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The Apple Dumpling Gang was a film said to be the most successful Disney film of the 1970’s, hence it was only natural that a sequel to it would be made. However, this sequel would not star the main characters, Dusty and Donovan, from the first movie. Instead, it would focus on what many people would consider the runaway hit characters from the first film: the bumbling thieves, Theodore and Amos.
So, is this film any good compared to The Apple Dumpling Gang or any good at all, for that matter? Or is this just a shoddy sequel created for the sole purpose of making money? Well, let’s take a look and find out!
And remember, SPOILERS AHEAD!
As the movie starts, we see the thieves from the first film, Theodore and Amos (aka The Apple Dumpling Gang), once again played by Don Knotts and Tim Conway, respectively. They’re headed to a town in the Old West called Junction City and are planning to turn over a new leaf and be good, law-abiding citizens. And as we all know, whenever thieves/bad guys decide to turn over new leaves in comedies, they somehow manage to get in a lot of trouble.
So the obvious question is: What trouble do Theodore and Amos manage to fall into? Well, they go to the city bank in order to open a bank account. But, a bank robbery is taking place when they arrive. The bank robbers manage to flee and Theodore and Amos, being in the wrong place at the wrong time, are suspected by the townspeople to be the bank robbers.
Even the Marshal of Junction City, Bill Hitchcock, played by Kenneth Mars,
vows to find Theodore and Amos (who’ve since fled from the scene of the crime) and bring them to justice.
While trying to evade the Marshal, Theodore and Amos hide in the back of a wagon stored with champagne. They remain hidden whilst the driver takes the wagon along its merry way to its destination…an army fort called Fort Concho, commanded by Major Gaskill, played by Harry Morgan!
And as you can imagine, once the officers and soldiers discover the two stowaways in their wagon, they’re not too pleased.
The next morning (after Theodore and Amos regain their sobriety), they realize that they’ve been signed on to 10 years of soldiering at Fort Concho. The fort has been having some trouble recently as multiple wagon shipments have been raided and looted by what appear to be Native Americans (the wagons have arrows pierced through them), although there doesn’t seem to be any Native Americans in the area. So it seems to be that this is the result of an inside job.
And when one of the privates, Jim Reid, played by Tim Matheson, is found stealing one of the evidential arrows one night, the case seems solved and he’s incarcerated in the fort cell.
Meanwhile, Theodore and Amos have been put on kitchen duty that night as a big party is taking place for the officers. The reason for the party is to announce the fact that Major Gaskill’s daughter, Millie, played by Elyssa Davalos,
is going to marry one of the lieutenants there, Jim Ravencroft, played by Robert Pine.
Trouble arises however, when Marshal Hitchcock appears on the scene and starts shooting at Theodore and Amos. Some of the officers try to hold Marshal Hitchcock down while Theodore and Amos try to run away. Shots are fired and one thing leads to another until the entire fort is burned down,
and Private Reid escapes with Millie as a hostage.
He takes her to a cabin hidden away along a back trail where he hopes that the other soldiers can’t find him or her. The cabin is owned/run by a blind woman named Ms. Martha Austin, played by Audrey Totter. Apparently, Private Reid resides here at times helping Ms. Austin out with her chores and he decides to put Millie to work too. Millie is a bit shocked that Ms. Austin isn’t really concerned about the fact that she’s been brought as a prisoner.
Maybe this calms down Millie, but whatever the case, she doesn’t put up a fight and helps Private Reid with the chores around the cabin.
Meanwhile, Major Gaskill sends Theodore and Amos out to Bridger Military Prison for 30 years as punishment for their crimes that resulted in the incinerated fort.
While at the prison, Theodore and Amos accidentally come across a secret door that leads to an ornate room built under some caverns. They happen to stumble upon a meeting of what seems to be robbers led by a man known as Big Mac, played by Jack Elam.
Apparently, Big Mac and his gang are prisoners here in the jail who discovered this hidden door that leads to the caverns. They use it every so often to leave the jail whenever they feel like, be it to enjoy worldly pleasures or commit a robbery. Then, when they’re finished, they sneak back to the prison undiscovered as nobody would think to look for runaway convicts in the jail that they allegedly ran away from. Pretty clever!
Going by the reputation that the Apple Dumpling Gang is not to be messed with, Big Mac decides to take Theodore and Amos along on their next train robbery. Once they all leave the prison and split up, Theodore and Amos try to find the nearest law enforcement officer so that they can inform him about the robbery. Get a look at who the law enforcement officer is that they stumbled upon!
