‘I tried to make peace with the Sioux once – couldn’t trust ‘em. One minute, it was peace on, the next, peace off.’
Way out west, the peace of Stodge City is shattered when the dreaded Rumpo Kid (Sid James) rides into town and guns down the sheriff (Jon Pertwee).
By mistake, Washington sends a travelling British Sanitary Engineer called Marshal P Knutt (Jim Dale) – “Marshal” is his name so you can see where the confusion is heading – to make the town safe.
Rumpo tries to forestall his arrival in Stodge by having his coach attacked by an Indian tribe led by chief Big Heap (Charles Hawtrey). The attack is repulsed, thanks to the intervention of Annie Oakley (Angela Douglas).
From here, it’s a series of mad manoeuvres as Annie and the sanitary engineer wage war with the Rumpo Kid to restore peace to Stodge.
Sid James is a convincing, blood-chilling bandit who fully deserves his baddie black hat and Joan Sims relished the chance to turn on seductive Mae West-like charms. She works brilliantly off Sid – oozing glamour in her tight, black low-cut gown.
Amongst the supporting actors, there are two fine minor turns from a couple of valued newcomers: Bernard Bresslaw, booming and yelling his Red Indian anger at every opportunity, and Peter Butterworth fidgeting in the background and stealing every scene he appears in.
Jim Dale, finally gaining a major romantic lead role and playing it perfectly, brilliantly brings the regular foreigner abroad character to life.
The entire film establishes the idea of the Carry On team as Americans and director Gerald Thomas cunningly builds up the tension for the first appearance of a fearsome Indian. The fact that we get the small cough, twinkling grin and sparkling eyes of Charlie Hawtrey is a peak of contrasting comic effect.
Celebrated as one of the most professionally produced and effective films in the series, Cowboy is a western field of dreams where Sid’s dark villain literally gets away with murder, Jim Dale gets the gal of his fantasies, Charles Hawtrey happily drinks away the Indian blues and Bresslaw and Butterworth get a memorable baptism of fire.
Gerald Thomas stated that this – the 11th in the series – was the most enjoyable to make of all the Carry On films.
Marshal P Knutt