The Frisco Kid Blu-ray Review: A Rabbi and a Bank Robber Ride West

A Rabbi and a bank robber board a train… that’s where things get really wacky in director Robert Aldrich’s The Frisco Kid. 

It’s 1850 and Rabbi Avram Belinsky (Gene Wilder) is shipped to America, San Francisco to be exact, to a waiting congregation. Once there the naive rabbi has his money stolen and is set on foot by a conniving bunch of brutes and left for dead. Avram stumbles into some friendly Amish who help him board a train and get headed on his journey west. While on board, the train is robbed by a professional bank robber, Tom Lillard (Harrison Ford), while clueless Avram is in the washroom. A bit further up the tracks Avram is forced to walk again this time due to his religious beliefs but that’s ok because this sets up his meeting Tom, who winds up sticking with the rabbi and seeing him along to California. 

The way to San Francisco is packed with misadventures. Tom robs a bank, to which poor Avram becomes an accessory, and they must flee the well-paid posse. Our boys have a good lead until the Sabbath when Avram cannot ride his horse until sundown which brings the posse close to capturing the not-so-dynamic duo. There is also a blizzard they battle through, a snake-spooked horse that sends them over a cliff into a river, ever present Native Americans to be wary of, and a handful of other mishaps along the way. The encounter with Native Americans is a hoot as Avram has his faith tested by fire and as a holy man has a great philosophical chat with the chief about god before it coincidentally starts to rain as they discuss god’s power. 

That’s not all folks! One night in a saloon, Avram sees those brutes that stole his money and confronts them, spurred on by his hard-earned frontier toughness. Of course this doesn’t go as planned; fortunately Tom steps in just in time to embarrass these brutes, send them away, and recover Avram’s money plus a bit more. Further on up the road as our heroes reach the shore of California and after deciding to ride on to San Francisco together, they celebrate with a frolic in the cool Pacific Ocean. What happens next? Those embarrassed brutes find them and demand revenge and satisfaction. Tom kills one and Avram is forced to dispose of the other while one lone brute high tails it out of there. 

Our weary, travel-worn heroes finally make Frisco, where Avram rethinks his life as a rabbi but comes to his senses over a few thrown biscuits and kind words from his pal Tom along with the promise of a brown-eyed maiden’s hand in marriage. All seems well and good at last until the lone brute, brother of the man Avram slew, shows up again demanding a high-noon style drawdown in the middle of the street. Tom comes through again to save Avram’s hide but this time Avram is able to settle the tense mood with words of wisdom only a true western hero could spew “I’ll take San Francisco. You can have the rest of America…now get the hell outta here.” The crowd then shows the “poor a**hole outta town.” There’s a big Jewish wedding with Tom as best man and all is finally and truly well as this oater draws to a happy close.

Gene Wilder and Harrison Ford pair well in this witty, moving, fun western outing; Ford the edgy loner and Wilder the determined outsider. Watching those two ride through the country from one adventure to the next is what I’ve always liked about The Frisco Kid, which I haven’t seen in full for many years. Minor continuity errors, like specific train models, clothes, and firearm models aside, The Frisco Kid is a good, wacky western and an enjoyable way to spend 119 minutes of one’s time.

Thanks to the Warner Archive Collection for bringing this to Blu-ray for another generation of fans to laugh along with. The only drawback is that besides the original trailer there are no special features at all. Zero. Some background on the making of the movie or an interview somewhere would have been much appreciated. Perhaps in the future we’ll see a special edition of some sort released. Until then, adios all. 

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Joe Garcia III

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