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Cat Ballou
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  • Kabuki In The Far West
    Although "Cat Ballou" is usually categorized as a Western Comedy, this film actually resembles a musical; in fact, the songs chanted by balladeers Nat King Cole and Stubby Kaye are at the heart of "Cat Ballou."
    The emotional range of these pieces is quite impressive--ranging from the principal ballad's ironic high-spirits, through the poignancy of "They'll never make her cry" to the sublime ridicule of "And now you are old." That final song, which sounds as though it were actually written in the 1890's, is a hilarious outpouring of moralistic sentimentality--appropriately sung in an Old West brothel! It's noteworthy that the balladeers always appear in front of the camera--never as mere background music performers. Thus singing in the streets, on the prairie, etc., they literally accompany the action in the same way that Japanese musicians appear onstage during a kabuki drama performance: they become an intrinsic part of what their songs are interpreting. Naturally, the presence of these troubadours undermines any sense of film "realism." However, I have no problem with such unreality; "realism" in any art form, including films, is never real enough. Furthermore, the fantastic presence of singers Cole and Kaye following the principal characters around certainly seems consonant with the film's overall atmosphere--which is more fairy tale than hard & gritty editorial.
    The script itself is fairly light-weigh but coherent; it concerns would-be schoolmarm Catharine Ballou (played charmingly by Jane Fonda) revenging her father's murder at the hands of land-grabbing outlaws in 1890's Wyoming. To further her plans for vengeance--or justice-- she enlists the help of two rather gun-shy outlaws--Michael Callan, with whom she falls in love, and Dwayne Hickman, in a hilarious performance as Callan's unlikely "uncle." She also hires a fantastically gin-soaked gunslinger whom she once idolized from the accounts she read of him in pulp Westerns; the gunman (played flamboyantly by Lee Marvin) manages to sober up long enough to kill Catharine's main antagonist (a noseless monstrosity also acted by Marvin). Along the way, Cat manages to lead a daring train robbery, thus achieving "outlaw" status herself. Further, she finally kills the villain who masterminded her father's murder--which results in her being charged with murder, and inevitably sentenced to hang. Literally in the nick of time she escapes the rope in a scene which is stunning, brilliant cinema; no surprise that Stanley Kubrick used one of these climactic moments in his own masterpiece "A Clockwork Orange."
    As the songs that pervade "Cat Ballou" give significance to the action, the actors themselves prove worthy of their balladeers. Young Jane Fonda is indescribably appealing--an amalgam of sheer beauty and talent that I can only call "immortal." As her love interest, Michael Callan seems rather unworthy--but who wouldn't be? As for Dwayne Hickman (TV's original "Dobie Gillis"): he gives a delighful performance, particularly in his initial scene as a fake, but truly drunk, preacher. His introductory line to Jane Fonda is classic in its delivery--"I'm drunk as a skunk!" By contrast, Lee Marvin's gunslinger character seems a bit overdone (his Academy Award for the part notwithstanding). But a fine excess may be considered part and parcel of "Cat Ballou." In any event, this film remains a rarity: 40 years after its release it remains consistently watchable, even lovable-- while many more ambitious/pretentious films have ridden off into the sunset.
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  • A classic
    Always been in love with this film! Now that I have it on DVD, I can watch it and watch it and watch it! The price was really good too....more info
    CATBALLOU............................. ! WE STILL LOVE YOU ?...more info
  • Memorable hilarious lines
    This is a hilarious movie with Lee Marvin stealing the show with his until-then unknown comedy talents. The lines are household lines in our home. It is a classical funny movie. Charming and well done....more info
  • One Of The All Time Best comedy Westerns
    Lee Marvin was fantastic in dual role of Tim Strawn and the "kid". Well written and one of the best musical scores of all the western movies. Jane Fonda at her best and she looks great in the saddle. I have seen this film at least two dozen times and I still get a big kick out of it,...more info
  • Jane Before She Put "Hanoi" In Front of Her Name
    Sadly, this film presages what Jane Fonda could have been--a good actress. Playing second fiddle to a superb performance by Lee Marvin, she turns in a fine, very funny, performance....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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  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • Nostalgic film

    I understand why this film is so high-starred, but it simply does not deserve the five stars, nor the four. I'll try to explain. The director, as he admits in the little extra piece, intended to make a comedy in the West. He put together the basic ingredients for it: a beautiful Fonda, two young simpletons that aren't Western material -more fit for Broadway-, and a funny drunkard. Silverstein didn't have a clear idea of what kind of film was going to come out of this (as happens to all bad directors) but when he saw Lee Marvin act his role, he had one moment of lucidness, even brilliance, he told Marvin to try to make us cry instead of laugh. Boy, did that make a difference! Lee Marvin steals the show totally.

    Lee Marvin was a great, a fantastic actor. But he belonged to a past era, when real Westerns were shot, when classic directors still hung around the movie studios. That day had gone, not for him, obviously, but for the industry. It makes me sad to see this film, and to see bufoons like Silverstein mockering and degrading the great American West. If it wasn't for Lee Marvin nobody would remember this film. What happens around him in this film I just don't care, he is the show. The rest belong in Park Avenue.
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  • If you've never seen a horse with a hangover, buy this movie
    Of all the western spoofs ever written, this has to be the best. Although I despise hanoi jane, I'm still willing to pay the price of the movie....more info
  • 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
  • Cat Ballou
    It is a great movie, I love the singing. We realy enjoyed watching it again after so many year....more info
  • Cat Ballou
    It is a well acted movie and lots of fun to watch. Of course, everyone loves the horse and Lee Marvin. Nat King Cole had an amazing talent. I truly enjoyed the format for the movie and the dialog in the movie. ...more info
  • 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