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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Now HERE is an odd egg -- a Spaghetti Western filmed in Isreal, with
actual acting by Lee Van Cleef (who is usually relegated to the
traditional Lee Van Cleef role of the aged wizened gunslinger). GOD'S
GUN is a fascinatingly bad film: The production standards of a classic
STAR TREK episode, surprisingly lurid & exploitational content, some
truly brutal and graphic violence, and Leif Garrett.
But I liked the movie before being even ten minutes into it: It is depraved, amoral, uses the "religious" angle as a plot device, and raises interesting questions about what exactly qualifies a film as a "Spaghetti Western"? For my money the answer comes down to one of style & attitude. Spaghetti Westerns are more like pastiches of moments, some better than others & many culled from other sources, namely other Spaghetti Westerns. It is a re-heatable genre, and GOD'S GUN is a nice dish of leftovers that tastes better on the second day -- It took a couple to realize the film was getting under my skin, that it was interesting, that I hadn't quite seen anything like it before. It is a later period revisionist Euro Western, celebrating the conventions of the genre by presenting them on their sides, upside down or backwards. Quite literally in the form of Lee Van Cleef's performance -- Here is one of the true Gunslingers of the genre, not only putting down his gun & putting on a friar's collar to avenge his brother's murder, but doing so in a way that would be right at home in a Giallo murder mystery.
And then there is the exploitation angle: Up until the impact of Spaghetti's and Peckinpah was felt (1969/1970), Amercian made westerns tended to be bloodless, clean, throw away fun that you could plop 10 to 14 year old boys in front of for a rainy afternoon of riding herd with Doc & Hoppy. Anyone who plops their 12 year old kid down in front of GOD'S GUN deserves a swift kick in the pants: This is a western for GROWN UPS, but not in the arty & intoxicating way that FISTFUL OF DOLLARS was. The effect is more of a freak show, depicting the lurid possibilities of a western in their R-Rated glory as they had never been seen before, complete with an extended gang rape/mass mayhem scene that, once you think about it, is probably more accurate of depicting how these depraved, sex crazed & woman starved animals would behave when presented with a dozen scrumptious, freshly scrubbed saloon girls with names like "Chesty". If anything the cowboys shown raising all that hell aren't grubby & scummy enough. The same can be said for the production design: Everything looks to have been freshly built or decorated for the movie, right down to the painted signs in the town -- They are too damn neat, and look like the handiwork of a production designer rather than some hand-hewn piece of frontier artifice.
Yet in some ways this film shows a remarkable amount of self-awareness: The supporting extras were just actors & actresses, and the director + camera allows them to be so. The only people in the film who "act" are Richard Boone, Sybill Danning and Lee Van Cleef -- Everyone else is an archetype, including Jack Palance's Clayton. Anyone else in the role would have been ridiculous, and my thinking is that he did the film drunk. My favorite touch to the film are the sacks of money that the gang steals at the beginning of the film, which appear to be burlap sacks filled with socks. And unless I am mistaken they all have a big $ dollar sign on them. Like, what the heck??
The point is that the film is being honest about what it is, which is garbage, and those who come off best are the veterans of such garbage like Lee Van Cleef, Sybill Danning, Richard Boone and Palance. They were all aware that they were essentially making trash and made the most of it. Richard Boone gets to drink whiskey, swear, swagger around dressed up like Buffalo Bill and even has a couple of snappy lines: He's awesome, and was a good enough sport to participate because he loved making westerns, and movies in general. Here's some work for you, Mr. Boon -- You get to play the duplicitous, cowardly drunk sheriff in a tumbleweed nowhere we're staging in Isreal. "Where do I sign?"
I like how the film revels in it's "fakeness", with fake cowboys in this fake western town with fake saloon girls in fake saloon girl outfits, and Lee Van Cleef essentially anticipating Obi Wan Kenobi with his non-violent approach to the situation, allowing the fools to kill themselves off, whilst ministering to his young Padewan Leif Skywalker, who sadly regained the use of his voice for a subsequent career as a pop artist -- That his parents/guardians allowed him to appear in films like GOD'S GUN and DEVIL TIMES FIVE is beyond me, and evokes images of McCauly Kulken and Frodo Baggins in THE GOOD SON, another amoral, mean spirited exploitation film with children in central roles. I wonder what the 13 year old girls in love with him who went to see this film in 1976 thought of the gang rape scene, even though he isn't in it.
