Released by American International Pictures (AIP) in 1976, THE GREAT SCOUT AND CATHOUSE THURSDAY is a Western comedy which in typical AIP fashion, tries to repeat the recent success of Mel Brooks’ BLAZING SADDLES, but also capitalizes on Lee Marvin’s more light, comic turns in PAINT YOUR WAGON and CAT BALLOU (his onscreen relationship with Jane Fonda is also evoked, in this case with a young Kay Lenz). An all-star Wild West romp that fans have been scratching their head for years as to why it’s not on DVD, the film makes its digital debut as part of MGM’s Limited Edition Collection.
In 1908 Colorado, Sam Longwood (Lee Marvin) is an ex trail scout and former American hero (who captured Geronimo single-handed), now a white haired wandering has-been. He’s companions with half-breed Joe Knox (Olive Reed) and Billy (Strother Martin), a little fellow who helps Sam con drunkards with the help of a defanged snake. Some years ago, the trio was associated with Jack Colby (Robert Culp), now a shady Taft-supporting politician running for governor. Colby tricked his companions out of the gold they mined together for, and now Sam and company feel their owed $60,000, something Colby is not going to give up that easily, especially with an entourage that includes a prize-fighting goon (Howard Platt, WESTWORLD).
Meanwhile, after causing a fire and performing a crazy dance distraction, Joe Knox captures a police wagon full of cathouse ladies of the evening, one for every day of the week in fact. When Sam learns of this, he insists they have more importance business to take care of, and the girls are set free, all but one. Staying behind is the one called Thursday (Kay Lenz), and she doesn’t want to make an exit, so the posse ends up keeping her on and working her into a plot to retrieve the loot from Colby. Colby’s foulmouthed wife (Elizabeth Ashley) ends up kidnapped for a ransom, but would her husband even give a wooden nickel to get her back?
In this day and age, when are you ever going to see the likes of Marvin, Reed, Martin and Culp (all sadly no longer with us) all in one outing? That’s reason alone to want to indulge here, and although the film breaks no new ground, it’s certainly a lot of fun. GREAT SCOUT is a fast-paced, lighthearted satire involving kidnapped damsels (bringing on some surprising PG-rated above the waste nudity), a number of chases involving horse-drawn wagons and early automobiles, a speedy heist, crude humor and more. Marvin, Martin and Culp have done so many of these types of films, so it’s no surprise to see them here, but witnessing Oliver Reed as part of the ensemble is another thing altogether. With a long black wig and dark facepaint, Ollie is a riot as the sidekick half breed who reveals he’s suffering from “the clap,” having to visit a doctor’s office, and throwing Marvin though the doc's front window (with these two rebel rousers on the set together, you can only imagine the behind-the-scenes shenanigans going on). Beautiful Kay Lenz (BREEZY) is a delight as the whorehouse refugee and unlikely love interest of Marvin, and Sylvia Miles (MIDNIGHT COWBOY) is the Madame determined to regain her little moneymaker, Thursday.
THE GREAT SCOUT AND CATHOUSE THURSDAY has been released by MGM on their Limited Edition Collection of manufactured-on-demand DVDs. The transfer used for this disc looks immaculate, presenting the film in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement. Colors appear bright, and detail is excellent, with very little imperfections to be found on the master source print. The mono English audio is also in good shape. The Limited Edition Collection seems to be favoring a lot of the westerns in MGM’s library, so hopefully we might be treated to some of the Spaghetti kind very soon!
Where can you purchase these MGM Limited Edition Collection releases? So far they can be found for purchase online at Deep Discount DVD, Oldies.com, Movies Unlimited, Amazon.com and Screen Archives Entertainment. (George R. Reis)
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