Zachariah (1971)

Own it!

review by Scott Hamilton and Chris Holland
See also:

Blazing Saddles

Son of Blob

Zorro's Black Whip


Lava Lamp

Our rating: one LAVA® motion lamp.

"You really are the
fastest gun in the West."
Zachariah proudly proclaims itself to be "the first electric Western." We're also pretty sure it could also honestly be advertised as "the last electric Western," "the only electric Western," "the best electric Western," and perhaps most descriptively, "the worst electric western."

Zachariah is supposed to be a musical, but it doesn't have all that many musical numbers. It sometimes feels like it's just a really weird philosophical cowboy movie that someone added a few musical numbers to in order to liven it up.

The main character is Zachariah (John Rubinstein, Harry Jr. from the tv series Crazy Like a Fox), a young man who wants to be a gunfighter. His best friend is the town blacksmith, Matthew (a very young Don Johnson). Don't worry: neither of them gets to sing.

One day the two of them decide to leave town to chase their dreams. They join up with a criminal gang (played by one of the bands listed in the credits, so they do sing). Eventually Zach and Matt leave them behind and find a bar where gunfighters hang out. It develops that Zachariah is a very fast hand, probably as fast as Jobe Cain (Elvin Jones), the fastest gun in the west. It is Elvin Jones who provides one of the few enjoyable scenes in the movie, a blistering drum solo.

Don Johnson realizes just what
kind of movie he's in.
Zach and Matt then part ways, and the film follows Zachariah's increasingly surreal and pointless travels. By far the most pointless is one that has to do with The Dude, as played by Dick Van Patten. When a western has a character named "The Dude," that character should be pretty important. That's just the way these things work. In Zachariah, The Dude is a used carriage salesman, and he shows up for a couple of minutes, and has no impact on the plot. What a waste! There's also a scene where Zachariah gets laid, and we are threatened with the sight of naked musicians. It's not pretty.

Zachariah features lots of partial sets, and abstract buildings made of plywood. This may be a profound statement on the fragility of modern life, or it may just be the by-product of a small budget. It probably falls into the same category as all of the biblical names, which are omnipresent, but don't mean anything either. The sets give the production a distinct look, but distinctive isn't the same as good.

Regular Stomp Tokyo readers know that when a film fails our basic expectations (namely a story, halfway-competent direction, and an attempt at acting -- and Zachariah fails at all three), we go looking for entertainment in a movie's dark corners. Zachariah's corners yield mere cobwebs: the action consists of one significant gunfight and lots of scenes of Zach shooting up a mountain, the main babe is second-rate, and the music just might make your ears bleed.

So why would you want to watch Zachariah? Hmmm. It might be fun to make fun of Don Johnson -- he's pretty goofy and very young in this movie. But let's suppose, just suppose, that you were to make up a big pitcher of margaritas with your friends. Chris suggests going through three or four before actually hitting play on the VCR. Then, and only then, might Zachariah cough up some entertainment value, mostly as your drunken friends hold their own mock shootouts or show you their best Dick van Patten imitation.

"Electric Western." What the hell were they thinking?

They filmed our nightmares!

Review date: 09/15/1998

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