Spaghetti Westerns Disc 3

The Man from Nowhere (aka Arizona Colt, orig. Il pistolero de Arizona), 1966, color. Michele Lupo (dir.), Giuliano Gemma, Fernando Sancho, Roberto Camardiel. 1:58 [1:53].

We open on an adobe prison (or “prision”), with a handful of guards and a drunken old coot riding up with a wooden whiskey flask around his neck. The guards engage him in idle chatter while he lights a fuse on the flask, tosses it at them and—well, boom. Then this huge band of gun-crazy outlaws rides up, shoots all the guards (and loses a few of their own) and busts all the prisoners out (except that one cool dude, Arizona Colt breaks out on his own).

The catch: The prisoners have been broken out to build the ranks of the bandit gang—and your choice is to join them (with a brand on your arm) or get shot down immediately. (We learn this via a grumpy guy who was in jail for drunkenness and due to be released the next day. Bye, grumpy old guy.) Colt says he needs time to think about it—and he’s as good a shot as the maniacal, sadistic, superhuman-shooting gang leader, so he manages to ride away.

That’s just the start. There’s bank robbery in Blackston Hill (yes, spelled that way), killing a young woman because she recognizes the brand, lots of killing for the fun of it, not just to get a job done, the drunk seeking redemption…and a long, slow scene near the end between Colt and the maniac that should be more exciting than it is.

I dunno. On one hand, this is not only widescreen, it’s in stereo (or at least the awful theme song at the start and finish is in stereo), although the picture’s also soft, presumably from overcompression. And it’s a long’un, almost two hours (but missing five minutes). On the other, the maniac and his gang are so evil that they go beyond stereotypical to repulsive in an annoying way. We never do learn why Colt (who’s a bounty hunter) was in jail; neither did I much care. In the end, while it’s not incoherent, I found it pointless and dispiriting. Maybe $0.75.

Minnesota Clay (orig. L’homme du Minnesota, or “The Man of Minnesota”), 1965, color. Sergio Corbucci (dir.), Cameron Mitchell, Georges Riviere, Ethel Rojo, Diana Martin, Antonio Roso, Fernando Sancho. 1:30 [1:25].

The setup: A prison labor camp in the old West. Thanks to a brawl of sorts, Minnesota Clay (Mitchell) escapes (using a doctor—who’s already informed him that his eyes are bad and one good blow would blind him—as a hostage). Goes back home, where one gang (run by the bad guy whose testimony should have acquitted Clay) has taken over the town from another Mexican gang, now holed up nearby (the new gang was invited into town, and the bad guy’s the sheriff).

Clay is the Best Shot in the World. He also has family secrets nearby. And, by the time we get to the long, slow-moving climax, he’s essentially blind. But still the Best Shot in the World with superhuman reflexes.

I’m not sure what to make of this. The print’s unusually good, widescreen and high quality with great scenery, but with just enough missing frames to mess up the soundtrack (never the visuals) at times. As these things go, the innocent body count is on the low side. The last 20 minutes are slow and somewhat suspenseful, but the ending’s—well, it’s not happy. Balancing good and bad, I come up with $1.25.

White Comanche, 1968, color (original title Comanche blanco). José Briz Méndez (dir.), Joseph Cotton, William Shatner (dual role), Rosanna Yanni. 1:33.

Twin brothers, half-Comanche, half-white, shunned by both—but one of them has convinced a bunch of Comanche he’s their savior, takes too much peyote, and goes around slaughtering white devils. His twin (Johnny Moon), trying to live as a white, keeps getting in trouble (e.g., nearly hanged) because you can only distinguish him from White Comanche (Notah) by the color of their eyes. Not that Johnny’s not pretty good at killing people also (he’s a crack shot, and this isn’t one of those westerns where everything’s settled with fistfights) but he always seems to have a reason.

Johnny tells Notah this must be settled and to come to Rio Honda within four days. During that period, there’s a range war in Rio Honda between two factions, with Johnny helping the sheriff maintain some semblance of order. Eventually, of course, the showdown happens. In the meantime, there’s much thoughtful standing around and an odd love subplot (involving a woman who first thinks Johnny is the evil half-Comanche who raped her, but eventually sees the eye-color difference and falls for him).

Good color, acceptable production values, a good job by Joseph Cotton as the sheriff—but the real selling point here is William Shatner as an arrogant sexist tinhorn ruler who doesn’t happen to be on a starship (and is always half-dressed, and has the body for it). And, for good measure, his twin brother. It’s a curiosity, but a watchable curiosity thanks to Shatner. (Note: This review is from October 2008, when I saw the same movie—and, apparently, the same print—in the 50 Movie Western Classics set.) $1.25.

China 9, Liberty 37, color. Monte Hellman and Tony Brandt (dirs.), Warren Oates, Fabio Testi, Jenny Agutter, Sam Peckinpah. Original title Amore, piombo e furore. 1:38 [1:32].

Again, this movie was also in the 50 Movie Western Classics set—and, although the picture and timing are identical, there’s one difference. The original had good monophonic sound. This version has stereo sound—but it’s muffled and hard to understand. The review’s slightly modified from October 2008.

Good production values, good background music, a fair amount of moral ambiguity, some odd accents from some of the actors, and in this case an unhurried plot marked by two or three big gun battles. A condemned gunfighter Clayton Drumm (Testi), about to be hanged in China (a tiny little Western town, 46 miles from Liberty), is reprieved so that he can shoot down Matthew Sebanek (Oates), a rancher, on behalf of the railroad that wants Matthew’s land. Only Clayton doesn’t do it, meets Matthew’s whole clan (three brothers)—and when he leaves, Matthew’s wife Catherine (Agutter) (who knifes Matthew in self-defense and mistakenly thinks she killed him) catches up with him. This is all slow moving: lots of talk and essentially no action.

Matthew and brothers try to gun down Clayton (and fail), and Matthew takes back his wife—but later, the railroad stooges are trying to get rid of both Clayton and Matthew, resulting in a 2.5-way gun battle that’s interesting and a little above the usual gunplay. Not to provide spoilers, but Clayton and Matthew (and Matthew’s wife) all wind up alive, with a fair number of corpses around. In the middle, there are nice little side-plots, including Sam Peckinpah as a dime novelist trying to buy Clayton Drumm’s story—or, rather, lies—to sell to the folks back east, and a non-animal circus (acrobats, little people) whose head wants to hire Drumm as a sharpshooter/showman.

If you can get past Clayton’s accent (explained by dialogue about him coming over from Europe as a child) and the curious acting of the bride, it’s a decent flick if you like a slow, sometimes languid, fairly naturalistic style—which I do. A good flick, damaged by the muffled soundtrack, but still $1.25.

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