"Chi era quell'uomo mascherato"? ("Who Was That Masked Man?")
Capturing the spirit of Zorro ...The Lone Ranger..Robin Hood.....a large dose of Clark Kent...Batman & Robin...yes, even Mighty Mouse..."Starblack' mixes tongue in cheek humor...high camp...A lot of good Spaghetti Western action ..into a pretty entertaining movie.
Robert Woods stars as Johnny Blyth...who returns home after striking out on his own..building a ranch in Colorado..(at least that's his cover story)...accompanied by his deaf mute sidekick (yes, just like Zorro & his Bernardo)...to discover (?) his father dead..under mysterious & shady circumstances.....his mother remarried to his uncle...his dead father's brother..the respected Judge King. The locals are being squeezed by a gang of cutthroats led by the well scrubbed but slimy 'Curry', saloon owner..banker..money lender...supporting a very profitable business driving people to financial ruin......then seizing their homes & assets.
Curry's thugs are beginning to encounter an obstacle to their terrorizing & killing of landowners...in the form of a masked protector...his face completely covered by a black mask....who rides a white stallion (like the Lone Ranger, yup).....carrying a black star, which he always leaves at the scene , as a symbol of justice. Zorro has his Z...Starblack has silver badges.
Woods plays it straight..and plays it well..both as the dashing, swashbuckling Starblack...& the mild mannered, guitar strumming, somewhat meek & cowardly Johnny.
It's obvious that this is in the hands of a good director..the guy knew his Western movies..knew the old 40s serials..& without a ton of money, fashioned a nice little nod to them.....in the true spirit of old time good guy B Westerns...comic book super heroes..and old time movie serials........complete with secret tunnels..deception.....very hammy bad guys..and all not necessarily being as it appears to be......featuring our hero getting into dangerous predicaments & getting out of them..sometimes inexplicably....with an uncanny knack for always being in the right place at the right time..
......but there's no doubt we're firmly in Spaghettiville---> due to whippings...knives in the forehead...a rape followed by a stunning scene....a moment not only one of the best resolutions in Spaghetti Westerns..but in Movieland itself...I cheered.
Grimaldi was obviously aware of Leone..it shows ...but at a time when copies and simple variations of "Dollars" ..& "Django" were flying out of Texas Hollywood..he went in his own direction. He also wrote the dialogue..& threw in some wonderful lines.....like "gotta go where people need our help" ...I was waiting for.... ''ma'am"..ha ha..just like the old movies.....in one early scene..after Starblack has saved the day...a woman looks up at him adoringly...uttering "Starblack"...a simple hoot of a scene.
Some of the camera shots are spot on terrific.. innovative & fresh..such as peeking through a noose ....overhead shots....shots from behind..from inside a moving miner's cart......& violently funny..like when Starblack knocks off 10 guys like shooting ducks.
Both a tribute..a spoof..AND playing it straight.. a fairly difficult blend to pull off......it's clear that there's a genuine affection for his subject matter & his characters. ............the too often obligatory comic saloon fight was actually pretty good..the stunts were well done...the fights choreographed well...some nice moments in the score..nice whistling theme.. and Robert Woods really sings.- which, as it is, turns out to be integral to the plot.
Of course the German version called him Django.......w/ the great title "Django - Black God of Death". .brrrrrrrr!!! Call it a popcorn & pasta flick...perfect for a Saturday afternoon matinée, perhaps..maybe w/ some cartoons & a newsreel and then.......
"Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear.... A fiery horse with the speed of light, A cloud of dust, and a hearty "Ciao-Yo, Argento...... Via" !!!!!!!
Hey..it's not high art...but I give it a "Bravo" anyway.
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