Another comedy film starring Don Knotts in a supporting role was the 1978’s Disney comedy-Western drama film, Hot Lead and Cold Feet. Don plays in the film as Sheriff Denver Kid, another one of his many films involving western themes and roles as either a sheriff or assisting a sheriff, Don did plenty of those in the ‘60s and ‘70s as they were all the rage. The film revolves around a cowman named Jasper Bloodshy who fakes the death of one of his twin sons to write the will of fortune for his other son.
The sons then find out about the plot and work to secure the inheritance for themselves while the father tries to inherit the town for himself. The film was later released on DVD in July 6th, 2004, and received 6.2 out of 10 stars on IMDB according to over 1,000 user reviews.
The Apple Dumpling Gang
One of Don Knotts' later live-action roles was a return to his roots from The Shakiest Gun in the West, in the form of a 1975 comedy western film called The Apple Dumpling Gang, a Disney film based on the novel of the same name by Jack Bickham. Don took up the role of Theodore Ogilvie, one of the three main characters in the film. The other two leads were played by Bill Bixby as Russell Donovan and Susan Clark who in the role of Magnolia Dusty Clydesdale. The basic plot of the film is about a gambler named Russell Donovan who gets duped into taking care of a bunch of orphans who happened to strike gold during the California Gold Rush.
The film was an absolute hit in the box office and made over $13 million in theatrical rentals, which is over $600 million in today's money when adjusted for inflation. It received generally mixed reviews, praising it for its humor but criticizing it for the banality of the work. The film was successful enough to warrant a 1979 sequel called The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again, which featured the comedy duo of Tim Conway and Don Knotts reprising their popular roles as Amos and Theodore.
In 1976, Don Knotts played in a family comedy film called No Deposit, No Return, where he took the role of Bert Delaney, the hopelessly dumb sidekick of Duke, an expert safecracker. The two are a duo of inept petty criminals who never manage to actually steal anything. The film was based on various short stories by O. Henry, an American short story writer who's known for writing short stories with surprising endings.
This was another one of Knott’s less than favorable films, as it was criticized for having a "brainless plot" and an uncomfortably-long running time. The film was widely panned by reviewers and didn't experience any commercial success. Regardless, it didn't affect Don Knotts career in the least, as he went on to appear in Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo (1977), and Hot Lead and Cold Feet (1978) in the two subsequent years after the release of the film.
The Apple Dumpling Take 2
The Apple Dumpling Gang starring Don Knott, Bill Bixby, and Susan Clark received a well-deserved sequel, as it was one of Don's highest-grossing films with a revenue of over $13.5 million, which was quite a lot of money back in the '70s. The sequel, which was titled The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again, starred the funny duo of Tim Conway and Don Knotts as they reprised their respective roles of Amos and Theodore. This one did even better at the box office and grossed over $20 million. It received generally favorable reviews and was considered a funny movie with great moments.
This was Don Knotts's last western film for a long time and was followed by two more slapstick comedies with Tim Conway, the boxing comedy The Prize Fighter (1979), and the mystery-comedy The Private Eyes (1980). From there he moved back to TV shows for a few years in his second most identifiable role as Ralph Furley on Three's Company. Overall the fans were pleased with this sequel, as the actors did a good job sticking to what made the first film work so well.
The Prize Fighter
Don Knotts' next hilarious film was his 1979 comedy The Prize Fighter, starring Tim Conway as an underdog boxer named Bags and Don Knotts as his trainer, Shake. In the film, Bags is approached by a mobster who tries to get him to take part in a series of fixed boxing matches for the purpose of getting his hands on an old boxing gym.
Don and Tim chose to focus this time on a boxing film because these were becoming more famous in the '70s and '80s due to the success of the Rocky films. The movie was very successful in the box office and made over $6 million during its initial release, making it one of the most financially successful films ever released by New World Pictures at the time. This was against a budget of $2 million, making it very profitable as-well.