Zachariah (John Rubinstein), a young man in the wild west nourish a dream of being a gunslinger. He gets a mail order gun and eventually kills a man in the local saloon. He and his friend Matthew (Don Johnson) then sets out to become gunfighters by joining The Crackers (Country Joe & The Fish), a rock band who are also robbers. Having quickly outgrown The Crackers and having bigger plans, Zachariah and Matthew set out to find new challenges. Before long, they part company and a rivalry grows between them…

“Zachariah”(1971) is loosely based on Hermann Hesse’s novel “Siddhartha”, surrealistically adapted as a musical Western by Joe Massot and the members of the Firesign Theatre comedy troupe. The band Country Joe and the Fish perform as an inept gang of robbers (more adept as musicians) called “the Crackers,” who are always “looking for people who like to draw.” In the same vein, Zachariah boasts: “I can think, I can wait, and I’m fast on the draw.” This is a parody of Siddhartha’s famous line: “I can think, I can wait, I can fast.” Underneath the gunplay, the jokes, and the music, an important message is delivered: a life of pacifism, quiet contemplation, male bonding and vegetarianism is preferable to a life of violence. This film is defined as being part of the Acid Western genre. More precisely, in its own publicity releases, it was called, “The first electric western.” This was, in no small part, because this film featured several appearances and music supplied by successful rock bands from the era, including The James Gang and Country Joe and the Fish. Fiddler Doug Kershaw has a musical cameo that advances the plot of the film. The movie also features former John Coltrane sideman Elvin Jones as a gunslinging drummer named “Job Cain.” Cream’s drummer Ginger Baker was originally going to play the part of Zachariah. The Minneapolis group White Lightnin’ (an off-shoot of the band The Litter) performs their rock and roll version of the William Tell Overture on the soundtrack. The New York Rock and Roll Ensemble perform Grave Digger on the soundtrack. The soundtrack features songs by the James Gang, Joe Walsh, and Country Joe and the Fish. “Laguna Salada” and “Country Fever”, performed in the film by the James Gang, later reappeared as bonus tracks on the 2000 re-release of The James Gang Greatest Hits. This is yet another movie that has been floated around in my head for a long time and finally I have seen it. There´s a slight resemblance to The Who´s rock opera “Tommy” and I do love the crossing of modern rock n roll and the western storyline. Love the music scenes with particularly The James Gang. Yes, the acting is dodgy and the script is partly dodgy but there´s some sort of psychedelic Woodstock charm to it. “Zachariah” stands out for sure and it carries a cult status sign all over it. (3 out of 5)

Zachariah poster