Over the movie's theme song we see
two wagons appear at the horizon.
The first one is a yellow closed wagon wich reads "Dr. Ludwig Long's Magic Elixir"
on the sides. Johnny Banner (Roy Orbison) sits on the box, playing his guitar and
singing the opening song (The Fastest Guitar Alive) while next to him Steve Menlo
(Sammy Jackson) is doing the actual driving. Attached to theirs is a half-open
wagon with a group of dancing girls on board, called the "Chestnut Sisters".
Sue (Joan Freeman) and Flo (Maggie Pierce) are in this second wagon and they're
engaged in laundry and sewing. Sue is supposedly Johnny's girlfriend (though they
fight a lot) and Flo is Steve's girlfriend.
Emily, Margie, Tanya and Carmen (Wilda Taylor, Victoria Carroll, Maria Korda, and
Poupee Gamin), all dancing girls, round out the population of the second wagon.
This may look as an ordinary travelling road-show, but in fact they're all undercover
Confederate spies. They're on their way to San Francisco, where they plan to steal $150,000 in Yankee gold to bolster the nearly-depleted coffers of the South.
But before we get there, we have to make a little sidetrip..
There's a small Indian tribe nearby,
engaged in getting a warpaint. The chief (Ben
Lessy)is spreading paint on an animal skin. He then lies on the skin and orders his
second in command (Iron Eyes Cody) to roll him up in the skin. Once the Chief is
unrolled, he is covered in interesting swatches of color. The tribe marvels at this
("Is best warpaint job I ever seen!"), and the Chief informs them, "Is Neo-Impressionist School! Someday, when I am finished painting on me, I will paint on canvas!" Iron
Eyes states, "Right now, you look good enough to hang in museum!",
Our heroes' mini-wagon train is spotted, and the Indians mount up - the Chief, rather
short in stature, is carried and mounted facing the horse's rear.
After he is turned the right way,
the Indians ride off, as we hear one ask; "We give
'm big scare, no hurt, right Chief?"The tribe attacks, and rouses the ire of Sue as
an arrow transfixes her good pair of knickers that was hung out to dry between
the wagons. It is up to Johnny to save the day and he presses a switch on his
guitar and a rifle barrel extends from the body of the instrument.
(roll cursor over image)
Johnny aimes the weapon and fires,
snapping the war spear of the Chief in half,
and causing the whole "big scare" to be called off.
In San Francisco, the plot begins
to slowly unfold before us. The caravan is
parked near a fancy saloon, and Steve hawks "Dr. Ludwig Long's Magic Elixir"
while the girls dance in the saloon's floor show. Then enters the local Marshall
(John Doucette), who is looking for the daughter of the commander of the local
Union garrison, Colonel Bascomb. The Marshall understands that she has been
taking "guitar lessons" from Johnny, but seems to mean something far more
Steve starts a small riot in front of the medicine wagon to cover his slinking off
to the saloon, where he warns the girls and the owner of the saloon, Charlie
(Lyle Bettger), who's also an Confederate operative, that the Marshall is on the
prowl for Johnny. Sue is miffed at this news - particularly so when she finds
Johnny and the Colonel's daughter necking behind the changing screen in her
dressing room. The daughter splits, but Johnny has already found out that the
gold is arriving at 11:15 that night. His wiles, however, turn out to be particularly
useless in deflecting the wrath of Sue.
The spies' somewhat complex plan
goes into effect, even after the Marshall finds
Flo, Sue, Johnny, Steve and Charlie conspiring in one of the girls' dressing room.
To provide an alibi, Johnny starts the floor show that night playing his guitar and
singing a song called "Pistolero".
After that he and Steve sneak out
and drive the
wagon to a nearby office building
while Johnny, in the back, dons a disguise.
Apparently, our Southern spies have
been in town for a couple of months, as
Johnny in disguise has rented an office in this building, next to the room where
the Yankee gold will be sequestered. After knocking out the night watchman,
Johnny sets a dynamite charge in a hole that has been surreptitiously knocked in
the connecting wall, and blows the wall just after the larger portion of the gold's
military escort leaves. Steve rushes into the room and punches out the one guy
who wasn't knocked out by the blast
Johnny staggers through the hole
blown in the wall, moaning, "I'm blinded!
I'm blinded!" Steve turns him around, only to discover that Johnny's fake beard
has been displaced to up around his eyes.
Steve pulls down the offending hairpiece,
as Johnny says, "Thanks. I thought things
were looking kinda hairy."
