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Film / Rustlers' Rhapsody

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Wrangler Bob vs. Rex O'Herlihan, the Singing Cowboy

Rustlers' Rhapsody is a 1985 Western comedy written and directed by Hugh Wilson.

Rex O'Herlihan (Tom Berenger), the Singing Cowboy, rides his wonder-horse Wildfire into yet another small frontier town to dispense a dose of non-lethal justice to the local Cattle Baron, Colonel Ticonderoga (Andy Griffith). Only this time, reality finally catches up with Rex, and things do not go entirely as planned...

The film was a parody of many classic Western conventions, such as the singing cowboy films of the 1930s and 1940s. It was inspired by Wilson's experiences working at CBS Studio Center, once the lot of Republic Pictures, whose library is now owned by the film's distributor Paramount, whose current parent Paramount Global also now owns CBS Studio Center in addition to the CBS network itself, but is planning to sell off CBS Studio Center to Hackman Capital Partners and Square Mile Capital Management.


Contains examples of:

  • Accidental Aiming Skills:
    • Rex tries to teach Peter how to light his cigarette by shooting the tip. Nervously, Peter cocks the revolver and fires ... only to shoot Rex's hat off his head.
    • In the climactic gunfight, Rex has been wounded in his shooting arm, and his nemesis Bob is about to finish him off. Rex raises his gun, fires, and:
      Peter: Rex, you shot him in the head! How do you feel about that?
      Rex: [weakly] I missed his hand.
  • Affably Evil: The Colonel.
  • Affectionate Parody
  • Audible Gleam
  • Badass Longcoat: Lampshaded by the narrator, who is envious of the guys in spaghetti westerns because "they all got to wear those great raincoats, even when it was 110 in the shade."
  • Battle-Interrupting Shout: Averted - Rex shouts until the gunfight stops, only to realize that it stopped because everyone had already shot each other.
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  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: The Colonel's daughter is dragged behind a galloping horse for miles. This results in not one bruise, broken bone, or scratch, just a single smudge on her face for the hero to clean off.
  • The Blacksmith / Intrepid Reporter / Schoolmarm: All mentioned at one point, but none of them actually appear in the film.
  • Blasting It Out of Their Hands: This is the only way Rex ever shoots at anyone. Except for the one time he misses his opponent's hand. Good thing it was a lawyer he shot.
  • Cattle Baron: Colonel Ticonderoga. Though as the film explicitly points out, you never actually see any of his cattle, just hear some mooing in the background.
  • Celibate Hero: Rex. Until he finds out that the Good Cowboy has to be a Confident Heterosexual, which he has to resolve before the final shootout.
    Rex: This is 1884. You've gotta date and date and date and date and sometimes marry 'em even before... you know...
  • Cool Horse: "I wish my horse could do that!"
  • Contractual Genre Blindness: Rex, who considers it his "karma" to ride into a town and "help the good guys, who are usually poor for some reason, against the bad guys, who are usually rich for some reason," and ride out again.
  • Delayed Narrator Introduction: "Now this is the story of the day when a most wonderful thing happened to Rex. He met me."
  • Evil Lawyer Joke:
    Bob: I'm a lawyer, you idiot.
  • Genre Savvy: Rex has been through the standard B-western plot so many times he knows exactly what's going to happen. This time it's different because the villains get Genre Savvy too. They figure out that, as villains, they must subvert the standard formula to have any chance of winning. Since the good guys always win, they hire themselves a good guy to stand against the hero.
  • Groin Attack: When Rex teaches Peter how to be a sidekick, one of the lessons is "jumping out of a second story window onto your horse".
  • Have a Gay Old Time: "Throw Another Faggot On The Fire"
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Miss Tracy is so golden, she doesn't actually have sex with anyone. She just talks dirty to them. Until Rex "gets better" at the end of the film..
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: When the two Mooks and Blackie confront Rex in the saloon at the beginning, the Mooks don't bother checking if Blackie is in their line of fire before they draw and shoot.
  • I Like Those Odds: Four Mooks stroll into Rex's camp in the middle of the night. Just to be semi-fair, Rex only uses one gun.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Nearly anyone who shoots at Rex, outside of the Final Boss.
    Ticonderoga: You missed! How could you miss?
    Jud: Even with these sights we have a target a hundred yards away, maybe more. We've never fired these weapons before, there's a definite wind factor, AND we have a problem with the sun!
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Not only can Rex consistently shoot the guns out of their hands, he can do so from 100 yards away, shooting casually from the hip while mounted.
  • In the Back: Blackie's mooks accidentally shoot him in the back.
  • Invincible Hero: Subverted. Like most B-Western heroes, Rex seems, and believes himself to be, invincible, yet in this town the villains have a new trick up their sleeve.
  • Karma Houdini: The Colonel never got any punishment for the crimes he committed.
  • Land in the Saddle: This is part of Peter's sidekick training.
  • Parody Sue: Rex, naturally.
  • Railroad Baron: The villain of the piece along with the Cattle Baron.
    Ticonderoga: We should stick together. Look what we have in common: We're both rich, we're both power-mad, and we're both Colonels — that's got to count for something!
  • Romance-Inducing Smudge: Spoofed where the cattle baron's daughter has been dragged behind her horse for hours. When Rex rescues her, she has only a tiny smudge on her cheek to show for it, which Rex tenderly wipes away.
  • Seen It All: How Rex O'Herlahan knows the future. The same thing keeps happening over and over again in every town he visits.
    Rex: All these western towns are the same.
    Pete: Oh no! Oakwood Estates is unique!
    Rex: Is the Matron a pretty but somehow asexual schoolmarm?
    Pete: Yeah, but—
    Rex: Is the Blacksmith a big jolly guy who only gets mad when his barn burns down?
    Pete: Yeah...
    Rex: Is the newspaper run by an idealistic young journalist who's hawked everything to buy his press?
    Pete: Damn! [beat] Oh, wait! I know one thing this town has that the others don't! None of the other towns have—
    Rex: The railroad coming through?
    Pete: [flabbergasted] All western towns have the railroad coming through?!
  • Sex as Rite-of-Passage
  • The Sheriff: "A corrupt old coward who takes his orders from the Colonel."
  • Technical Pacifist: Rex only shoots villains in the hand.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Rex, after he takes care of becoming a Confident Heterosexual, and has a "This time, it's personal!" moment.
  • Unlimited Wardrobe: Rex; he has a good-sized wagon for storing all his outfits.
  • What a Drag: Happens to the Cattle Baron's daughter.