Plot: After putting in some long hours as an ass-breaker, Dingus Magee (Frank Sinatra) pines for the days of easier money and as such, decides to return to his old ways of petty crime to make ends meet. When he spots his old friend Hoke (George Kennedy) at the ranch, he sees a perfect chance to resharpen his thief skills and robs him, even taking his prized derby. Soon after, Dingus tries to flag down a stagecoach and is mistaken for a robber, so a chest of valuables is tossed out. Now our small time crook has a sizable bounty, one which Hoke plans to collect and since he is somehow Sheriff of a small town now, he has the means to do so. But while he wants to use his new power to take down Dingus, he is ordered to rile up the nearby Indians as part of a political play by the local madame. As both Dingus and Hoke wind up in situations way over their heads, what will become of these bumbling frenemies?
Entertainment Value: An outlandish, almost surreal comedic western, Dirty Dingus Magee is almost like a live action, slapstick cartoon. This kind of zaniness is bound to divide audiences, but even if you don’t connect with the madcap sense of humor, you might have fun here. I mean, at times the disbelief over how ridiculous the movie is becomes a kind of entertainment itself, especially when it comes to Frank Sinatra’s half hearted, but hilarious performance. Aside from Sinatra, the cast seems to embrace the lunacy of the material, so even when the jokes run thin, the enthusiasm carries some laughs. The narrative is just there to hang the comedy on, but the constant back and forth between Dingus and Hoke is fun, with a consistent cycle of trust and betrayal that reaches ludicrous levels. The jokes aren’t as rapid fire as something like The Naked Gun, but there’s not much downtime here and the pace is brisk, so there’s a steady influx of gags throughout. In the end, Dirty Dingus Magee isn’t good by traditional standards, but it is so outrageous and over the top, it winds up being an interesting, off the wall curio that cult film fans should appreciate.
The lead here is Frank Sinatra, who doesn’t seem that interested in the role and would take an extended hiatus from films after this one. While you can tell his heart isn’t in his work here, his barely there effort actually works most of the time, as it makes Dingus seem like a flighty, unflappable dude. Sinatra doesn’t so much play this zany material straight as not play it at all, with little reaction to the madness around him and to me, that adds to the fun. But I can see why some wouldn’t enjoy his work here, as he shows little of his normal charisma and presence. George Kennedy is able to steal the show often, as he goes for broke in a prominent role and given Sinatra’s lack of reaction, Kennedy’s overreactions are even more outlandish. His comedic timing is excellent, even if the material isn’t always deserving of his talent. Also around in memorable roles are Jack Elam, Lois Nettleton, and Anne Jackson.