'The Three Amigos' Ride Again!

By
Orion Pictures
It's been 25 years since The Three Amigos! rode into theaters and cracked up audiences with their outrageously ornate uniforms and charmingly dense sensibilities. Now, the Amigos are back -- on Blu-ray, at least -- and director John Landis tells ET, "It was a very relaxed and fun shoot because [Steve Martin, Chevy Chase and Martin Short] kept each other in place."
Released in 1986, The Three Amigos! starred Martin, Chase and Short as a trio of out-of-work silent movie actors who are recruited to perform their signature roles in a poor Mexican village, unaware that they have been roped into a real, life-or-death situation. The pitch is basically a comedic take on The Magnificent Seven with clueless, singing cowboys.
"It's clearly a parody of westerns, but it's also an homage. I'm a big western fan, and we were trying to make it look like a Technicolor Hollywood western," explains the director, who as a young man worked as a stuntman on spaghetti westerns, including Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West: "I got very good at falling off horses."
As for the riding skills of the Amigos, Landis laughs, "They were hopeless, and that's an accomplishment of mine; in the movie you think, 'Boy, they can ride!' They weren't big fans of the horses." On the upside, he offers, "Marty and Steve both became pretty good with those six-guns."
The Three Amigos! Blu-ray contains an all-new transfer overseen by Landis, featuring over 20 minutes of never-before-seen footage. The filmmaker recalls that the late comedian Sam Kinison had a role in the movie as a wild cannibal mountain man, but his scene was dropped from the final cut -- and the footage has sadly been lost.
"The movie was too long, and so unfortunately Sam Kinison's [scene was lifted]. It was terribly funny," says the director, who explains that the negative trims were lost when the Amigos! print was bought from the bankrupt Orion Pictures. "There's about another 15 minutes that's just gone."
From Animal House and The Blues Brothers to Trading Places and Coming to America, Landis' remarkable career has been associated primarily with comedies, but he tells ET that lately he's been called a "master of horror."
"I'm doing a little monster movie in Paris next year," says the helmer of An American Werewolf in London, Innocent Blood and, of course, Michael Jackson's legendary Thriller video. Prodded to reveal a little more about the project, Landis replies gamely, "I don't agree with the conventional wisdom about marketing. I think it's better when people know nothing, and then suddenly there's the movie."
Just to drive the point home, Landis also has a book out now called Monsters in the Movies, chronicling 100 years of cinematic nightmares, from B-movie bogeymen to outer space oddities and big-budget terrors. "It would make a perfect Christmas present," he jokes.
And as to where The Three Amigos! ranks in the annals of comedy history, Landis says philosophically, "When people talk about their favorite movies, so much of it is how old they were and where they were when they saw it; [it's about] who you are when you see the picture."