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Cat Ballou
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Product Description

The sleeper hit of 1965 Cat Balou was declared an instant classic when its sly blend of Western parody and rapid-fire action hit the screen. Lee Marvin won an Oscar for Best Actor for his dual role as noiseless ("it got bit off in a fight") gunslinger Tim Strawn and as Kid Shelleen the woozy boozy has-been who goes up against him. Jane Fonda co-stars as Catherine "Cat" Balou the schoolmarm-turned-outlaw who teams up with Kid. Slinger Nat King cole and comedian Stubby Kaye also appear singing the title song "The Ballad Of Cat Ballou." This wild and wooly adventure is "the ultimate American spoof of the American Western." Judith CristSystem Requirements:Starring: Jane Fonda Lee Marvin Michael Callan and Dwayne Hickman. Directed By: Elliot Silverstein. Running Time: 96 Min. Color. This film is presented in both "Widescreen" and "Standard" formats. Copyright 2000 Columbia TriStar Home Video.Format: DVD MOVIE Genre: WESTERN/MISC. Rating:  UPC: 043396048645 Manufacturer No: 04864

Long before Unforgiven deconstructed the Western, or Blazing Saddles lampooned it, Cat Ballou poked the genre in the eye. An altogether enjoyable comedy, the film is full of small surprises, big laughs, and wonderful character turns. Catherine Ballou (Jane Fonda) is a schoolteacher until a hired thug kills her daddy. To protect what she loves, she collects two petty criminals, a wisecracking hired hand, and a hired killer, Kid Shelleen (Lee Marvin). Unfortunately, Shelleen is a raging drunk who is so inebriated and unsteady with a gun he literally misses the broad side of a barn. However, Cat, has, as they used to say in those days, a mind of her own, and she masterminds a spectacular train heist that puts them all on the lam. Marvin won an Academy Award for his role as the derelict Shelleen, and his performances (he actually has two) are still topnotch and on target. The framing device, two wandering minstrels, played by Stubby Kaye and Nat "King" Cole, are the maraschino cherries on the top of this Wild West confection. --Keith Simanton

Customer Reviews:

  • Very Funny Movie!
    When this movie came out in the 60's, the tag line for the ad was, "Is this any way to make a funny movie? You bet it is!" That is so true, even 40 years later!!...more info
  • Pleasant and well-intentioned
    An innocent schoolteacher (Jane Fonda) returns home only to witness her father's murder and the theft of his farm by an unscrupulous businessman. Seeking revenge, she assembles her own gang and cheerfully embarks on a life of crime. Lee Marvin, in a dual role as the drunken former gunslinger Kid Shelleen and the cold, noseless assassin Tim Strawn, is the best thing about this film. The rest of it is a pleasant enough way to spend an hour and a half but just doesn't have the laughs to make it a first-rate comedy....more info
  • best movie ever
    The first time me brother and I saw this movie we stayed from the first show to the night owl. I am over joyed to have my own copy after all these years....more info
  • I will not inflict myself on you further
    This movie combines the seriousness of western with light humor to create a movie that nearly holds a niche by itself. Catherine "Cat" Ballou is an innocent school teacher returning home to the family ranch, where she finds that her father is slowly being driven off the ranch. She also encounters characters during her return home and on the family ranch that are quite unusual.

    Initially Catherine (Jane Fonda) plays a complete innocent. We meet Catherine on a train, where she encounters two men, one, Clay Boone (Michael Callan) is in handcuffs. The other is a drunken preacher named Jed (Dwayne Hickman), who carries a bible that has hidden attributes. Jed's often repeated line is "Ma'am, I apologize for my disgusting condition and I assure you I will not inflict myself on you any further." Soon Catherine finds herself in her delicates with Clay Boone next to her as he makes his escape from the sheriff and leaves the train, stealing a kiss from beautiful Catherine in the process.

    On her return home, Catherine quickly realizes that something is wrong. The cattle and horses are gone, and everything appears run down. Native American Jackson Two-Bears (Tom Nardini) is now working for her father. Jackson behaves in a most uncharacteristic fashion compared to the typical stereotype of Native Americans as usually portrayed in the 1960s. Jackson frequently makes comments on things white men usually think about Native Americans, with the point typically being that they are wrong. Soon Clay Boone and Jed also show up, and Catherine begs them all to protect her father from noseless killer Tim Strawn (Lee Marvin). In spite of Catherine's best efforts Strawn cold-bloodedly murders her father. Soon Catherine is being thrown off the family ranch.

