But then again, cheap laughs played their part in deconstructing the Western, too. When the Three Stooges, Abbott and Costello, the Marx Brothers, and Martin and Lewis ran low on ideas, they jumped in the saddle. About the most memorable thing in "Go West," one of the Marx Brothers' worst films, is the minor controversy sparked by Groucho's character's name, "S. Quentin Quale," a play on the term, "San Quentin quail," slang for "jail bait."
Along with paving the way for the likes of Billy Crystal in "City Slickers" and Mel Brooks' "Blazing Saddles," these comedies opened the door to endless variations on old themes. By the mid-1960s, "Billy the Kid vs. Dracula" was running as a drive-in double feature with "Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter" -- and let's just say they weren't fixed up on eHarmony.com.
"I haven't met a man yet that a bullet couldn't stop," says Billy, who quickly learns his adversary isn't a man, although he once was, many centuries ago. John Carradine would later regard his turn as the rootin' tootin', blood suckin' count as the worst role in his career, even worse than his role in "Satan's Cheerleaders."
By the end of the decade, drugged-out, crazy, psychedelic Westerns came into vogue. Andy Warhol chimed in with "Lonesome Cowboys" -- and how they cured their prairie blues I can only leave to your imagination.
Another underground classic, Alejandro Jodorowsky's "El Topo," was too violent, too surreal and too controversial for widespread release, even after John Lennon began championing the film. Lennon's one-time manager Allen Klein even stepped in to strike a distribution deal.
"El Topo" did break ground, however, by getting theaters to hold special after-hour viewings. Thus, "midnight madness" screening of offbeat films became a tradition and, within a few years, it would turn the likes of "Pink Flamingos" and "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" into cult classics.
We can also thank the popularity of the offbeat Western for giving "South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone a start in show business. Like all kids at the University of Colorado at Boulder, they had heard the tale of Alferd Packer -- infamous as the first American tried on charges of cannibalism.
In the rugged winter of 1873, Packer was trapped in Colorado's San Juan Mountains, along with five other prospectors. He emerged 65 days later looking suspiciously plump, although he denied all charges of wrongdoing and claimed that he killed only one victim, and that was in self-defense.
As legend has it, at the sentencing, the presiding judge told Packer, "There were nine Democrats in Hinsdale County, and you ate five of them," before sending him off to die.
While every University of Colorado student knows the story well, only the likes of Parker and Stone would think of turning it into their first film, "Cannibal: The Musical," with a movie poster that promised "All Singing! All Dancing! All Flesh Eating!"
"Brokeback" might not be everybody's idea of a wholesome Western, but perhaps we can all agree that cannibalism set to music is the ultimate in bad taste.
Buck Wolf is entertainment producer at ABCNEWS.com. "The Wolf Files" is published Tuesdays.