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Two outlaws compete with each other over a treasure map that will lead them to buried gold while one of them is in league with a sadistic priest-turned-crime lord, while a young Native American girl helps both outlaws and plays both sides against each other. Written by
Roy Colt And Winchester Jack (Mario Bava, 1970) **
While this comic Spaghetti Western was nowhere near as bad as its low reputation amidst the director’s canon would seem to suggest, it can’t possibly hold a candle to Sergio Leone’s classic THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY (1966) – and it would be puerile for anyone to attempt comparisons of this sort!
It’s the last of Bava’s three such genre efforts but, actually, the first I’ve watched; I used to think that he was constrained within the number of relatively low-brow peplums he made, but even those showed greater commitment – and vigor during the action sequences. Here we get plenty of brawling and shooting, to be sure, but the handling throughout is decidedly sloppy…as if Bava, rather than be inspired by these traditionally ‘big’ moments, wanted to get such genre requirements out of the way!
That said, despite utilizing a wide variety of locations in its plot about two rival outlaw gangs’ quest for gold, these don’t seem to have stimulated the director’s trademark compositional skills; even worse, the comedy element comes across as heavy-handed most of the time, resulting in a flat and drawn-out film (even if it runs for a mere 85 minutes)!
Brett Halsey (from Bava’s FOUR TIMES THAT NIGHT ) and Charles Southwood don’t exactly generate fireworks in the title roles and, in fact, the best in the cast are Marilu' Tolo as Winchester’s spirited (and shrewd) Indian girl and Teodoro Corra' as The Reverend, the atypically buffoonish baddie – a Russian émigré who still can’t get over the cold of his native land. Isa Miranda (who would work again with Bava when he treaded more familiar ground in BAY OF BLOOD ) appears as the brothel Madame in what is perhaps the most slapsticky and forced set-piece in the entire film.
Hardly memorable in itself, there are still a few mild highlights in this reasonably agreeable, innocuous yet patchy genre offering: the spastic gunman at the beginning, the obviously fake snake which menaces Winchester (reminiscent of the one in Fritz Lang’s THE Indian TOMB ), the exploding villain, and the final shot with the heroes’ feet up in the air as they engage in yet another fisticuff. Piero Umiliani’s lively score certainly contributes to the film’s characteristically light touch.
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