    To help protect her father, Catherine wrote to gunfighter Kid Shelleen (Marvin, in a second role), sending him $50 as a retainer. When Shelleen shows up it turns out that he is a drunkard. However, having read a number of stories about the famous Kid Shelleen, Catherine retains faith in him.

    Soon Cat is encouraging the others to rob a train to get back at those who harmed her father. When the robbery nets far more than expected, Sir Harry Percival (Reginald Denny) sends Strawn after Cat, initially to encourage Cat to return the money. When Kid Shelleen realizes that Strawn is about, he sobers up quickly, and in an excellent series of scenes, transforms from a drunken slob into a genuine gunfighter. After Kid Shelleen and Strawn take care of their business, Cat goes to talk to Sir Harry Percival to get him to sign a confession that he ordered her father's death. When he refuses, the gun goes off and Cat ends up in jail, on a trip to the gallows, once more looking heart-breakingly beautiful and innocent.

    We have musical narrators throughout this movie, in the form of Professor Sam the Shade (Nat King Cole) and The Sunrise Kid (Stubby Kaye).While the pair are occasionally distracting, the songs are generally good, and are often used to introduce the upcoming scene. This appearance was Cole's last, as he passed away several months before the release of the film.

    There are several standout performances in this movie, including Jane Fonda's. However, the best performance is that of Lee Marvin in the dual roles. Lee Marvin was awarded the Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role in 1966 for his performance. He also won the British Academy of Film and Television Arts award for Best Foreign Actor, the Silver Berlin Bear at the International Berlin Film Festival, the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Actor in a Musical or Comedy, the Laurel Award for Male Comedy Performance, and the National Board of Review award for Best Actor. In total, this movie received 12 nominations for various awards and won 10 awards. If there had been such an award, the horse Marvin used near the end of the film should have received an award as well, as the horse appears to look as down and out as the horse's rider.

    This movie does not have the raw and riotous humor of "Blazing Saddles." The book on which this movie was based was a serious western. The humorous elements were added to change the tone of the movie. The humor is not as subtle as the humor in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." However, there are numerous places where the script gets a smile, and there are several worthy of a laugh.

    This DVD contains a number of extras of varying value. The "Legend of Cat Ballou" may be the best feature. The audio commentary is interesting, if you like hearing nostalgic memories of how a movie was made.

    One small detail I noticed. Kid Shelleen sang "Happy Birthday" at one point in the movie. The lyrics for "Happy Birthday" were not written until the next century, and each time I see that scene I must admit I am slightly distracted by the relatively glaring inaccuracy. There are other inaccuracies, but they are typically more subtle.

    I originally saw this movie in 1965 when it was released. I am surprised and pleased that the movie has aged well. While some recall Jane Fonda with distaste for her behavior a few years later, here Fonda is beautiful and perfect for this part. Lee Marvin reminds us all of why he was considered a great actor. If you consider yourself a fan of westerns, or Lee Marvin, and if you liked movies like "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "Blazing Saddles," and "Two Mules for Sister Sara," I think you will enjoy this one as well.
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  • hard to pick what's worse, the script for this movie or that hideous mop on Lee Marvin's head
    This movie was a terrible disappointment for me. It aspires to be some weird fusion of a traditional Western and a madcap spoof la A HARD DAY'S NIGHT and falls totally flat.

    The minstrel team of Nat King Cole and Stubby Kaye pop up at pivotal moments singing a series of forgettable ditties that grate on the nerves as the movie wears on.

    Lee Marvin spends most of the time balancing himself unsteadily on his horse and acting like the proverbial town drunk. For the most part, it's a charmless and embarrassingly mannered performance unworthy of a high school thespian. I have to wonder if Academy members were sucking on the same bottle as Marvin's bumbling character, Kid Shelleen, before handing him the Oscar for this dreadful piece of acting.

    Most of the supporting cast is also weak, or maybe it's just the quality of the material they're forced to work with that makes them seem so.

    Jane Fonda is really the only reason to watch this film. She plays the archetypal naive schoolmarm who falls in with the wrong crowd, but despite the role's limitations she delivers her lines with moxie and pluck. It's a joy simply to watch her gesticulate, so captivating are her charms. Too bad her talents and Marvin's are wasted in this tedious farce of a farce.