Meanwhile, back at the saloon, the
Marshall is making Charlie nervous by continually asking when
that new feller is going to sing another song. Charlie continues
him with free liquor, but Charlie should really lay off the whiskey himself, 'cause it
looks like he's getting an ulcer.
With the gold's escort safely bound
and gagged, Johnny and Steve lower the two strongboxes of gold
into the wagon (through a special trapdoor in its roof) and
Johnny conceals them in a secret panel while Steve drives back to the saloon,
just in time for Johnny to sing his closing number, "Good Time Party".
To further the alibi, Johnny announces
that he and Sue have gotten married and will
be leaving that night for their honeymoon. Oh, and the other girls are coming with
them, 'cause they're going into business. This ploy, of course, enrages Sue beyond.
Even such a carefully crafted and
plausible alibi does not totally fool the Marshall,
who keeps tabs on the medicine show via telegraph, as they begin winding their way towards El Paso and the Confederate Army (one presumes both wagonloads are
whistling tunelessly so as to appear nonchalant).
They run into the Indian tribe again,
and this time the Chief has brought his own
guitar, and is thoroughly mystified as to why it is not shooting people. Johnny's
guitar shoots the neck off this bogus banjo and the tribe retreats.
Sue gets revenge
for her earlier punctured panties by the thoroughly female device
of a garter loaded with jars of cold cream, a deadly improvised slingshot.
Meanwhile Marshall Max Cooper figures that the crew
must be passing through
Prescott, Arizona (Prescott seems to be the Gateway to El Paso), and alerts the
local law, SheriffJoe (Douglas Kennedy) and Deputy Rink (Ben Cooper) before
himself heading out for points east.
In the wilderness Johnny and Sue
have their romantic moments and Sue decides
that she will actually marry Johnny.
Steve reflects that the South is
almost bankrupt, and it'll be years before a man
could earn enough money to support himself and a wife, but Flo says that
The next day, Johnny fishes and sings
the song "River" while the women bathe
with their ownmade shower. Deputy Rink comes by and leeringly looks into
the shower and then grabs Flo, saying that "I always had a thing for clean girls".
Johnny arrives and uses his guitar to shoot the the deputy's hat off, and once the
lecherous lawman still attempts to ventilate Johnny, it's Steve's turn to knock him
out. Rink swears vengeance and rides away, without his gun and dignity.
The Confederates edge cautiously
into Prescott, only to find the town in the midst
of a celebration. The South has surrendered and The Civil War is over! Which only
causes more problems for our heroes, as they are now in possession of $150,000
in gold and no idea what to do with it.
The local saloon owner, Stella (Patricia
Donohue) offers them a job in her floor
show, and the troupe accepts, over Steve's misgivings, as he'd like to leave town
as soon as possible, but he eventually allows that this will give them time to ponder
their next move. What they don't know is that the treacherous Charlie has made it
to Prescott ahead of them, and is plotting with Stella to steal the gold.
That night, Johnny starts the show
banging on a tom-tom and
while the four dancing girls perform a dance.
After the song he checks on the wagon,
only to discover that Charlie has already
attempted to break into it. Luckily, Steve was on guard duty and knocked out the unsuspecting former comrade. Figuring that "the vultures are starting to circle,"
Steve and Johnny decide to leave that night. Johnny alerts the girls to this plan
of action by taking the stage and singing a song called "Rollin' On"
The girls sense that there's something wrong and get backstage. Johnny returns
to the wagon only to find that Steve has also had to knock out Deputy Rink, and
then Sheriff Joe. Tying all these scalawags up, the two men hotfoot it to the saloon; unfortunately, Stella has gotten tired of pacing and gone to the stables to see what
was taking Charlie so long.
She unties all the bad guys and they strike a deal to stop the wagon.
Things look bad, as our heroes are
stopped by a four men and Stella, carrying a rifle.
Just then, who else should intervene but the Indian Tribe? They offer to run interference
in exchange for the "magic guitar". Steve quickly agrees (over Johnny's protests),
and seeing that the Indians have a guitar that shoots bullets, the superstitious
bad guys promptly run off.
Steve and Johnny take advantage of
this respite to leave town, but first they stop
at the hotel to pick up the girl's things. Mainly, however, this allows the newly arrived Marshall Max Cooper to hide in the shadows and overhear their plan to return to
San Francisco and surrender the gold and themselves to the Army. The Marshall
steps into the light, holstering his gun and admitting he's delighted that they turned
out to be okay folks after all.
He will escort them back to Frisco,
as they happen to be "the last part of
the Confederate Army to surrender." And finally Johnny sings "The Fastest
Guitar Alive" again.