Gus (1976 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Vincent McEveety|
|Produced by||Ron Miller|
|Screenplay by||Arthur Alsberg
|Story by||Ted Key|
|Music by||Robert F. Brunner|
|Edited by||Robert Stafford|
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Distribution|
The film opens with a soccer game, and the Petrovic family watching their son Stepjan win the soccer game. Their other son Andy Petrovic works on his farm in Yugoslavia, and can't play soccer at all. A soccer ball is behind his mule, Gus. After saying that he never wants to see a soccer ball again, Gus kicks the soccer ball a long distance. Andy tries it with him and he says, "Oyage!" and Gus kicks the ball. [Note: there is fierce debate in the Gus fan community re the spelling of "Oyage." Some spell it "Oyatch!," while others give it a more Yugoslavian-sounding "Ojigdz!"]
Meanwhile, the California Atoms are a professional football team in Los Angeles, owned by Hank Cooper (Ed Asner) and coached by the inept Coach Venner (Don Knotts). They are by far the worst team in the league and have not won a single game in years. Their cheerleaders are fat and ugly, and even the marching band is awful. Desperate to draw fans in somehow, Cooper wants a great half time show. His secretary, Debbie (Louise 'Liberty' Williams), sees a story in her parents Yugoslavian newspaper about Gus, a mule that can kick a soccer ball through the goal from anywhere on the field.
Debbie flies to Yugoslavia and meets with Andy Petrovic, the young man who owns the mule, Gus. Andy's older brother is a local soccer star, and their parents idolize the brother and are very critical of Andy since Andy is terrible at soccer. Gus and Andy are hired to come to L.A.
Meanwhile, Cooper is a compulsive gambler who owes a lot of money to two mobster bookmakers named Charles Gwynn (Harold Gould) and Cal Wilson (Dick Van Patten). When Cooper tells them that he cannot pay them for he is broke, the bookies give him a last chance bet: if the Atoms win the upcoming Super Bowl, Cooper owes them nothing and all gambling debts will be forgiven, but if they do not win the Super Bowl, the Gwynn and Wilson will take ownership of the team from Cooper... and they also imply that they might do physical harm, or worse, kill him.
The Atoms are losing their first game of the season, but Gus is a hit at halftime when he shows off his skills by kicking a football the entire length of the field. In the 2nd half, Gus is put into the game to kick a field goal. Andy tells the other players to throw the ball to him and Gus will kick a touchdown. (An obvious reference to Garo Yepremian of the 1972 Super Bowl Dolphins who notoriously infuriated Larry Csonka by running off the field yelling "I kick touchdown"). The other team protests, and the announcers Pepper (Bob Crane) and Johnny Unitas (playing himself) are aghast. However, nowhere in the rule book does it say that players must be human, and the refs allow Gus to kick. With Gus making a field goal on each possession from anywhere in the field, the Atoms win.
The Atoms go on to win their next few games thanks to Gus getting field goals every time, and are in first place in their division. However, one catch is that Gus will only kick when Andy holds the ball and shouts the command: "Oyage!". Debbie has been assigned by her boss to watch over Andy and Gus, since she can speak his Serbian language, and there is an obvious romance budding between them. Gus is an intelligent mule, and it is clear he is trying to push them together.
Meanwhile, Gwynn and Wilson are getting upset about the team's success. Not wanting the Atoms to win, they hire two incompetent criminals/con artists, named Crankcase (Tim Conway) and Spinner (Tom Bosley), to stop Gus from playing in the games. For the next game, Crankcase shows up impersonating a replacement driver with a horse trailer. He gets Andy and Gus lost in the desert so they miss the game. Without Gus and Andy, the Atoms lose. Cooper figures out that Gwynn and Wilson were behind this, so he hires personal security guards for Gus and Andy.
After a few more victories, Spinner dresses up as a police official and goes to "review the security" around Gus. While no one is looking, he spikes Gus's water pail with alcohol. A drunken Gus stumbles around the field and misses all his kicks, and even falls on and crushes the football.
Still with only two loses, the Atoms make the playoffs. Andy is a celebrity and is on a TV show. His parents appear on the show from Yugoslavia. They are unimpressed since he just holds the ball for Gus to kick. The father keeps saying that his older brother, a pro soccer star in their home country, is the real star.
