The Villain (1979)
AKA Cactus Jack
Starring Kirk Douglas, Ann-Margret, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Paul Lynde, Foster Brooks, Ruth Buzzi, Jack Elam, Strother Martin
Directed by Hal Needham
Expectations: Low, I’ve heard bad things.
Enjoying Hal Needham’s The Villain as an adult requires one thing: a healthy love of Wile E. Coyote. I suppose you should also like ’70s movies too, but that’s kind of beside the point as this movie doesn’t feel like it’s from any specific time. It’s something that would only get made in the ’70s, but it never feels ’70s-ish, ya dig? In any case, if you’ve ever harbored some affection for the coyote with luck as bad as a 14-year-old’s acne, then you really should hunt this one down.
The Villain isn’t always trying to tell a story, but when it is, it goes something like this: Charming Jones (Ann-Margret) is on a train to town, looking to pick up some money for her father. The Handsome Stranger (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is her bodyguard waiting at the train station, ready to escort her home with the money in tow. But before we are introduced to them, we are introduced to the title character: the villain Cactus Jack Slade (Kirk Douglas). He sure looks the part with Douglas’s reckless good looks and determined swagger, but he’s a far sight from a man who can get the job done. After landing himself in jail, he makes a deal to intercept the Handsome Stranger and Charming while they journey home, stealing the money and thus dooming Charming’s family farm.