Something Big

From Academic Kids

Something Big is a 1971 American motion picture produced by Andrew V. McLaglen (who also directed it) and James Lee Barrett (who also wrote the screenplay). It stars Dean Martin and Brian Keith.



The movie is a western comedy, set in the frontier of the southern New Mexico Territory. Martin plays Joe Baker, an aging restless bandit determined to do "something big" before his fiancé Dover McBride, played by Carol White, arrives from the East to retrieve him. Don Knight plays Tommy McBride, Dover's brother and sidekick on Baker's banditry. To achieve his "something big", Baker must deal with the vulgar but lonely bandit Jonny Cobb (Albert Salmi) and his ruthless sidekick Angel Moon (Robert Donner).

Opposing Baker and his plan is the cantankerous Colonel Morgan, played by Keith, who is on the cusp of retirement from the Army command in the territory. In a situation parallel to Baker's, Morgan's own wife Mary Ann (Honor Blackman) is arriving from the East to accompany him home on his retirement. Merlin Olsen appears in his second on-screen role as Sergeant Fitzsimmons.

Produced at the end of the 1960s and at the height of the Vietnam War, the movie is a revisionist western, with a large subtext involving the "civilizing" influence of women on the American frontier. The lighthearted title song, which sets the picaresque tone for the movie, was written by Burt Bacharach (music) and Hal David (lyric), and sung by Mark Lindsay. The film's portrayal of Native Americans is rather negative, depicting them to be drunk and cowardly in a critical battle scene. This itself is a revision of the noble savage stereotype of earlier Hollywood westerns.

It is arguably Martin's most prominent lead film role.

Plot summary

Colonel Morgan learns from his Indian scout Bookbinder that the notorious bandit Baker is planning "something big" but is thwarted at learning details.

It revealed that the "something big" that Baker is planning is to attack and rob a bandit hoarde just across the border in Mexico. The treasure being well guarded, Baker makes a deal with the scurrilous Johnny Cobb to purchase a gatling gun in exchange for a woman. Baker receives a letter from his fiancé Dover informing him of her imminent arrival, which sets a deadline on the achievement of his "something big."

To find Cobb a woman, Baker's gang holds up a series of stagecoaches, but in each one he is unable to find a woman suitable for Cobb and lets the passengers go unmolested. He is finally able to find a suitable woman, who turns out to be Colonel Morgan's wife Mary Ann. She quickly learns to like Baker because he treats her with respect.

The abduction of his wife enrages Morgan who sets off with a patrol to capture Baker and rescue his wife.

In the meantime, Johnny Cobb and his sidekick Angel Moon meet the trader Junior Frisbee (Denver Pyle) in the desert to buy the gun, which has been stolen from a federal arsenal. When the trader demands more, Moon stabs him the death and they take the gun. Before they can meet Baker, however, they are accosted by Morgan and his scout Bookbinder, who agree to let the bandits go if they reveal Baker's location.

Baker's fiancé Dover arrives at the fort and installs herself in Morgan's quarters. Hearing of her arrival, Baker agrees to meet her in the desert. She gives him an ultimatum to go home with her immediately or she will marry someone else.

The night before the supposed rendezvous with Cobb to purchase the gun, Baker realizes he is love with Mary Ann. He attempts to kiss her, but she rebuffs him, stating she is love with her husband. Nevertheless, Baker tells Tommy that he intends to take the gun from Cobb without giving Mary Ann to him.

Morgan and his scout, with Cobb, Moon and the gun in tow, arrive at Baker's hideout. Angel Moon is killed when he attempts to kill Baker. Morgan proceeds to beat up Baker for stealing his wife. When Morgan refuses to give Baker the gun, his wife reminds him that he is now officially retired and no longer has the authority to seize the gun as federal property.

Cobb realizes he is not going to get his woman and breaks down. Tommy realizes that there is a solution, namely that a pair of lonely women (obstensibly prostitutes, one of whom is played by Joyce Van Patten) would certainly welcome Cobb's presence. Cobb proceeds to their house, and although it is across the border in Texas, where he is wanted, the women drag him across despite his protests.

With his gun, Baker and his men assault the bandit's town across the border in Mexico, with the help of the Apache allies they have previous paid with whiskey. They are informed, however, that the notorious bandit is now a monk, who greets Baker in garden. Baker suspects a ruse, however, and pulls open the monk's robe, revealing a pistol. A gun battle erupts, which initially puts Baker and his men in serious trouble. The Apaches, who arrive somewhat incompetent and drunk, quickly flee. Baker is able to mount the wagon with the gun and goes on a wild killing rampage, mowing down men by the dozen from the rooftops of the town until the remainder flee. Baker finds the bandit's tresure in the town church, but as his men celebrate the riches, he is haunted by his fiancé's words at their meeting and the sight of the crucifix on the wall.

In the final scene, back at the fort, Morgan receives an emotional farewell from his assembled troops. Baker, Dover, Morgan, and Mary Ann, all mount into the stagecoach together to return to the East. As they ride out, Baker's men ride alongside and salute him, adorned in their riches likes kings. Baker climbs out on top of the stagecoach and celebrates with them.



  • Andrew V. McLaglen - producer and director
  • James Lee Barrett - producer and screenplay


  • Dean Martin - Joe Baker
  • Brian Keith - Colonel Morgan
  • Carol White - Dover McBride
  • Honor Blackman - Mary Anna Morgan
  • Ben Johnson - Jesse Bookbinder
  • Albert Salmi - Jonny Cobb
  • Don Knight - Tommy McBride
  • Joyce Van Patten - Polly Standall
  • Denver Pyle - Junior Frisbee
  • Merlin Olsen - Sergeant Fitzsimmons
  • Robert Donner - Angel Moon
  • Harry Carey Jr - Joe Pickins

External link

  • IMDb entry (

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