For what it's worth the images of young Garrett riding an adult-sized horse to the film's imaginatively derivative soundtrack is actually kind of, well, odd. I guess I sort of prefer movies that make me wonder what the heck is going on, and this one IS a riddle wrapped inside of an enigma: what WERE they thinking when they made it? Other than "Thank God for the work", I guess.
Look for this on a four movie/2 disc set called THE GUNSLINGERS in it's uncut 97 minute form. Well worth a look, and Fascinating, Captain.
I bought this DVD for $3 in a bargain bin. I was expecting a horrid
movie with an outside shot at "so bad it's funny", but was pleasantly
surprised by it.
The plot was actually OK. The idea was good and there were a couple of interesting twists. On the bad side, the movie was poorly made, the style was completely ripped off from the spaghetti westerns, and some of the acting was terrible. Still worth a viewing, though.
I give it a 8/10 for plot, 5/10 for acting and dialogue, and 3/10 for production values. Because the plot is the most important thing (are you listening George Lucas?), I give it an overall rating of 6/10.
This is an interesting spaghetti western that could have been done much
better, but it was entertaining nevertheless.
First off, let me say that I love cheesy movies. Cheesy movies can be great! In fact, all of the greatest spaghetti westerns are wonderfully cheesy, but, like a great chef, a great director must know how much cheese, and what kind of cheese to use to create a masterpiece. This movie was not up to those standards.
The music score is a mixed bag. The opening theme is great, and very catchy. As for the rest of the score, some parts are good, but other parts sound tacky and fake, kind of like the music they use in porno movies or those awful direct-to-video films.
With the exception of Van Cleef and Palance, the acting isn't that great, but there are a few things about it that are funny. Towards the beginning of the film during the bank robbery, watch for the look on the deputy's face when he gets shot, and notice the way he falls. It's so stupid it's hilarious. An even funnier scene is when a crook who is forced to dress like a priest gets shot in the back by some members of his own gang. He looks like he is doing some funky dance moves while the bullets are hitting him. I had to play that part over again a few times. There are other similar funny parts, but I won't waste time mentioning them all. You've got to see it for yourself. The movie definitely has that "train wreck" sort of appeal. The overall story isn't bad at all, and it kept me interested all the way to the end, in anticipation of the final showdown.
It's a bit hard to accept Lee Van Cleef as a priest, but when he switches to playing the priest's gunfighter twin brother, he is great, and it adds a tiny bit of quality to a movie that desperately needs it. He is especially good during the flashback scenes that show what happened before his brother talked him into leaving town for good. I have read that Van Cleef's voice in this film is dubbed by someone else. There are parts where it doesn't really sound like him, but there are some lines where the voice sounds exactly like him. Jack Palance is hammy and over the top as the main baddie, but this is great! He is very entertaining in this role. It's like what I was saying earlier about knowing what kind of cheese is good, and Jack Palance is very good. During the final showdown, as Palance is Hamming it up wonderfully, and Van Cleef is giving him that steely, confident stare he does so well, I couldn't help wondering how it would have been if any of the three Sergios, or Tonino Valerii had directed a western with these two actors playing adversaries. There's no doubt it would have been one of the great ones.
Even with all of it's faults, the movie is definitely not boring. It manages to be interesting sometimes in spite of itself, and sometimes because of itself. I recommend that all fans of the spaghetti western genre see this movie. Others will probably want to stay away.
Actually, this is just a comment. I did not find the movie as bad as ejhutchez, but I did enjoy it. (I am a westerns freak, so that may have had something to do with it). Make no mistake, it is no classic- but it is watchable. Anyways, the point I wanted to make is that the three American stars, all of whom- particularly Jack Palance- have trade mark voices and ways of talking were all poorly dubbed by what seem (or rather sound) to be Italian actors. That just strikes me as really weird. I do agree that the dual roles played by Van Cleef were the best part of the movie by far and that Boone and Palance did indeed seem to be walking through their parts. Still, it's better than a Tom Cruise movie.