As Marshal Hitchcock is chasing them, Theodore and Amos sneak aboard a train which just happens to be the train that Big Mac and his boys are planning to rob. A big, fun-filled, climactic chase/fight scene occurs resulting in the capture of Big Mac and his men by Private Reid, who is actually a Captain Phillips working with US Army Intelligence. He was sent to Fort Concho to discover what’s been going on with the wagon raids.
Thanks to these events, he discovers that Big Mac and his men were behind the wagon raids. But who was their main inside the fort? None other than Lieutenant Ravencroft! Private Reid arrests him too, of course.
With Ravencroft out of the way, Reid/Phillips and Millie, who have since fallen in love with each other, are free to marry.
Finally, for somewhat helping catch the bad guys, Theodore and Amos are exonerated from their crimes while Marshal Hitchcock claims that he knew that The Apple Dumpling Gang was innocent of the bank robbery the whole time! And that was The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again!
I had seen this movie once before a LONG time ago, but I didn’t remember anything about it save a brief scene with Don Knotts and Tim Conway in the fort’s kitchen. However, I remembered that I really enjoyed The Apple Dumpling Gang. So, I was a bit skeptical watching this film as I know sequels are generally pretty bad compared to their original films!
To my surprise, this film was almost as good as the original! Don Knotts and Tim Conway are so much more enjoyable in this film as there’s always something funny about bad guys trying to be good, but still ending up in trouble. The other subplots are also interesting to see with many of the other actors giving great performances.
The comedy in this film is another great thing, be it Theodore and Amos spinning while tied down on two rotating wheels
or dressing up as saloon dancer girls.
This film really surprised me and if you liked the first film, I suggest you check this one out as well!
(You can click on the image below for an enlarged version of my rating sheet.)
So, the final score for this film is 28/35 = 80% (B-) !
The next review will be posted on September 15th.
8 thoughts on “The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again (1979)”
I vaguely remember watching this movie as a child. The only scenes I remember are the bank robbery and hiding out in the cave. Now I want to give it another look.
Yeah, it’s worth another look.
Thanks for reading and commenting!
I never put 2 and 2 together – I never knew that the sergeant from CHiPs was Chris Pine’s father!
I think I saw this movie in the theater when it came out. So I saw this before I saw the original. I remember liking it, but I couldn’t remember the details. Tim Conway and Don Knotts are so much fun
Well, I’ve never seen CHiPs, but yeah, he’s the same guy, lol.
I’m sorry, but making a sequel starring the comic relief characters from the original and featuring none of the original characters is almost always a bad idea, and this is no exception. It feels like an extended Three Stooges short stretched to feature-length, and Theodore and Amos aren’t even given much of the great comedy material they were in the original.
It doesn’t need to add anything to the original, but we also aren’t given much backstory on Theodore and Amos, either. We know they worked together in the same gang, but did they meet there? Are they brothers, or just good friends? We never get an explanation for why they’re so inseparable.
The movie does just feel like a predictable comedy of errors. The two find their way in trouble through sheer bad luck, we get some typical slapstick, and in the end, they make their way out of it and go off on their way again as we know they must. And the Kenneth Mars character seems like the inspiration for the animal control officer in Madagascar 3, the kind of antagonist who somehow forgets they’re working with the law and acts like a psychotic criminal themselves without any due regard for common sense. (You could argue Hitchcock was more responsible than Theodore and Amos for burning down the fort, too, because he’s the one who shoots down several other lamps as he’s being restrained, which allows the fire to spread.)
The romance with Private Reid doesn’t add very much to the film, either, and it’s kind of offensive to have him fall in love with her after he kidnaps her, again glamorizing Stockholm Syndrome in the process. In the end, I wasn’t expecting much, but would have to give this a miss.
To each his/her own opinion. Your points are valid. I just found it to be a fun film that existed mostly so we can see Don Knotts and Tim Conway together again which I think was the main point of the film. I’m not fully convinced that this was a “Stockholm Syndrome” situation either. But to each his/her own opinion.
It’s kind of mixed, because it’s implied he kidnapped her because he loved her, which might be worse. But then she falls in love with him in return after she realizes that. In any case, their romance doesn’t add much to the film.
Yeah, it’s been a while since I saw the film so can’t really remember the details, but I think you’re probably right that their romance didn’t add much. I just found the film to be an enjoyable Don Knotts/Tim Conway romp.