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I read all the commentaries and disagree with most, but particularly those who moan about this being "slow" for the first 45 minutes. Look. This is a classic. The story is great. A misanthropic rabbi comes to a congregation in San Francisco and get waylaid and falls into (mis)adventures with a seedy character. This unlikely duo make their way to SF undergoing a number of adventures. If you do not understand the yiddishekeit of this film, go take a look at the Marx brothers. The scene where battered Wilder sees the Amish and goes screaming in Yiddish only to discover the cross in the bible in one of the farmer's pockets and faints dead away, is worth the price of admission along. The voting scene at the Yeshiva where only the little boy votes for Wilder invoking the older Rabbi turning his eyes to heaven and saying, "It's going to be close!" is likewise great. This is zany Yiddish theater at its best. Wilder, always overacting, is SUPERB as the rabbi. Ford is merely great as the kindhearted outlaw. The bad guys are bad, the characters they meet along the way, Schiavelli and veteran character actor Ian Wolfe are great as the Trappist monks, even Joe Kapp is great as the Mexican RR worker. This is great watching and one of my favorite films. Don't knock it. It's hilarious. Check it out!
This movie has withstood the test of time ... 25 years so far. At times
it appears to contain obvious, silly and even base comedy. But that
only mildly disguises the depth of humanity and profound philosophy
that it successfully presents. Like other commentators, I consider this
film to be one of my all-time favorites. Gene Wilder was at the peak of
his career, having made a big splash in The Producers with Zero Mostel,
and then going on to memorable performances in other Mel Brooks'
classics: Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. In fact, many people
erroneously believe that The Frisco Kid is a Mel Brooks film. (Indeed
the writers, Elias & Shaw, had several years earlier written a TV Pilot
based on the Blazing Saddles plot, but it had failed.)
Though I am a big fan of Mel Brooks, I think that one reason this film succeeds so well is that Robert Aldrich directed it instead of Brooks. In other words, it is essentially a dramatic western that is filled to the brim with comedy -- instead of the other way around. Aldrich had previously directed serious epic westerns, and he became famous in the sixties for directing What Ever Happened to Baby Jane, Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte, The Flight of the Phoenix, and The Dirty Dozen. These films, as well as his classic The Longest Yard, showed how infusing humor into serious drama can make plots more interesting and characters more human and sympathetic.
Frank DeVol provided the music ... and you can see him in the part of the old time piano player. DeVol had provided music for a number of Aldrich films, including the five films mentioned in the previous paragraph. He was famous for his comic scores (e.g., Pillow Talk, Cat Ballou, and The Trouble with Angels) and his music for TV series (e.g., My Three Sons, The Brady Bunch, McCloud, and the Love Boat).
Another gem in this film is Harrison Ford -- in a role that seems so second-nature to him, but showcases his versatility. His character is not that much different from Hans Solo. (Star Wars appeared in 1977 and Empire Strikes Back appeared in 1980, while The Frisco Kid came out in 1979.) In fact, it seemed emblematic of the movies in the sixties and seventies that some of our big screen heroes were selfish rogues with a heart of gold. Think of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, which came out in 1969.
The executive producer was Hawk Koch, whose father, Howard W. Koch was a Hollywood icon, having produced scores of films, including The Manchurian Candidate and The Odd Couple. This was one of Hawk Koch's first jobs, and he has now been the executive producer of over twenty outstanding features, including Mike Myers' Wayne's World and -- another great comedy exploring religious belief -- Keeping the Faith, with Ben Stiller and Edward Norton.
Finally, because the DVD is not yet available, here's a gem that was not included in the IMDb Memorable Quotes section, though I have edited it to avoid giving too much away for those who haven't seen the film yet:
"Chief Gray Cloud: Yes or no, can your God make rain?"
"Chief Gray Cloud: But he doesn't?"
"Avram: That's right."
"Chief Gray Cloud: Why?"
"Avram: Because that's not his department!"
* * *
"Avram: ... He gives us strength when we're suffering! He gives us compassion when all that we feel is hatred! He gives us courage when we're searching around blindly like little mice in the darkness! ... "
HOW TRUE! Whether you identify with Gene Wilder's Rabbi or with Harrison Ford's Rogue, this film is filled with valuable lessons. The world is unpredictable. Sometimes we suffer. And sometimes we find strength, courage, compassion, ... and humor to deal with it all.
This is a great film. Gene Wilder plays an authentic Polish rabbi with a believable Yiddish accent in a buddy movie romp through the Wild West. Harrison Ford, in his pre-Indiana Jones incarnation, makes an effective side-kick. This is truly among Wilder's best roles. Robert Nurenberg's review couldn't have said it any better... except Wilder did not portray a rabbinical school dropout, though he was not likely the most outstanding pupil. He was a trained rabbi sent to America to assume a pulpit in San Francisco where he would marry the woman hand picked by a match-maker. What happens on the way from Poland to California is more than worth a single viewing! The Frisco Kid is a most enjoyable, insightful, and entertaining film. A well-deserved 10/10!
When the "Frisco Kid" first came on tv two decades ago I recorded it and
watched it over and over, my wife and friends and I quoting parts of it at
each other at appropriate moments in our lives.
I read the (some) lukewarm comments here on the Database and the more positive ones and let them ride, just keeping this small pearl tucked away as my favorite movie. Then last night I came home, turned on the tv and caught Gene Wilder as the rabbi Avram Belinksi trying NOT to look at the woman on the train's wondrous cleavage as he was making his way to 1850 San Francisco, so I and sat down and watched the movie through again. It is still as funny, quaint, realistic, well acted and kind as it has ever been.
