Classic TV: ‘Evil Roy Slade’

evil roy slade

I can only imagine most TV audiences in 1972 upon encountering the western spoof movie “Evil Roy Slade.”

My friends and I loved the movie, with its goofy wordplay and spoof of traditional western movie moments.

But what was a straighter audience to make of John Astin as an outlaw so mean even wolves wouldn’t raise him when, as a baby, he was orphaned in an Indian raid?

Or Mickey Rooney as Nelson Stool, a bitter railroad magnate who had worn down his index finger tapping out telegraph messages?

Or Dick Shawn as Bing Bell, a traveling lawman?

Directed by Jerry Paris, the “Dick Van Dyke Show” actor turned TV director, and produced and written by “Happy Days” masterminds Garry Marshall and Jerry Belson, “Evil Roy Slade” was the type of TV movie that they just didn’t make back then and they certainly don’t make now.

Some observations:

The movie is full of great lines. “I learned a valuable lesson today. Never trust a pretty girl or a lonely midget.” “I have kings with an ace.” “I have threes with a gun.” “You win.”

Slade at some point tells a cello player to get his instrument out from between his legs and hold it up under his chin, like a fiddle should be held. The man complies.

Slade is asked to solve a math problem: “If  you had six apples and your neighbor took three apples, what would you have?” “A dead neighbor and all six apples.”

Each time Bing Bell’s name is mentioned, a character says, “Somebody at the door?”

According to Rooney’s nephew, played by “Laugh-In” regular Henry Gibson, Rooney’s deformity is the stuff of western legend: “Men often sit around the campfire and sing about your stubby index finger.”

The movie seems like a time capsule to Hollywood past. Besides Rooney, the cast includes Milton Berle, Edie Adams and, in the role of narrator, Pat Buttram.


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