“Support Your Local Sheriff” on AMC

James Garner , Bruce Dern and Jack Elam in 'Support Your Local Sheriff'Going back to his days as TV’s “Maverick,” James Garner never shied away  from spoofing Hollywood westerns. “Support Your Local Sheriff” is probably  Garner’s best effort in this regard, and, as always, he makes it look easy.  Released in 1969, “Support Your Local Sheriff” airs Saturday, July 17th at 10:30  am on AMC. Directed by Burt Kennedy, Garner is joined by a superb cast which  includes Joan Hackett, Jack Elam, Walter Brennan and Bruce Dern.

Jason McCullough (Garner) drifts into a frontier community that has recently  become an overnight boomtown, due to a gold strike. With the price of food and  lodging rising by the hour, McCullough figures he’ll be broke by noon.  Fortunately, the town is desperately in need of a sheriff, a job that Jason  easily acquires after demonstrating to the town council his freakish ability  with firearms. The job appears to have its steep challenges, as the town is  overrun with lawlessness, and the city jail has yet to install bars. Making  matters worse, the new sheriff’s first act is to arrest Joe Danby (Dern) for a  saloon shooting. Joe’s family, a group of ruthless ranchers led by Pa Danby  (Brennan), will not sit by and allow Joe to sit in a cell without them trying  something to set him free. The sheriff, assisted only by a slightly willing  deputy (Elam) and the mayor’s daughter (Hackett), proves to be more than capable  to handle all of it.

“Support Your Local Sheriff” is an humorous send-up of many conventional  westerns, with “Rio Bravo” and “High Noon” being the most obvious candidates for  parody. The twist is that James Garner’s character, equipped with a modern day  sensibility and a 20th century grasp of psychology, has little problem dealing  with the same kinds of situations a Gary Cooper or a John Wayne would spend an  entire motion picture agonizing over. Sheriff McCullough hardly breaks a sweat  as he almost toys with the evil doers. “Support Your Local Sheriff” also  effectively casts a few actors against their usual type. Walter Brennan is given  a rare chance to portray a villain, while long time western heavy Jack Elam  shines as the town character turned deputy. Even Bruce Dern manages to play the  murderous Joe to a comic effect.