We haven’t had a chance to watch many movies lately, but we did see EVIL ROY SLADE, a made-for-TV movie from 1972 that somehow we never saw back then, or any time since. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a big fan of Western comedies (except for BLAZING SADDLES; I know a lot of Western writers hate that movie, but I love it). However, EVIL ROY SLADE isn’t bad and had me laughing several times.
The title character was the only survivor of a wagon train massacre when he was an infant and grew up on his own in the wilderness to become the meanest outlaw in the West. Now, you might ask how anybody ever knew his name, since he was the only survivor and wandered off from the wagon train, but if questions of logic like that bother you, this probably isn’t the movie for you. Anyway, Evil Roy Slade, played in John Astin in a good, scenery-chewing performance, becomes the mortal enemy of railroad tycoon Mickey Rooney, who sends his inept nephew (Henry Gibson) and rhinestone-studded, singing marshal Bing Bell (Dick Shawn) after him. Meanwhile, Roy meets a beautiful young woman (Pamela Austin, indeed one of the great beauties of late Sixties/early Seventies TV and movies) and tries to reform, even going so far as to move to Boston with her and visit a psychologist played by Dom DeLuise. Unfortunately, Roy’s reformation doesn’t take, and he winds up in the West again, following his evil outlaw ways.
Now, I know what you’re asking yourself after seeing the names of the actors in this movie: Were Tim Conway and Paul Lynde out of town the week they shot this? It really is full of the TV comedy of the era, right down to being written by Jerry Belson and Garry Marshall (Penny Marshall has a bit part as a bank teller, and John Ritter and Pat Morita show up briefly, too) and directed by Jerry Paris. I happen to enjoy TV comedy from that era, so I liked a lot of the goofy, deadpan humor of EVIL ROY SLADE. Evidently the movie has something of a cult following, and I wouldn’t go that far in my admiration of it, but I did enjoy it for the most part. I found Dick Shawn’s performance to be sort of grating but liked the rest of the cast. The movie looks good and has a few decent stunts. EVIL ROY SLADE is no BLAZING SADDLES, but it’s worth watching.