Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Arnold Laven|
|Produced by||Jules V. Levy
|Screenplay by||William W. Norton|
|Narrated by||Virgil Warner|
|Music by||Herschel Burke Gilbert|
|Cinematography||Robert C. Moreno|
|Edited by||John Woodcock|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
The film was one of the first to have a scene cut under the newly introduced MPAA ratings system. The version submitted by director Laven to the MPAA included "a bare-from-the-waist-up shot" of Angie Dickinson. When faced with the prospect of an "R" rating (at the time an entirely new concept), Laven substituted a tighter shot of Dickinson from the shoulders up to avoid the "R" rating.
Sam Whiskey (Reynolds), an adventurer and rogue in the Old West, is seduced by widow Laura Breckenridge (Dickinson) into promising to retrieve $250,000 in gold bars from a riverboat that sank in Colorado's Platte River. The gold had been stolen by Laura's late husband from the Denver Mint and replaced by plated fakes. She offers Sam $20,000 to recover and return it before the theft is discovered and her family name is ruined. Sam enlists the help of Jedidiah Hooker (Davis), a local blacksmith, and O. W. Bandy (Walker), an Army friend turned inventor, offering them shares of the reward.
They locate the sunken riverboat, unaware that they are being watched by Fat Henry Hobson and his gang. The gold is fifteen feet below the river's surface, so Bandy fashions a diving helmet for Sam out of a bucket and bellows, but Fat Henry and his gang capture Jed and Bandy. Thinking they have drowned Sam, hiding in the riverboat's smoke stack, they recover the gold and prepare to kill their captives. With the help of one of Bandy's homemade machine guns, Sam frees his partners and they start for Denver with the gold. Just as they are tempted at a crossroads to head for Mexico with their haul, Laura shows up to greet them.
Assuming the identity of a government inspector, Sam enters the mint and deliberately damages a gold-plated bronze bust of George Washington displayed in the lobby. He then insists on having it repaired and takes it to a blacksmith's shop, where Jed makes a mold of the bust and recasts the recovered gold. Fat Henry later breaks into the shop and steals the bronze original, thinking that it was made by Sam and his men to disguise the pilfered bars. Sam returns the new bust to the mint, and his men, posing as plumbers, conceal themselves until nightfall, when they melt down the bust and recast it into gold bars. On a train leaving Denver the next morning, Sam splits the $20,000 with Jed and Bandy but keeps Laura for himself.
Throughout the movie bits and pieces of a melodious story of saucy lady named a Mary McCarty are revealed by Sam Whiskey (Burt Reynolds) with the final verse given to the viewers by Jed Hooker (Ossie Davis).
Whiskey and Gin
Mary McCarty was shy as a primrose,
The Girls in the city are skinny and pretty
- Burt Reynolds as Sam Whiskey
- Angie Dickinson as Laura Breckenridge
- Clint Walker as O.W. Bandy
- Ossie Davis as Jed Hooker
- William Schallert as Peters
- Woodrow Parfrey as Bromley
- Chubby Johnson as Blacksmith
- Anthony James as Cousin Leroy
- Rick Davis as Fat Henry Hobson
- Del Reeves as The Fisherman
"Way ahead of its time," said Reynolds of the film. "I was playing light comedy and nobody cared."
Film critic Vincent Canby wrote of the film, "Comedy Westerns aren't my favorite form of entertainment and Sam Whiskey is certainly not one of the best of the breed, but its pleasures are so unexpected that they deserve some modest appreciation ... The movie, written by William Norton (The Scalphunters) and directed by Arnold Laven, has a kind of clumsy charm, most of it contributed by the performances of Reynolds, who bears a creepy resemblance to Marlon Brando; Miss Dickinson, and Ossie Davis and Clint Walker, who help Reynolds execute a reversal on the usual movie heist."
More recently film critic Dennis Schwartz gave the film a mixed review, writing, "An amiable Western, whose tagline is "Don't mix with Sam Whiskey. It's risky!", that nevertheless proves tiresome under the belabored direction of Arnold Laven ... The cornball antics, the uninspired acting and the wearisome plot so slackly handled all add up leaving this dull Western in a state of mediocrity. This one might appeal only to die hard fans of Reynolds."
- Dick Kleiner (1968-11-06). "Movie Producers Hope For The Best". The Coshcocton Tribune (NEA story).
- Workaholic Burt Reynolds sets up his next task: Light comedy Siskel, Gene. Chicago Tribune (1963-Current file) [Chicago, Ill] 28 Nov 1976: e2.
- Canby, Vincet, film review, The New York Times, "Sam Whiskey on Double Bill:Burt Reynolds an Asset to Comedy Western, The First Time Also Begins Run at Lyric", June 12, 1969. Accessed: July 4, 2013.
- Schwartz, Dennis, film review, Ozus' World Movie Reviews, May 25, 2008. Accessed: July 4, 2013.