Director: Don Taylor
Tagline: “They weren’t forgotten by history… They were left out on purpose!”
Key IMDB keywords: Half breed; prostitution; female nudity, kidnapping
Plot: Set in Colorado against the heated backdrop of the 1908 presidential election, The Great Scout & Cathouse Thursday focuses less on the pros and cons of William Howard Taft vs. William Jennings Bryan than the details of everyday life along the not-quite-civilized Western frontier. Specifically, the drinkin’, whorin’ adventures of craggy old prospector/gunslinger/thief Sam Longwood (Lee Marvin) and his whiskey-soaked, gonorrhea-ridden, half-breed partner Joe Knox (Olvier Reed).
Although soon to be reunited, the two have gone their separate ways as the film opens. While Reed sticks mostly to drinking with a sideline in whoring, Marvin has developed a more respectable career as a con man, working a scam with sidekick Strother Martin in which they dare gullible saloon-goers to touch the side of a glass jar containing a deadly snake, then show how it’s done:
Meanwhile, Reed kidnaps a police coach filled with prostitutes, assigns them all names to coincide with days of the week, declares “I have got the clap!”, then announces his plans to infect them all as part of a scheme to exact revenge on the white man. (At this point, it should probably be noted that Reed’s may not be the most dignified portrayal of a Native American ever put to film.)
After grabbing his favorite prostitute, whom he’s named Thursday (Kay Lenz, soon to be semi-famous for marrying David Cassidy), Reed reunites with Marvin as they set about exacting revenge on Robert Culp, a now-respectable politician who stole Marvin’s wife (Elizabeth Ashley) and cheated Marvin and Reed out of money. Their solution: Kidnap Ashley and ransom her back.
Key Scenes: And maybe rape her, as they claim is part of their plan at one point. Although they never make good on that threat, the film has a lot of uncomfortable jokes about rape. “You’re not going to rape me?” Lenz says to Reed at one point. Told, “No, ma’am,” she replies “Well why not?” But most of the action has less to do with rape and more to do with wacky chase scenes. After Reed gets cured of his affliction the hard way…
…the pair, with Lenz, gets chased through town and ends up in a whorehouse. (Culp might consider changing his campaign to take a stronger stand against prostitution.) The film’s climax involves a complicated horse-and-motorcar jaunt through the hills, leading up to a round of fisticuffs between Marvin and Culp. But first there’s the matter of disrupting a boxing match with some badly animated wasps:
Can Easily Be Distinguished By: It’s that movie where Lee Marvin plays a crusty old man of the Old West. Well, that’s not much of a distinction, is it? How about this: It’s that movie that feels like an Apple Dumpling Gang-style Disney family comedy, only with a lot of jokes about VD, rape, and whores.
Sign That It Was Made In 1976: Clearly the product of a more liberal era in MPAA history, The Great Scout & Cathouse Thursday features a surprisingly ample number of bare breasts for a PG-rated movie.
Timeless Message: Bravely accepting the news that Reed will not be raping her, Lenz turns her attention to Marvin. He deems her too young at first, but eventually yields to affections—not without regrets, however. Waking up next to her he says, “I was cold last night. In the dark you felt a lot older.” Why is she so into Marvin? Turns out she’s fleeing her whorehouse because her Madam (Sylvia Miles) has decided to keep her for herself. “That's the most disgusting thing I’ve ever heard!” Marvin says, while Reed starts rocking wordlessly back and forth on his heels. The message: Women would rather be raped by a drunken Oliver Reed than pawed by Sylvia Miles.
Memorable Quotes: Strother Martin, when Lenz says she likes William Jennings Bryan because he’d give women the right to vote: “Might as well give ’em the right to pee standin’ up. They wouldn’t know what to do with it.” Old West sexism: It’s almost as funny as rape.