|Index||4 reviews in total|
Veteran MGM B director Roy Rowland ended his career with three cheap
westerns co-produced with MGM and shot in Spain. In some ways this
looks like one of the gritty westerns that were being turned out by
Italy, but while the body count is adequate, Rowland was too steeped in
the MGM mystique -- this movie is too visually polite, the music score
a tad too lush and the actors too clean to compare with Sergio Leone's
'Man With No Name', so the result is nothing particular: too pretty for
grit, too gritty for a traditional B and even a script co-written by
Borden Chase can't do much.
The actors try to do something with their performances, particularly Alex Nicol, but his character lacks enough definition to be particularly interesting. Director Rowland's son, Steve has a featured role as 'The Kid'. One wonders how he felt about that during the shoot.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Lanky "Man from Laramie" actor Alex Nicol could play obnoxious
dastards, and he amounts to one in "Bugles in the Afternoon" director
Roy Rowland's European western "Gunfighters of the Casa Grande," with
Jorge Mistral, Dick Bentley, Steve Rowland, Phil Posner, and Diana
Lorys. The sprawling landscape is sun-scorched; the widescreen
photography is epic; and armed heroes and villains clash in gunfights
throughout this polished-looking, MGM production that features a
largely foreign cast of actors and actresses. Although he receives top
billing over Jorge Mistral, Alex Nicol qualifies in the long run as a
truly treacherous villain. Aside from Nicol, the biggest name as far as
Spaghetti western fans will know is gimlet-eyed Aldo Sambrell of
"Navajo Joe" who plays the bandit chieftain Rojo. Despite its European
setting and cast, "Gunfighters of the Casa Grande" shares more in
common with the sagebrushers that Rowland made when he was helming
horse operas in Hollywood. This horse opera contains more than enough
action, and the performances are okay.
The action unfolds as a posse gallops in hot pursuit after Joe Daylight (Alex Nicol of "The Savage Guns") during the introductory credits. Rowland adds a prologue to this scene: "After the War Between the States, when the eastern part of the United States was beef starved and inflated prices were paid at northern railroad buying points, a border raider evolved a plan that would lead to the greatest stolen cattle herd and payoff in the history of the West." This sounds a lot like "Red River" without a heroic cattleman. Daylight manages to elude the posse by plunging his horse across the border out of their jurisdiction. One deputy wants to finish off Daylight with a rifle bullet, but the Sheriff (Jim Gillen) reminds Zeb (Mike Ekiss) that he cannot shoot at Daylight once he has crossed the Rio Grande. "I'm getting darned tired of being stopped at the Rio Grande," the frustrated deputy grumbles to the sheriff as he puts up his Winchester. As it turns out, Daylight has just dug up a set of saddle bags with loot and is off to rendezvous with his gang. He had let the loot cool off for three months before he recovered it. Daylight surprises his gang of greedy outlaws on the south side of the border when he announces that he has bought a hacienda named the Casa Grande. He plans to launch a "Red River" type cattle drive with the other ranchers. No sooner than Daylight and his gunmen cross onto the lands of hacienda owner Don Ariola do they take the high ground and shoot it out with Ariola's gun-toting vaqueros. They drive them off and finish their ride to the Casa Grande. The newest member of Daylight's gang is a Mexican named Viajero (Jorge Mistrial of "Boy on a Dolphin") who is ironically dressed from head to toe in black but is the least untrustworthy of the bunch. After he takes over control the Casa Grande, Daylight changes his name so that he will sound like a respectable land owner. Nevertheless, it is all a ruse by the duplicitious Daylight. Daylight doesn't take the responsibilities of being a rancher as seriously as Viajero suggests that he must.
Meantime, the evil Bandit Chieftain Rojo (Aldo Sambrell) menaces the ranchers until Daylight shows up. He manages to unify the Mexican ranchers against Rojo's bandit army of 200 guns. One by one, members of Daylight's outlaw gang get whittled down, until even Daylight dies after he gun downs Doc (Dick Bentley of "The Sundowners") following the big showdown against Rojo's men. The grand finale finds the unified landowners and Daylight and company blasting away at Rojo's pistoleros. The villains are caught out in the open and the heroes detonate buried bundles of dynamite that explode and kill the bandits. Co-lensers José F. Aguayo and Manuel Merino give this sagebrusher a larger-than-life look, and most of the action occurs on actual locations rather than cramped studio backlots. For the record, veteran western scenarist Borden Chase of "Red River" penned the story and screenplay with his wife Patricia Chase. "Shalako's" Clarke Reynolds contributed to the script, too. Mind you, Chase inked his share of memorable westerns, including "Bend of the River," "Backtrack," "Backlash," "Winchester '73," "Night Passage," "The Far County," "Rails into Laramie," "Man Without a Star," and "Ride A Crooked Trail." Chase has lifted a scene from a Gary Cooper & Burt Lancaster western "Vera Cruz" where the Americans display their marksmanship for the benefit of the Mexicans. Indeed, Alex Nicol's character shares something in common with the Burt Lancaster character from "Vera Cruz" when he compliments Viajero about his ethics. Clocking in at 92 lean minutes, "Gunfighters of the Casa Grande" doesn't wear out its welcome. Gunfights occur periodically throughout this western. Altogether, despite an interesting plot, this oater is pretty routine and Roy Rowland doesn't give it as much zip as it required.
This must go down as the worst western I have seen. The film lacks a
coherent plot, in general the acting and dialogue are terrible, the
score is over the top and the colour of the film is way too bright.
The lead actor Alex Nichol- laughably named Joe Daylight in this- puts in a performance that must go down as one of the worst in memory from a leading man. Smug looking and lacking one iota of screen presence or talent, it is excruciating to watch. The only highlights in the acting stakes come from Jorge Mistral as the Traveler who seems the only male actor in this film to have any semblance of ability.
The plot is almost unintelligible- nothing much seems to happen and from half an hour in it became an ordeal just to get to the end. Scene after scene is amateurish beyond belief including one laughable scene in which Diana Lorys is whipped 5 times with a belt but has no marks. Yes this is a low budget film but there is no excuse for such a shoddy effort.
Watch this film and marvel at just how bad it is.
Over the years I've watched hundreds of Westerns--both B movies and
so-called A movies--and this has to be one of the worst I've ever seen.
The costumes were flagrantly ill-considered, if not totally
inappropriate to the individual actors, i.e. hats that seemed only
reminiscently western or unsuitable to the individual actor; a
hackneyed and sometimes non-existent plot; mostly no-name actors with
virtually no talent; dialogue that belonged in a cartoon; and character
names that bespoke of some foreign writer unfamiliar with the concept
of exaggeration...not to mention unfamiliar with viewer etiquette, i.e.
how not to insult the palette and intelligence of movie fans.
I can think of no redeeming grace for this film except the possibility of its inclusion in a list of the worst movie Westerns of all time.
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