A preacher ( Lee Van Cleef) is gunned down by a cutthroat band (
leading Jack Palance ) . The son (Leif Garret) of a Saloon girl ( Sybil
Danning ) is looking for the priest's brother , an ex-gunfighter (
again Van Cleef ) . The gunman seeks vengeance on the evil men who
murdered him . Lee Van Cleef is better in the two first films from
¨Sabata¨ trilogy directed by Frank Kramer or Gianfranco Parolini , the
third is starred by Yul Brynner ) than here . These movies are
enjoyable ,full of gadgets , imagination, with some budget and produced
by Alberto Grimaldi ( successful producer of Leone's Dollars trilogy )
, here the producers are Menahem Golan and Yoran Globus ( Cannon
Productions ) but in short budget.
The picture displays action , gun-play, showdown , and drama but badly narrated , besides with minimum budget and wasted casting . The movie has an awful cinematography and disappointing musical score . Jack Palance ( recently deceased ) as the leader band is excessive and exaggerated , as usual, he plays a megalomaniac nasty in an overdone playing . There appears Cody Palance , Jack Palance's son ( he has another daughter actress named Holly Palance too ) unhappily he early died . Richard Boone is underestimated in a minor role in spite of have a long career in classic Western . The singer Leif Garret as a dumb adolescent is mediocre , he played with Lee Van Cleef another spaghetti Western of similar style : ¨Kid vengeance¨ , being his maxim feat his acting as secondary in ¨ Outsiders ¨(Coppola) , later his career utterly failed . The motion picture is appalling directed by Gianfranco Parolini who used the pseudonym of Frank Kramer . Rating : Frustating , far fetching and uninspired Western .
I don't suppose many Westerns were made in Israel, but this seems to be
most famous. It looks like they've gone for the 'Spaghetti Western' look
rather than the conventional and so should appeal to those who like those
movies. Well....if they can get past the terrible direction, wonky
camera-work, and Leif Garrett's acting.
Van Cleef plays a preacher(looking like Satan) who is gunned down in cold blood by Palance's vicious gang. Garrett, who witnesses the event is struck dumb and heads off to Mexico to find Van Cleef's twin brother, a top gunman who vowed to his brother he would never kill with a gun again. Van Cleef heads back to avenge his brother's death, but tries to do so in a manner that doesn't involve shooting them all.
There's clearly a good Western here, but it's lost beneath the ineptitude of the film makers. That said, Van Cleef's twin performance is excellent, and Palance hams(pun not intended) it up like only he can. 5/10
This could have been a REALLY good and memorable western. What killed this movie, IMHO, were the production values. The Cameraman(men) weren't qualified to take souvenir pictures at Disneyland, the cinematography was BAD, really BAD, jerky shots, too wide an angle, sudden (just got my camcorder) zooms in and out. I wouldn't let the sound-men and Foley "artists" adjust the volume on my AM radio! The sound was HORRIBLE, terribly done. The dubbing even sounded awful, like it was done in public toilet somewhere instead of a sound studio. The sound effects were even worse, watch the scene where the boy is walking out of the church, near the end, when he's walking it sounds just like a horse clopping along, not a human walking. This was a Golan-Globis production, they were known at the time for cutting corners to save money, and it shows in this one. This is really a shame though, because this film has VERY good actors in it (OK some VERY bad ones too.) This movie proves that no matter how good, or how professional the actors are, they alone cannot carry an entire movie. This movie also shows that a good story can be ruined by bad execution. While I am FAR from a movie scholar, I think this movie should be shown to all students interested in film; there is a lot more to be learned from a movie like this than from movies where everything comes together. All in all the movie was watchable, and the most compelling reason I could give anyone for watching it is, that you'll appreciate movies with higher production standards much more than you do now.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Tonight's feature: God's Gun, starring rusty but willing Jack Palance,
Lee Van Cleef, really rusty Richard Boone and lil Leif Garrett.
