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Don Knotts turns up a Bad Penny in the Old West,
This review is from: The Shakiest Gun in the West (DVD)
The Shakiest Gun in the West is yet another classic Don Knotts comedy from the late 1960s. This time around, Knotts plays a newly certified dentist who decides to spread oral hygiene throughout the wild, wild West; after all, Philadelphia is already covered up with dentists - there are at least seven already plying their trade there. Jesse Heywood is a little wiry guy, of course, and his courage is just as shaky as his gun-wielding hands, but he manages to make a great big splash out on the frontier. Right after being bamboozled by a merchant and his Chinese assistant (played by Pat Morita, although I didn't realize it was him until I saw the credits), a fiery little redheaded filly comes to him with a toothache, and before he knows what is happening he's a married man. He doesn't know that Penelope "Bad Penny" Cushings (played by the vivacious Barbara Rhoades) is only marrying him because it's her only way to hitch a ride on the wagon train leaving town, nor does he know that his new beloved is a wanted cattle rustler and thief who agreed to help the government find out who is smuggling guns to the Indians in exchange for a pardon. Events play out in such a way that Jesse becomes BMOF (that's Big Man on the Frontier), famous for his shooting and Indian-killing skills. That whole wedding night thing doesn't really work out the way he planned, though.
Naturally, our supposed hero has to rise to the challenge and prove himself in the end, and then we learn how the West was really won - dentistry, of course. I should note the fact that Don Knotts is forced to don women's clothing at one point, and you know that is bound to be funny. There's also a great scene featuring Heywood drunkenly lamenting his long list of failures in life. Knotts is joined by some other familiar faces: along with Pat Morita, look for William Christopher (M*A*S*H's Father Mulcahy) in a small role, while Uncle Festus himself (Jackie Coogan) stars as one of the gun-smuggling desperadoes.
The Shakiest Gun in the West isn't my favorite Don Knotts movie, but there is a lot of Barney Fife in this shaky gunfighter, and the film is consistently funny from start to finish. It is also, needless to say, true family entertainment which can be safely enjoyed by the young as well as the old. Don Knotts is truly a national treasure.