The World According to Arnie – Cactus Jack (1979)
Out of some self-destructive sense of completion, I decided to start this Arnie retrospective in the 70’s. Sweet jesus was that a mistake. Arnie really served up a giant pile of shit in that decade, and Cactus Jack (it’s called The Villain in the US) is no exception.
Cactus Jack (Kirk Douglas) is an utterly inept wannabe outlaw. So inept he has to read from a guidebook for bad guys. In jail after a failed bank robbery, some lazy eyed rich bloke (Jack Elam) offers him his freedom and $500 for a robbery. The rich bloke is buying some guys ranch or something, and he wants Jack to steal back his money. Handsome Stranger (Arnie), yes that’s his name, knows the ranch guy (“he saved my life”) and agrees to escort ranch guys daughter Charming (Ann-Margret) and the money.
That summation really doesn’t make much sense, and I can’t be bothered trying to make sense of it because it’ll take all day. Instead I’ll point out a number of moronic aspects of the plot. Firstly, Charming arrives safely on a train to collect the money. But for no apparent reason (apart from it being necessary for Jack to try to rob them) Handsome escorts her back to her town in a horse and cart. Secondly, trying to steal back your own money moments after you’ve just handed it over (but not gained proper ownership of the ranch) is fucking moronic. Shouldn’t the rich bloke have waited until the money had been properly exchanged and the “keys” to the ranch handed over? Thirdly…. aah fuck it. It’s not worth it.
This is an alleged comedy, so going over the plot is an exercise in futility. It’s essentially a long, boring, unfunny, live-action Road Runner cartoon (which I love), complete with the Looney Tunes music at the end, and many of the same jokes. Cactus Jack actually paints a tunnel in the side of a mountain, which Handsome and Charming safely travel through, but Jack runs in to when he follows. To say these jokes fall flatter than Keira Knightleys chest is an understatement. There is very little, if anything to be amused about. And it’s filled with jokes that were stale 40 years before even this was made, so watching it today is beyond painful. For example, Arnie helps a lady across a busy street, but she didn’t want to cross in the first place. HA… ha… The fact that a lot of effort went in to that scene and that was the punchline makes it even worse. Just look at the names of the characters to see how shit the comedy is. Handsome Stranger. Parody Jones (what’s he a parody of? He’s in the movie for two seconds). Charming Jones. Good god it’s shit.
There’s a section of the movie where Handsome and Charming travel through “Indian County” (and it is County, it’s pointed out in the movie as if its a joke). And here we get a irritating gay white bloke as the Chief Indian, who ends up helping Jack for some reason I didn’t care to follow. If it weren’t so pathetic and embarrassing, it would be offensive. There’s also about three songs (one for each main character) that are repeated ad nauseum throughout the entire movie, which becomes very, very annoying.
As for the positives? Well, the best performance in the movie is by Jacks horse, Whisky. He provides a few moments that almost made the corners of my mouth shift from their downward trajectory. Ann-Margret, despite being an incredibly irritating character (her one character trait seems to be that she loves cock and doesn’t have any problem where she gets it), was a sensational looking woman.
Arnie is completely miscast and struggles to make a boring, unfunny character remotely interesting or amusing. And he looks all at sea in a cartoonish slapstick comedy. Kirk Douglas bravely tries to make Jack wacky enough to make us laugh, but it just doesn’t work. The jokes are tired, the timing is non-existent, and the direction doesn’t do anything to sell the gags. Actually I just remembered the one exchange that slightly amused me. I’m assuming no one will bother watching this movie (I’d have to question your sanity if you did) that you won’t mind me spoiling it.
Handsome Stranger: I was named after my father.
Charming Jones: He must’ve been quite a man.
Handsome Stranger: I don’t know. I never met him.
And that crap exchange is the best writing in the movie. It really is a brutal experience trying to watch this. I think the only reason I made it through is because the remote was next to the telly and I couldn’t be arsed getting up to get it. Yes, I am that lazy.
Next up, I’ve finally escaped the 70’s and entered the awesome 80’s, which begins with Conan The Barbarian, which for some reason I’ve never seen before. To say that I’ve earned it is an understatement.