Bad Man Dean Playing It Straight
A Mid-60's Universal Western That's Actually Good
I'd put Rough Night In Jericho among comfort westerns marked capital C, though shock it was to find poster art billing George Peppard first and ahead of Dean Martin. Turns out they did ads both ways, evidently splitting up quantity so that each star took pole position, depending on which display showmen chose to hang. Shows if nothing else what juice Peppard (briefly) had. Now, of course, it's Dean we come to see, and to his credit, there's no slumming or sarcasm as was Martin-applied to Rat Packing, Matt Helming, and whatever television talked him into. Dino admired westerns, always had, so took seriously better ones that cast him.
No songs here, not even over titles, and what a straight-up nasty heavy DM is, town-bossing minus smirks that so often distanced this fine actor from parts he didn't respect. Rough Night is really about Martin's villainy, Peppard at all times in second chair despite billing gymnastics. Few among Dean's Thursday night audience expected to see him beat up Jean Simmons so savagely as here, Martin's "just pretend" mechanism happily switched off. Universal wisely sold Rough Night thus: Who Says They Don't Make Westerns The Way They Used To --- We Just Did, which was answer to decline of the genre as US-manufactured, and perhaps challenge to Italo-upstarts then making presence felt (For A Few Dollars More was released three months ahead of Rough Night In Jericho).
Universal was for a most part junk peddling through the sixties after MCA bought control, chief of staff Lew Wasserman more interested in big deals than good pictures, so Rough Night turning out well was happy surprise (give me this over bummer Shenandoah anytime). Maybe to soften blows of his screen nastiness, Dean Martin did a trailer in customary character, poking fun at scenes from the western, with promise of a lark Rough Night would not fulfill. In fact, it would be something lots better, as lately evidenced on Universal's Vault DVD, which is at least correct Techniscope ratio (TV still crops it, at best to 1.85). I just wish they'd done a fresh transfer, as here's one that deserved a shine.