Rat Pack Theater: Sergeants 3 (1962)

Unlike say, Salt & Pepper or Murderer’s Row, Sergeants 3 is a full-on Rat Pack movie because all five remembers actually appear in it. Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and Peter Lawford make up the main leads, but Joey Bishop’s also there too. I think Ocean’s 11 is the only other movie that boasts the full roster. Anyway, this one’s apparently a remake of Gunga Din, though it might not have been intended as such. Hollywood legend (and the IMDb Trivia Page for the flick) says that the filmmakers had to pay out a bunch of money towards the makers of GD in order to get S3 released. Whether it was an out-ripe rip-off or a series of honest mistakes I have no idea because 1. I wasn’t there and 2. I haven’t seen GD yet (it’s sitting in my to watch pile from Netflix).

So, here’s the basic plot as far as I could follow: Sinatra, Martin, Lawford and Bishop are all in the Cavalry out west. They’re a rambunctious group who loves carousing, drinking and fighting, but they’re also apparently pretty damn good at their jobs which include trying to find a bunch of murderous Indians called Ghost Dancers. Meanwhile, Lawford wants to get out of the service so he can get married and Davis–a freed slave–wants to join up and kind of tags along, helping where he can here and there.

I’ll be honest, the plot seems a little overcomplicated and I didn’t quite catch everything. The Sergeants 3 spend so much time not chasing down the Ghost Dancers, that you almost forget that’s the point of the movie. I’ll also say, some of the editing is crap, but I think that comes from the well known fact that Sinatra would only ever do one take of anything, which results in some off-looking fight scenes.

However, as a Rat Pack fan, this film is fantastic. Dean plays the charming drunk as a cowboy really well and does one of my favorite gags in the movie involving shooting Roman candles at the invaders which Lawford accidentally replaces with dynamite. Frank is basically Frank, being the tough guy leader, Lawford brings some legitimacy to the proceedings with his acting skills and Bishop (who I’m not sure if I could pick out of a line-up) does well as the straight man but Davis really shines in this flick. This guy was SO talented. The movie might feel a little uneven with its mix of seriousness and cartoony action (the aforementioned dynamite scene), but Davis always feels genuine and real. I even got a little choked up when he got what he wanted throughout the whole movie at the end.

So, in the end Sergeants 3 isn’t the greatest movie ever made. It’s got crazy mood swings and feels like what it is: a movie made by a bunch of friends so they could make a movie and hang out, but even with all that, I love seeing these guys on screen together. And, for what it’s worth, the movie looks amazing. They shot out in Utah and man, that desert and mountains look amazing on film even all these years later. I bet this thing would benefit from a Blu-ray transfer.

Rat Pack Theater: One More Time (1970)

After enjoying Salt & Pepper so much, I jumped at the chance to to watch that movie’s 1970 sequel called One More Time, which unfortunately wasn’t on Netflix Instant, so I had to wait A WHOLE DAY for the DVD (yeah, I know that’s lame of me, but I just love instant so much).

As you might be able to tell from the amazing poster to the left, the second flick has a lot going on including the appearance of horror stalwarts and a traditional English fancy dress party. This time around, we discover that Pepper’s brother is a lord who winds up dying and Pepper (Lawford) takes his place, but doesn’t say anything to Salt (Davis). Salt thinks that Pepper’s brother might have killed him, so Salt starts working for the lord and goes to his big crazy old mansion somewhere (in England, I assume?). It’s a pretty gothic set up that does in fact include brief appearances by Frankenstein (played by Peter Cushing) and a vampire (played by Christopher Lee). It’s such a brief scene that it doesn’t warrant a “Horror” tag in the category section, but reading ahead of time about their appearances, I was hoping the film would wind up being Sammy and Peter spending the entire film fighting monsters, which is not the case.

Instead, we see Salt acting like the lord’s friend in order to figure out what’s going on with the murder of his best friend, which, of course, does unfold in front of both Salt and Pepper. Of course, Salt realizes at some point that the lord’s really Pepper and the two start kicking ass, solve the crime and finish the movie talking as themselves (the actors) to the audience. The plot gets even more complex from there, but it’s not really worth getting into.

Like with the original, I found myself mesmerized by these guys just being good friends and having a lot of fun. It’s interesting that by this time, Frank Sinatra had actually stopped talking to Lawford thanks to Lawford’s brother-in-law John F. Kennedy not staying with Frank in Palm Springs after he had a helipad built so the president could get in and out with ease (it’s a more complicated story, but that’s the gist). So, even though he was on the outs with the notoriously hard-nosed Sinatra, Lawford was still making movies with Sinatra’s friend Davis. I wonder if that lead to any problems between the two Rat Packers (Davis and Sinatra I mean).

Anyway, hot damn, Lawford and Davis are GOOD actors. I’m not talking about just funny dudes having fun, but when Davis thinks Lawford is dead, I really got the vibe that he was DEVASTATED. In fact, that was the one part of the movie that kind of bummed me out: that Salt didn’t tell his best friend Pepper that he was taking his brother’s identity. If any of my best friends took up their dead lord brother’s identity and didn’t think they could trust me I would be pissed. Instead Salt just takes it in stride.

It’s one of those movies that needs to be seen to be believed because it’s absolutely not the type of movie that could get made right now unless, say, Tom Cruise and Will Smith wanted to do it. Actually that could be kind of fun…