Movie Review: Goin’ South (1978)

by StevenHelmer

A review of the comedy western starring Jack Nicholson and Christopher Lloyd.

Synopsis: Henry Lloyd Moon, an 1860s horse thief and cattle robber, is captured and sentenced to be hanged in Longhorn, Texas but is saved by a town ordinance that allows minor (non-murderous) criminals to be spared from the gallows if a land-owning female citizen agrees to marry him. While he is initially thrilled to be saved from hanging, Moon quickly discovers his new bride only married him so she could put him to work mining gold.


I had heard of this movie before but, up until I came across it while I was home for lunch, had never taken the time to watch it and didn’t know much about it as a result of that. However, after watching the movie, I have to admit it was much more entertaining than I originally thought it would be.

I will start out by saying the main plot of the film is somewhat predictable. Even though Moon’s (Nicholson) wife (Steenburger) only married him to get a general laborer, it wasn’t difficult to figure out they would eventually start having feelings for each other. And, knowing Moon was part of an outlaw gang, it also wasn’t hard to guess they would come into play at some point in the movie. That being said, the film still proved to be better than expected.

I think a big part of the reason for this is Nicholson. He always seems to bring so much energy to his roles and this movie was no exception. He played Moon in a way that kept him funny and somewhat likable (even when he was being a jerk). But, at the same time, it was hard to trust him because he seemed shifty and a bit flighty and, without his talent, I’m not sure this film would have been as good. Of course, having a supporting cast that had so many current and future household names didn’t hurt either.

Another thing I found I liked about this movie were some of the little surprise twists. For example, I fully expected Steenburger’s character, Julia, to say she’ll marry Moon. However, I wasn’t expecting an elderly woman in the crowd (Georgia Schmidt) to beat her to the punch only to die a few seconds later. I think more movies need to do stuff like that because it keeps you, as the viewer, on your toes.

Final Opinion

It’s probably not as good as “Blazing Saddles” as far as comedy westerns go. But, it is still a very entertaining movie and one I would recommend watching at least once if you haven’t seen it before, even if it is just to watch Nicholson’s outstanding performance.

My Grade: B

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Updated: 06/11/2015, StevenHelmer
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