At its occasional best, the inspired silliness of this comic Western, it’s THE MAGNIFICENT 7 meets THE THREE STOOGES, can make you ridiculously happy. And when not so inspired, enough goodwill spills out South of the Border to carry things along. With eye-popping color values and a fun mix of Mexicali locations and pointedly fake studio sets (just the thing for a cowboy’s moonlight lament), John Landis megs with real affection for the genre, following a trio of down-on-their-luck silent film Hollywood cowboys who accidentally come to the aid of a town plundered by banditos. Steve Martin, Chevy Chase & Martin Short (more Tinman, Scarecrow & Lion than Stooges, with Chase struggling to match his pals’ comic chops) make a fine team, singing, strutting and bringing up Dorothy Gish’s name whenever possible. (That’s Dorothy, mind you, not Lillian.) Meantime, bandits argue over the meaning of the word ‘plethora’ (a touch of comic genius there) or unwrapping a birthday sweater. So funny, you hardly much mind when the staging goes dead (Landis talks a better game than he sometimes pulls off) or when a climax fizzles. You’re probably still smiling at something from ten minutes back.
DOUBLE-BILL: In a similar vein, Rouben Mamoulian’s delicious THE GAY DESPERADO/’36 has Leo Carillo as a Mexican bandit who wants to be just like the American gangsters he’s seen in the movies. Designed as a showcase for tenor Nino Martini, the film does better by Carillo, young Ida Lupino and especially for a hilarious Mischa Auer hiding under an enormous sombrero.