Howdy partner. Tonight's hash house dinner special is a tasty plate of warmed over spaghetti western, prepared with has-been sauce and served with wanna-be bread. For desert we will have menacing grimaces a la Jack Palance and Lee Van Cleef. After dinner mints by Leif Garrett. Drinks by rickety-but game, Richard Boone.
Strap on yer feed bag partner and watch Jack and his blood thirsty gang bring down the wrath of God's Gun when they gun down Padre Lee Van Cleef. Seems the Padre has a gun toting twin brother, also Lee Van Cleef, who doesn't cotton to such dastardly deeds. Along with the charming help of loquacious Leif, lil bud of the dispatched Padre, gun slinging Lee hatches a clever plot to freak out the nasties rather than waste a lot of lead on them.
Instead of swaggering into town, guns ablazing, gun toting Lee dresses up as his bible totin twin brother and magically appears in a swirling mist before the unbelieving eyes of his killers. How kin this be? We done killed him dead already. Seems the ghostly image of the departed Padre unnerved the godless ones and they self destruct one by one until only Jack is left. Kinda figured that all along didn't ya.
Its down to menacing grimace versus menacing grimace now an' who gonna blink first? But wait! What's this about lil Leif bein Jack's unknown kid. Conflict of interest is resolved when gun totin Lee blasts tricky Jack and rides off into the sunset with Leif and Sybil Danning, his saloon gal mom.
Film highlights: hands down best is the flinging away of the bible like a skeet shoot target when the Padre gets bushwhacked closely followed by the Padre's prolonged, staggering around, death scene with three or four 30 caliber rifle bullets in him. If those don't get ya then Sheriff Richard Boone's helium-induced squeaky voice-over will.
The indescribably poor DVD-quality almost ruined the entire movie for me. "God's Gun" is part of a Three-Pack DVD of Lee Van Cleef spaghetti western films, the other two being "Kid Vengeance" and "Death Rides a Horse". The box looks nice and it's a great initiative to release more of Van Cleef's work on DVD, but the picture and sound quality are terribly, terribly poor! The colors are faded and most of the time you can't even make out the eyes or the expressions on the characters' faces. It's far worse than a VHS which stood on the bottom shelf of a videostore for the past 20 years, so watch out in case you consider purchasing this puppy on DVD. The film itself is fine, and I don't really understand all the harsh and negative comments by the other reviewers. The plot isn't exactly original and the film clearly lacks the touch of a professional genre director like Leone or Corbucci, but as long as you're simply expecting to see macho cowboys wiping each other out with pistols and shotguns, you can't possibly be disappointed. Any western that combines the talents and charisma of Lee Van Cleef and Jack Palance is worth tracking down if you ask me, and even more so if it also contains guest appearances by Richard Boone and Sybil Danning. Van Cleef plays the priest of a peaceful little town that suddenly gets invaded by a sadistic gang of criminals led by Jack Palance. The priest is killed when he tries to uphold justice in the little town, but his youthful acolyte escapes and seeks the help of twin-brother Lewis who lives in Mexico. Together they return to avenge Father John's dead and clear the town of crime once and for all. The script of "God's Gun" is very clichéd and contains too many stupid improbabilities. For example, Johnny finds Lewis in less than two days even though he only knew he lived "somewhere in Mexico" and moreover he can't even ask for directions because he's struck mute. For some reason, there are also two totally redundant and overlong flashback sequences that don't add anything to the story. Naturally, the cast of characters are dreadful stereotypes, including the drunkard Sheriff and the gorgeous, voluptuous wenches in the local saloon. The music and many of the inventive camera angles are directly stolen from "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly". Oh well, at least the gunfights are violent & nasty, and Jack Palance is the ultimately cool baddie.
The votes seem rather low for this; my guess is that those voting aren't
familiar with (or fans of) westerns from the 1960's / 1970's. As they go,
this one isn't bad at all.
Lee Van Cleef was excellent; Leif Garrett went from underplaying to overplaying in some scenes, but that was probably what the director was wanting. Jack Palance was the surprise to me; he is usually the epitome of a villain. Here, I thought that the menace was a bit overdone to the point of being lost.
My vote was 5, could have been better, but is quite watchable.
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