Before the playoff game, Spinner and Crankcase phone Andy and tell him that Debbie has been in a car accident and is seriously injured. Andy runs to the hospital where Spinner is impersonating a doctor and he locks Andy up in an empty room. In the meantime, the Atoms are losing the game, with Gus refusing to kick for anyone but Andy. Andy manages to escape from his confinment and, after getting away from Spinner, escapes from the hospital, wearing nothing but his hospital gown. Andy attempts to reach the stadium before the game is over. However, in the final quarter, Debbie dresses up in Andy's uniform and asks Gus to kick for Andy. Gus does kick. The Atoms win with Debbie as holder, although everyone in the stands thinks it's Andy. Andy arrives when the game is over and is very upset. He privately tells Debbie that it is like his father said; that he is nothing, that anyone can hold the ball for Gus to kick.
When the Atoms reach the Super Bowl, Spinner and Crankcase steal Gus when Spinner impersonates a Boy Scout Taskmaster bus driver being stuck in the middle of a country road, and he distracts Andy and Cooper long enough to help him fix his bus while Crankcase steals Gus from his trailer and replaces him with another mule. Spinner and Crankcase then check into a local hotel and lock up Gus with them.
On the day of the big final game, Crankcase and Spinner turn on the TV set in their hotel room to gloat as they plan to watch the Atoms lose. When Gus sees the Super Bowl starting on TV, he goes wild and kicks the TV set to pieces. Gus kicks down the front door to escape from his captors. At the Super Bowl, when the mule refuses to kick the football, Andy knows that it is not Gus, so he and Cooper leave the game and take off in a helicopter to search for Gus.
In a long and comic chase sequence, Crankcase and Spinner chase Gus into a local supermarket where they attempt to recapture the intelligent mule, only he gives both bumbling thugs the slip. When Spinner climbs on top of shelves and tries to lasso Gus, the mule drags Spinner by the rope around his neck, along a shelf and into a lobster tank. Crankcase is disposed of when he jumps on Gus' back to try to use the lasso to take control of Gus, and the mule then gallops down a supermarket aisle and throws Crackcase off his back, who lands into a wedding cake display. Running from the supermarket, Gus is spotted from the air by Andy and Cooper and they land in the supermarket parking lot to collect him. They airlift Gus to the Super Bowl by half-time.
With Gus back in the game, the Atoms come back hard, as Gus makes several field goals kicks. With 45 seconds left on the clock, the Atoms are down 16-15, with the ball on their own five yard line. It will come down to this last field goal attempt. But on this last kick, Gus slips in the mud and misses the football. There is a scramble for the ball, and Gus knocks it to Andy standing off on the side. Andy takes the football and runs 95 yards for the touchdown and wins the game for the Atoms.
After the game, Andy is hailed as the hero... thus leaving Gus in the background for the first time. While Coach Venner congratulates Andy, Cooper tells Gus: "it's okay, everyone misses once". After Cooper walks off to celebrate with Andy and the rest of the team, Debbie winks at Gus and says: "I know you did that on purpose". Gus winks back at her.
- Edward Asner as Hank Cooper
- Don Knotts as Coach Venner
- Gary Grimes as Andy Petrovic
- Tim Conway as Crankcase
- Louise Williams as Debbie Kovac
- Dick Van Patten as Cal Wilson
- Ronnie Schell as Joe Barnsdale
- Bob Crane as Pepper
- Johnny Unitas as Himself
- Dick Butkus as Rob Cargil
- Harold Gould as Charles Gwynn
- Tom Bosley as Spinner
- Titos Vandis as Seth Petrovis
- Hanna Hertelendy Molly Petrovis
- Liam Dunn as Dr. Morgan
The film did well and was released on home video in 1981. The movie is remembered for two sequences involving a hotel and a supermarket.
Johnny Unitas appears as a commentator with Bob Crane (in his last feature film appearance) supplying the play-by-play during the football broadcasts. Dick Enberg did the play-by-play for the local games.
The name "Hank Cooper" was later used in the Disney film The Love Bug as the name of the mechanic who meets Herbie (played by Bruce Campbell). Don Knotts co-starred with Dean Jones in the film Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo.
Gus would be the last feature film in the short career of then 20-year-old Grimes, and the final film appearance of Virginia O'Brien.