Gene Wilder demonstrates the best acting he has ever done. He IS Avram Belinski. Complex, human, childlike and oh so (what I imagine) European Jewish. A stranger in a doubly strange land. Strange by being an urban Pole in the "wild west" and strange by being a Jew in that world. I learnt a lot about "Jewishness" from this movie, and at the same time a lot about Americanism too. Being neither myself I can still appreciate the humour. Humanist, long suffering, realistic and proud.
Whatever it is inside me that makes me feel good and part of humanity is touched by "The Frisco Kid". That is why I regard it as my "favorite" movie, not the best movie ever made. That title I reserve for another totally different obscure B/W movie called "King and Country" whose demonstrated injustice is counter-balanced by Avram's integrity.
Of course I'd have to be crazy to call _The Frisco Kid_ the best movie ever
made, but it's certainly a strong contender for the flick I love the most
(an opinion shared by my parents, brothers, cousins . . .). From the
premise -- a Polish rabbi in the Wild West -- you'd expect a *spoof* a la
_Blazing Saddles_, but in fact this is played absolutely straight, the
comedy arising 100% from the believable human situations the characters are
Because of this, the first third of the movie is much devoted to setting up what follows, and might strike the first-time viewer as a bit slow (actually, it's subtle and as deliciously re-watchable as the rest). Patience will be rewarded, though, because once the pieces are in place, and especially once our hero meets Harrison Ford's bank-robber with a heart of gold, there's just one indelibly great scene after another.
It's important to note that this is much, much more than a comedy. It's episodic, of course, but an early story element returns unexpectedly (more than once); you think you've been watching just an entertainment and you gradually realize there's a real (and genuinely moving) *point* to all this, as is rarely seen in movies this funny. Rabbi Avram Belinsky (played, of course, with pure magic by Gene Wilder) starts off the movie as a well-meaning schlemiel, someone as ineffectual as he is nice, and ends as a mensch, as a moral force to be reckoned with. (Typical and classic moment along the way: when he's forced to explain the nature of God to a bunch of Indians, he is downright Talmudic in his wisdom -- but the Talmud was never hysterically funny!) The final, genuinely dramatic scenes raise issues about faith, friendship, and personal identity and destiny that are downright profound (at least on repeated viewings) -- without ever missing a comedic beat. Extraordinary.
This is a movie that does for faith and friendship what "Manhattan" and "Tootsie" did for romance and gender roles. Can they please get this out on DVD while my folks are still around to enjoy it?
This is one of my all-time favorite comedies. A lot of it is gritty,
but the movie never loses sight of the humor it's trying to get across.
Gene Wilder is the center of it. Anyone could have played Ford's role, but he does a competent job. He's not really believable, but the ROLE isn't believable. It's hard to be a good guy when you're threatening peoples' lives in order to rob them.
Wilder is the whole movie, except for Val Bisoglio as Chief Gray Cloud. Wilder portrays a lost man in the wilds of frontier America, and he does it well. The movie itself deftly avoids moralizing about the 'right' religion. The Amish people helping the Rabbi on his journey is very realistic. They would not have turned down another religious man; they would have helped him, just as they do, in the film. I appreciate little touches, like this. It would have been far too easy to portray the Amish (or Mennonites; it's hard to tell, with a movie set in that time period) as ultraconservative bigots, but instead, the production crew chose to show them realistically.
This is a sweet, funny movie, with some real drama, unless you're just too cynical to care. And if you ARE too cynical to care, I truly pity you. This is a fun, exciting movie that anyone should like.
This movie is hysterical, from its depiction of what the American west must have looked like to an outsider to its terrific Jewish guilt and humor, although it does have a lot of "insider" Jewish humor. That's not to say it can't be enjoyed by non-Jews, as well, but a familiarity with Jewish culture definitely makes the movie more enjoyable. Wilder is at his funniest and Harrison Ford is charming as a side-kick, a role I wasn't accustomed to seeing him in. Watching Ford succumb to Jewish guilt--even when it means freezing his butt--is fantastic. My apologies to Blazing Saddles fans but I think this is way funnier. And it didn't even have to rely on fart-humor.
It is hard to find movies about the Jewish experience in America that are positive. At best most are cynical journeys from belief to assimilation. At worst, they depict Jewish as consisting merely of someone with a New York accent eating a bagel. There are few (I can't actually think of another one, but I'll be optimistic) films in which a person is depicted as being happily, actively Jewish, religiously, not just culturally. This film is a happy exception. Rabbi Belinski encounters many different kinds of people in his journey. He is confronted with many new cultures and pressures, but never abandons his beliefs. He may learn to ride, but not on Shabbat. He is happy to make friends with anyone who will respect him in his "differentness" just as he respects them. It may not be the greatest comedy or human drama, but it is near and dear to my heart.
One of the best "feel-good" movies I have ever seen. I once heard Gene
Wilder say that he got the Rabbi's accent from his grandfather, and I can
A few weeks ago, my husband and I were channel surfing in the middle of the night, and came across the movie, dubbed in Spanish. We ended up staying awake until the wee hours of the morning, just to watch this gem.
A gentle film, not afraid to show a love of religion and of friendship, I wish that more movies were like this.
I agree with a few of the other commenters who say this is an overlooked film. I think many people gave up on it because the first 45 minutes or so are VERY slow. After that, the pace picks up nicely and the film becomes quite humorous. Gene Wilder stars as a Rabbi sent from Europe to San Francisco. He must traverse the entire US and has several adventures and misadventures along the way. He also meets up with Harrison Ford, who portrays a bank robber. There are a few scenes where there is some violence. The film is a combination of western drama and comedy, with elements of both in about equal amounts. As I said earlier, give this film a chance...suffer through the first 45 minutes or so. The remainder of the film is well worth it.
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