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THE APPLE DUMPLING GANG RIDES AGAIN

year: 1979 cast: Don Knotts, Tim Conway, Tim Matheson, Elyssa Davalos, Robert Pine rating: ***1/2
The original APPLE DUMPLING GANG is one of those experiences you remember as a kid for two reasons: Don Knotts and Tim Conway as two hilariously clumsy bank robbers. But upon rewatching you realize they aren’t in the movie enough.

Unlike using comic relief mascots sparingly in a successful manor (so not to ware out their welcome), like John Belushi in ANIMAL HOUSE, Sean Penn in FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH, or Michael Keaton in BEETLEJUICE, the comic duo are needed much more in the first Disney film that spends too much time on Bill Bixby and his orphans who deem themselves The Apple Dumpling Gang. That’s right… the Gang isn’t even named after Knotts and Conway – but in this superior sequel they keep the title for continuity’s sake.
Elyssa Davalos and a shifty Robert Pine
We begin with the two bumbling crooks Theodore (Knotts) and Amos (Conway) who’ve gone straight. Riding around on a faithful mule they enter a mining town to hit a bank: depositing money this time. But two scruffy bank robbers, posing as tellers, steal their loot and the adventure begins – mostly dealing with “The Apple Dumpling Gang” being mistaken as sharpshooters since they accidentally thwarted the legendary Sheriff Hitchcock (Kenneth Mars), who keeps on their trail in a Wile E. Coyote fashion.

Tim Matheson, as a young private in a Calvary Fort being marauded of supplies, drives the necessary plot; Harry Morgan runs the show with his right hand man played by CHIPS sarge Robert Pine; and providing the love interest (to Pine and then Matheson) is the gorgeous Elyssa Davalos as Morgan’s classy daughter.
Elyssa Davalos as Miss Millie Gaskill
Theodore and Amos go from the Fort to a prison to an underground lair run by Jack Elam and his henchman. There are plenty of locations and twists and turns and, while some of the gags aren’t drop dead hilarious, there’s enough going on to keep you entertained till the climax involving a speeding train heist.

Great stuff and proof that sequels can be better.
Harry Morgan leading Morgan Paull and Robert Pine
The late Morgan Paull following Richard X. Slattery's orders
The lovely Disney ingenue Elyssa Davalos rides a train
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