    If you want to watch an intelligent Western that successfully mixes snarky humour with action and suspense, try BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID instead. ...more info
  • A very funny offbeat western!
    This original script became a cult movie from its instantaneous release. Lee Marvin received the Academy Award and also the coveted Silver Bear as Best Actor.

    It's a true treat!
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  • Steiger Wuz Robbed
    I'm a little ambivalent towards this genteel western comedy. Lee Marvin is one of my all-time favorite actors giving masterful turns in "Point Blank" and "The Big Red One" among many others. Marvin is more than adequate as Kid Shelleen but, be real, it's a glorified supporting turn. Marvin's work here does not hold a candle to the work of Rod Steiger in "The Pawnbroker" and Richard Burton in "The Spy Who Came In From the Cold" who both lost the Oscar to Marvin. Oscar righted itself two years later by rewarding Steiger for "In the Heat of the Night" but gold was never bestowed on Burton despite seven nods. I also recall that years ago TBS was showing "Cat Ballou" ad nauseum when Ted Turner was sparking Jane Fonda. Despite these peeves Marvin is engaging and Fonda does a winsome turn as the schoolmarm turned outlaw. I also can't diss any flick that features the great character actor, John Marley, who plays Fonda's father and doesn't fail to disappoint here. Marley gave similarly memorable turns in "Love Story" and "The Godfather"....more info
  • the greatest horse actor in the world
    comical from start to finish even the parts that are not intended to be. Lee Marvin and the horse makes it a must see even with the dispicable ms.fonda in attendance...more info
  • Don't bother
    I enjoyed this in 1965, but 40 years later, it's painful to watch. Badly directed, the "comedy" is heavy handed and extremely forced, made worse by an inept supporting cast. Jane Fonda is adequate, but has zero chemistry with Michael Callan (who went on to have basically no career at all), thus depriving the film of a center, while Dwayne Hickman has nothing to do but stand around. Lee Marvin eats the scenery and the several laughs in the movie belong to him. But he tries too hard and is often as unfunny as he is funny. Despite his oscar, this is one of his worst performances. The song interludes wear thin very quickly, with the songs simply telling us what we've already seen. So even though it's not a long film, the songs make it seems much, much longer. The Jewish jokes are embarrassing, and the slapstick is poorly done. If you want a comedy western, you're better off watching "Blazing Saddles" for the 10th time than watching this turkey even once....more info
  • Forgotten Family Fun
    I saw this movie as a kid and mentioned it to my two teenagers once when they saw a picture of Lee Marvin and the drunken horse leaning against a building. They had never heard of the movie so I purchased it and we watched it as a family. Although it is a bit slow by today's standards the kids really enjoyed it and brought friends over to see it. Lee Marvin's performance by itself makes the movie well worth owning. ...more info
  • Not As Funny As It Thinks It Is
    I'm sorry, but this movie misses the mark with me. Too much of this movie TRIES to be cute and funny and clever, and when the trying shows, it's a sure sign that it's not working.

    Some performances are spot-on. Almost all the bit parts are done beautifully. Tom Nardini as Jackson Two-Bears is outstanding and charming. But although Lee Marvin got an Oscar for his dual role as Kid Shelleen and Tim Strawn, I felt he was just too over-the-top to match the rest of the cast. Obviously the director didn't know how to rein him in...or chose not to.

    I don't praise the "wandering minstrels" Stubby Kaye and Nat King Cole; rather, I find them annoying, intrusive, jarring, and self-serving. As for the songs they sing, for the most part they're eminently forgettable....more info
  • Very Funny; Great Marvin
    I really only knew Lee Marvin as a tough un-emotional army officer in movies like 'Dirty Dozen' and the 'Big Red One'. Here he plays a very drunk cowboy helping out a young woman (Fonda) who lost her father because the people in the town are after his farm. His role her is very funny and also really good and he deservedly got the oscar for this performance.

    Jane Fonda is very young here and plays a surprisingly comical role as a well educated woman who prefers to read dime-novels instead of Tennyson. Everything she does she even gets out of these novels.

    The entire movie is funny, dialogue is great and they make fun of a lot of typical western stuff.

    A special mention has to be made of Nat King Cole who, with someone else, acts as a kind of narrator of the story, but more like a bard/troubador who sings the story. The movie came out after he died unfortunately.

    ...more info