A ghastly attempt at post-Blazing Saddles frontier hilarity, Mule Feathers compounds incoherence with insanity. The incoherence stems from the main storyline, which concerns a Wild West con man (Rory Calhoun) drifting into a gold-crazed town while dressed as a preacher. One suspects the picture was filmed hastily and slapped together carelessly, because the narrative is virtually incomprehensible, the protagonist disappears for long stretches of screen time, transitions are almost nonexistent, and the weak visuals are juiced with stupid audio flourishes (cartoony FX, overwrought music, sloppy dubbing, etc.). The filmmakers can’t decide whether they’re making a squeaky-clean family farce or a raunchy oater for the Mel Brooks crowd (note the jokes about a whore who “can’t even give it away”). Either way, everything looks cheap, from the drab sets to the terrible fake beards to the ugly cinematography. And now we reach the insane aspect of Mule Feathers. The picture opens with an animated vignette of a jackass, voiced by Don Knotts, roaming through the desert. Afterward, the film segues to a live-action scene in which Knotts’ voice emanates from the protagonist’s donkey companion. The animal’s lips don’t move, and nobody else can hear the creature talk, so is Calhoun’s character deranged? Even more disturbing questions are raised when Knotts says things like, “Oh, the tenderness that a man and his mule can feel for each other.” And when Calhoun’s character meets a woman, the donkey whines, “She can never be what I’ve been to you!” Yikes. Fair warning to curious Knotts fans: He never appears on camera, and his voice is featured in perhaps 20 of the movie’s 79 atrocious minutes.
Mule Feathers: SQUARE