The 1970s produced a string of family friendly western comedies that usually starred secondary actors usually seen on TV or in supporting film roles. These films (example: The Apple Dumpling Gang) had a screwball style to their comedy that I believe has since never been successfully replicated in comedy films. These light westerns are still enjoyable to watch after all these years, especially if you grew up on them like I did. Support Your Local Gunfighter is one such film and it stars James Garner (TV’s Maverick and The Rockford Files). I would venture to guess that most of you reading this have never seen James Garner in a movie or on TV and if not, then you’re in for a treat.

Support Your Local Gunfighter is a loose sequel to 1969’s Support Your Local Sheriff!! If you haven’t seen the earlier film, don’t worry. Neither have I and you don’t need to. Gunfighter is about a lothario (Garner) who ends up taking women’s fortunes after seducing and promising to marry them. After his latest scam, Garner escapes to a small mining town in Colorado called Purgatory. Purgatory is a town with two mines owned by two men who can’t stand each other. The two mine owners are racing to find the mother lode, which is located somewhere in the town. One of the owners has reportedly hired the best gunslinger in the southwest to kill the other owner. When Garner arrives in town, he is mistaken for the gunslinger,  a mistake he decides to take advantage of for his own self-gain. As you can imagine this results in a series of hijinks and wacky comedic situations.

I have a fondness for stories about mistaken identities and scam artists. They’re usually well written and they keep the audience guessing at the next plot twist or reveal. Rarely do you get bored because if you stop paying attention, you won’t know whats going on. Support Your Local Gunfighter is not a complicated story, but it has a lot of interesting subplots that take on interesting twists and turns. Part of the film’s charm is how all these stories interrelate. This is not your classic western and you’ll be disappointed if you’re looking for one here. Although the setting is a western, the story, the comedy, and the characters have a modern sensibility. Its a tongue-in-cheek take on the classic western so if you’re familiar with the genre, you’ll appreciate the jokes and situations more.

The film relies heavily on James Garners’ talents and he certainly delivers. There was a reason why Garner was such a huge star in the 60s and 70s. He had good looks, charm, and he could act and be funny. All of this is on full display in Gunfighter and its hard not to like his character even though he’s a selfish, conniving asshole. Its unfortunate that Garner never attained movie icon status because the level of performance he gives here is comparable to a Cary Grant comedy and I say this with no hint of sarcasm. Of course, you can’t discuss this film without mentioning Jack Elam, Garner’s dimwitted sidekick. Elam is a Western mainstay and if you’ve only seen 1 Western in your entire life, there is a good chance Elam was in it. Elam is classic in Gunfighter and his looks alone (NOTE: he’s cross-eyed) are enough to elicit laughs.

Although this film is G-rated, it proves that even G-rated material can work at times. Its a crowd-pleasing entertainer that I you can safely watch with your family without making your kids cover their eyes.

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