The Villain (1979 film)

The Villain is a 1979 American Metrocolor Western comedy film directed by Hal Needham and starring Kirk Douglas, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ann-Margret, Paul Lynde, Foster Brooks, Strother Martin, Ruth Buzzi, Jack Elam, and Mel Tillis. It is a parody blend of western films and Warner Bros.' Wile E. Coyote cartoons.

The Villain
Theatrical release poster
Directed byHal Needham
Produced byMort Engelberg
Paul Maslansky
Written byRobert G. Kane
StarringKirk Douglas
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Paul Lynde
Foster Brooks
Strother Martin
Ruth Buzzi
Jack Elam
Mel Tillis
Music byBill Justis
CinematographyBobby Byrne
Edited byWalter Hannemann
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
‹See TfM›
  • July 27, 1979 (1979-07-27)
Running time
89 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$9.8 million[1]

Its title when released in the UK and in Australia was Cactus Jack.


A beautiful woman, "Charming Jones" (Ann-Margret), is being escorted across the west by a naive, slow-witted cowboy, "Handsome Stranger" (Schwarzenegger), after claiming a large sum of money given to her by her father, Parody Jones (Martin). However, bad guy Avery Simpson (Elam), who delivered Charming the money, decides he wants it for himself. He hires an old outlaw, "Cactus Jack" (Douglas), to rob them when they leave town.

Throughout the trip, Charming makes advances toward Handsome, all of which are met with indifference. Meanwhile, Cactus Jack proceeds to lay trap after trap for the two, all of which backfire. Jack's attempt to enlist the assistance of Nervous Elk (Paul Lynde), the chief of a local American Indian tribe, also fails.

Finally, Jack confronts the couple openly, at which point Charming gives up on romancing Handsome and instead kisses Jack, who proceeds to bounce around in red-hot elation.




Parts of the film were shot at Monument Valley in Utah.[2]


Critical responseEdit

Most of the reviews of the film were negative. Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film one star, as did Walter J. Addiego of the San Francisco Examiner; Siskel described the film as "a direct ripoff of Tex Avery's marvelous Road Runner cartoons",[3] while Addiego wrote that it contained "the sorriest collection of jokes in recent memory […] put together by a group who probably wouldn't make the grade in the Mel Brooks school of infantile humor."[4] Also giving the film one star was Kathleen Carroll, who, in the New York Daily News, summarized it as "a hopelessly stupid Western spoof about a hopelessly stupid gunfighter who learns his bad-guy tactics from studying a pulp novel titled "Badmen of the West" and who invariably ends up being outsmarted by his horse."[5] After the film premiered in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Times reviewer Linda Gross wrote:

The attitude of the entire movie is like one condescending dirty joke with lines like "What do you do when you capture a white woman?" or "I want to molest your lady friend."

Robert G. Kane, who worked for several years as a writer for Dean Martin's "Celebrity Roast," wrote the slim screenplay, which is full of such innuendoes. The humor has a smirky quality. Ann-Margret spends the entire movie trying to seduce Schwarzenegger, who keeps running off to gather firewood. It gets embarrassing.

"The Villain" is directed by former stuntman Hal Needham ("Smokey and the Bandit" and "Hooper"). Needless to say, the stunts, coordinated by Gary Combs, are pretty good, but the characters are like cartoons and the broad, burlesque humor is too simple to spoof.[6]


  1. ^ Grosses Gloss: Breaking Away at the Box-Office Beaupre, Lee. Film Comment; New York Vol. 16, Iss. 2, (Mar/Apr 1980): 69-73,80.
  2. ^ D'Arc, James V. (2010). When Hollywood came to town: a history of moviemaking in Utah (1st ed.). Layton, Utah: Gibbs Smith. ISBN 9781423605874.
  3. ^ Siskel, Gene (July 25, 1979). "'Villain' is like Road Runner, but it isn't funny". Chicago Tribune. Tribune Media Services. p. 10, s. 3.
  4. ^ Addiego, Walter J. (August 18, 1979). "Well, a villain isn't supposed to be good". San Francisco Examiner. San Francisco Media Company LLC, Oahu Publications Inc., and Black Press Group Ltd. p. 7.
  5. ^ Carroll, Katbleen (July 21, 1979). "'The Villain' wins rating of one unstifled yawn". New York Daily News. Tribune Media Services. p. 9C.
  6. ^ Gross, Linda (August 3, 1979). "'Villain' Aims Low in Western Farce". Los Angeles Times. Tribune Media Services. p. 20, part IV.

External linksEdit