In Apache territory, a supply army column heads for the next fort, an ex-scout searches for the killer of his Indian wife, and a housewife abandons her husband in order to re-join her Apache lover's tribe.
In 1864, due to frequent Apache raids from Mexico into the U.S., a Union officer decides to illegally cross the border and destroy the Apache, using a mixed army of Union troops, Confederate POWs, civilian mercenaries, and scouts.
Outlaw Luther Sledge and sidekick Mallory pull into the town of 3 W for an overnight stay. While Sledge heads upstairs to spend the night with long-time prostitute friend Ria and a bottle of rye, his sidekick Mallory enters a game of poker downstairs in the saloon. Frustrated with loosing their money to Mallory, two of the other gamblers shoot him dead. Alerted to the downstairs gunshot noise, Sledge descends in the saloon, pretending he's drunk, catches the two gamblers unprepared and shoots them dead. An old man who witnessed the shooting offers to serve as Sledge's witness and swear it was self-defense in case of an inquiry. The next day, Sledge leaves town to meet with the rest of his gang in the hills. He notices the old man from the saloon following him on horseback some distance away. Sledge stops the old man and asks him why he is following behind. The old man explains that he is not following Sledge but rather a convoy escorting a gold shipment. Interested, Sledge takes him ... Written by
When Sledge cocks his revolver to kill the old man the chamber is clearly empty, which doesn't stop him from shooting though. See more »
You're feelin' mean, 'cause you know that gold can't be taken, and you've seen it yourself. And I tell ya', if you try to take it, you're gonna' wind up dead, or in prison. And that's the closest you'll ever get to it, through six inches of steel. I know: I been closer to that gold INside, than any man OUTside. And I tell ya', it can't be taken.
[Reflects for a moment]
Oh, yes it can! Yeeehaaw!
[Throws an empty whiskey bottle in the air and shoots it as it falls]
I knew it, I knew it all the time...
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I must confess to "umming and ahhing" a fair bit as to whether I really wanted to see this film. I've got nothing against James Garner, but he just didn't say "spaghetti western protagonist" to me. He doesn't have that certain "kill" look in his eye (think Eastwood, Nero, Gemma, Steffen et el). However, having always respected Howard Hughes' "Essentials" book, this was one of the few films that he had covered so far that I had not seen - and his recommendations had generally not disappointed. I am really glad that I did dispel these initial reservations, because Man Called Sledge makes great viewing from beginning to end.
Luther Sledge (Garner) is introduced to us as he enters a bar with one of his cohorts. Leaving his colleague to participate in an ill-fated card game, Sledge reunites himself with his lover Ria (Laura Antonelli). After a night of passion (lucky man!) he is woken by the sound of a gunshot. He returns to the bar to find his partner dead, and forced to defend himself against the killers. An old timer witness (John Marley) confirms that Sledge has merely defended himself.
Sledge and the old timer soon cross paths again, with the former assuming that he is being tracked due to the price on his head. However, it soon transpires that the old man has been spying on a delivery of gold. This gold is transported by a posse of armed guards and stored in a top security prison overnight. The old man recounts how he spent time in the jail, with his cell sitting side by side to the safe.
The lure of the gold is too much for Sledge, and he is soon devising a scheme to get his hands on the horde and allow him to settle down and lead an honest life with Ria. And what better way to get access to the treasure than to find ones self imprisoned in the jail......
A simple yet highly enjoyable idea for a story, with double crossing aplenty and a cracking soundtrack. If truth be told, I am still not completely sold on Messrs Garner and Weaver in the spaghetti genre, but the film itself more than makes up for such minor grumbles. There are some great scenes, with Sledge's wilful imprisonment (with some very shady characters forming his prison mates) a particular highlight.
Highlighly recommended, and grasping at a possible "must view" berth.
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