worth."  Dick drinks five gallons of beer and sloshes through the next scene.

Rowan and Martin brought four old cowboys stars - Tom Keene (1896-1963), Bob Livingston (1904-1988), Kermit Maynard (1897-1971) and Bob Steele (1907-1988) - out of retirement for the movie.  Also, the blacksmith was played by Paul Anderson (1932-1994), "the strongest man in the world" (and worst actor).  He bends steel, lifts cows and lassos a runaway train.  The proprietor of the Chinese laundry is "P. Yew" who speaks Yiddish when scared.  The manager of the hardware store is "G. Hosaphat."  The movie begins and ends with improbable wedding scenes.

If you can tolerate the bad acting and the low budget scenes, this movie can be a lot of fun for parody fans. [JAM archive]