Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Wallace Beery's final film was the curiously endearing "black comedy" Big Jack. Set in 1820, a time when "science was a crime and crime not yet a science," the film casts Beery and Marjorie Main as outlaws Big Jack Horner and Flapjack Kate. The two bandits rescue visionary young doctor Alexander Meade (Richard Conte), who is about to be hanged for body-snatching. Meade is a tireless campaigner for modern surgical methods, thus he is forced to steal cadavers for his experiments. Big Jack is only interested in having the doc operate on his injured leg, but pretty soon he too is captivated by Meade's idealism. The film's many subplots all come to a head when Meade must prove his surgical theories by performing a delicate operation. Throughout, the film displays a cheerful disregard for the "dignity" of the deceased. One lengthy sequence finds an unbilled Andy Clyde buried alive after being declared legally dead; he laughs uproariously about the misunderstanding, then promptly drinks himself to death! The punchline to this scene occurs when Clyde's widow finds his remains evenly distributed in several mason jars, whereupon she remarks, "Oh, paw, now they've gone and bottled ya!" Vanessa Brown provides the requisite love interest.
body-snatcher, doctor, experiment, hanging, operation