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GENE WILDER IS 'THE FRISCO KID' WITH HARRISON FORD

year: 1979 cast: Gene Wilder, Harrison Ford, William Smith
After STAR WARS, Harrison Ford went from a character-actor to cinema superstar, only his status wasn't fully realized till RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK as he was usually cast in movies with another big name up front. Sure, even Han Solo was secondary yet he stole the entire movie from just about everyone and everything...

Fresh from his Solo breakthrough, Ford was billed under Robert Shaw in FORCE 10 FROM NAVARONE, playing a stern, humorless officer without the wit that made him a likable leading man. His first technically starring role was in the dreary war romance HANOVER STREET but Christopher Plummer’s snaky antagonist was almost as important. And his cameo as “Luke Lucas,” the exposition-spouting nervous wreck that helps send Martin Sheen on his mission in APOCALYPSE NOW, aside, he wound up as another second fiddle in THE FRISCO KID starring Gene Wilder as a Polish rabbi… who is actually fresh from Poland… traveling across the Wild West in search of a bride in San Francisco.

FriscoScore: ***1/2
If you look at the DVD cover you’d think Harrison Ford, who plays scruffy bank robber Tommy, is the centerpiece – Ford’s image takes up most of the artwork leaving a tiny piece for Gene, not only the title character but it’s his journey we follow. But that doesn’t mean the flawed yet resilient Tommy’s role isn’t important and more than sporadic:

William Smith The Frisco Kid
After an entertaining half hour setting things up for Wilder’s na├»ve Avram, reminiscent of a Mel Brooks comedy where the punch line… in this case a Jew in the Wild West… owns the film's initial structure, KID eventually becomes an adventurous pairing of two polar opposites. (And if you take away a pointless fifteen minutes when our heroes are captured by Indians, it’s a helluva neat ride.)

Directed by Robert Aldrich (THE DIRTY DOZEN), our lead villain – played by the always-formidable William Smith – will make you forget this is an intentional comedy. Meanwhile, scenes where Tommy teaches the religiously stubborn Avrim how to survive on newly-acquired existential savvy feels like an actual cowboy picture... Leading to a bloody gunfight followed by the inevitable “do or die” showdown on a dusty main street.
Gene Wilder's Avram learns how to fire a gun
Harrison Ford is who he learned from
Pouting beauty Penny Peyser's bride-to-be is the reason for the entire trip
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