Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Finger on the Trigger (1965)
Been There, Done That
Cavalry deserters, led by Rory Calhoun, run afoul of treasure-seeking Confederate hold-outs, who've captured a Union fort deep in hostile Indian country, a location that forces the two sides into a confrontation with angry natives.
Barren Spanish locations are about the best thing about this grim pseudo- spaghetti western, full of unsympathetic characters. Of course, the unsympathetic characters themselves are the second best thing, giving this so-so movie an edge it really doesn't deserve. There is a good climax though.
Better known for sci-fi B-movies like Reptilicus, Angry Red Planet and Journey To The Seventh Planet, director Sidney Pink follows his usual formula of casting a Hollywood has-been and filming things on the cheap in Europe.
Shoot the Sun Down (1978)
Christopher Walken's Only Western: Offbeat, Mildly Interesting
Christopher Walken is an enigmatic stranger wandering the west. Geoffrey Lewis is a scalp-hunter, turned prospector, with a serious case of gold fever, while Margot Kidder is the indentured servant of emotionally-stunted ship captain Bo Bundin. The four collide in and around Mexican-controlled Santa Fe as they dig for gold and search for the lost treasure of Montezuma.
Though mostly character-driven and not for everyone's taste, this independent western looks great, with nice location photography and and the presences of Walken and Kidder, right on the cusp of their breakthrough performances in The Deer Hunter and Superman: The Movie respectively, though Walken is a bit out of place.
Of the cast, the late Geoffrey Lewis is the most game (as usual), delivering some amusing lines, his eulogy for a treacherous henchman especially memorable. Familiar faces, A. Martinez and Sacheen Littlefeather (on the final seconds of her fifteen-minutes of fame) round out the cast.
Action scenes are clumsy and the score is all over the place, with spaghetti western horns one minute, pulsing rock the next, traditional string instruments a few minutes later, with some prints featuring a title song by Kinky Friedman!
Beyond The Rifleman
The lone survivor of the Battle Of Bitter Creek, an Apache massacre of U.S. cavalrymen, Chuck Conners is falsely court-marshaled for cowardice and desertion. Dishonorably discharged, he's forced to roam the west, taking on odd-jobs, while enduring cruel taunts and unprovoked violence, proving his manhood time and again.
Branded is pretty high-concept for a fairly low-budget thirty-minute show, with a lot of early episodes (under the supervision of series creator Larry Cohen) dealing with the nature of cowardice and what exactly makes a man a man, as well as Connors' attempts to keep the secrets of Bitter Creek, his encounters with various friends and relatives of his deceased men and the inevitable vengeance-seekers among them.
The first season is the more cerebral and ambitious of the two, with much of the action taking place primarily in town and leading to some anticlimactic conclusions to some of the episodes. The second season finds the series upgraded to color, with a bigger budget and better- staged action scenes. It's a bit of a trade-off though, with Connors' past (and the participation of Cohen) pushed to the back-burner. There's still some quality scripts, though in the spirit of a more conventional western series. It does however, provide a serviceable ending to the series.
One of the show's strengths, over only two seasons, is it's virtual army of old and new guest stars: Johnny Crawford, Burt Reynolds, Bruce Dern, Noah Beery, Beau Bridges, Lee Van Cleef, Dick Clark (!), Jay Silverheels, L.Q. Jones, Warren Oates, Ben Johnson, Cesar Romero, Iron Eyes Cody, James Best, Pat O'Brien, John Carradine, John Ireland, Claude Akins, Burgess Meredith, Martin Landau, Angelo Rossito, Pat Wayne, Dick Miller, Victor French, etc.
As the show ended, the producers gathered much of the crew, Connors and Branded guest stars Michael Rennie and James MacArthur for the feature, Ride Beyond Vengeance. Fans of this should definitely check it out.
Wanted: Dead or Alive (1958)
McQueen Is King!
Steve McQueen stars as Josh Randall, the straight-arrow bounty hunter who gives away most or all of his reward money, a gimmick that in actuality only lasted the first few episodes. However, Randall did indeed have a heart of gold, standing up for not only law and order, but actual justice as well, even if there wasn't always a fairy-tale ending and sometimes finding himself protecting the guilty against vigilante justice.
Like many of the late-fifties and early-sixties western television series', Wanted: Dead Or Alive packs a lot of narrative in each thirty- minute episode, usually with enough great ideas to fill a typical feature-length B-movie from previous decades, though featuring sudden bursts of violence you probably wouldn't see in the thirties and forties.
This made a bonafide star out of McQueen and a cult-star out of his signature gun, a sawed-off repeater rifle. Also, it was a great showcase for up-and-coming actors like James Coburn, Warren Oates, Michael Landon and Lee Van Cleef, not to mention a few old-timers like Lon Chaney and Noah Beery.
Also of interest is the short-lived stint of Wright King (who was probably being groomed to take over from the famously fickle McQueen), as Josh's flawed apprentice. Although it was somewhat better to have Randall acting alone, King's character was interestingly handled by the writers and his episodes (especially the first few) were very worthwhile.
One thing that might interest the modern viewer, is Josh's unwillingness to let his more sympathetic bounties to make a run for it, dispensing with one of the latter-day's most reliable contrivances.
Finally, look out for a few outstanding and hard-hitting episodes, penned by Twilight Zone writers Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont, as well as a Kung-Fu themed episode that predates the series "Kung-Fu" by a dozen years!
Rio Grande (1950)
Light Entertainment From John Ford And John Wayne
Commanding a remote outpost in Texas, cavalry officer John Wayne reconnects with estranged wife Maureen O'Hara and new-recruit son Claude Jarman Jr. However, the reunion is complicated by an Apache uprising and an illegal incursion across the Rio Grande.
One of the lesser talked-about pairings of Wayne and John Ford and their third cavalry picture, this is satisfying, though a bit familiar in the drama department. Action scenes and Monument Valley locations are excellent, as are the musical numbers by Ken Curtis and the Sons Of The Pioneers. O'Hara looks a little young to have a teenage son though.
Memorable subplots include fugitive recruit Ben Johnson trying to stay ahead of the law and some male-bonding between himself, Jarman, and fellow soldiers Harry Carey Jr. and Victor Maglaglen.
A Knife for the Ladies (1974)
Bringing A Knife To A Gunfight
City private investigator Jeff Cooper travels to frontier backwater in order to investigate the slasher murders of town matriarch Ruth Roman's son and a gaggle of local prostitutes. Things are complicated by the vigilante murder of a Mexican cowboy and brutish, old-school sheriff Jack Elam.
Mildly entertaining drive-in trash, this benefits from the old low-rent sets and ancient costumes that were pretty much a sign of the times in the early seventies. You can practically smell the mothballs, though they (the set-pieces not the mothballs) make this low, low-budget western/horror flick almost look like a million bucks. The weird, very exploitative climax is fun too, as are the presences of Elam and Roman.
For a better Jack-the-ripper-goes-west story, watch the Episode of Dead Man's Gun aptly titled "The Ripper".
Sartana Lights It Up
Sartana infiltrates a sadistic frontier prison in order to bust out an inmate accused of stashing half a million dollars in gold. However, getting the inmate out proves to be easier than uncovering the whereabouts of the missing loot, located somewhere in a town full of crooked characters with shady intentions.
Another fast-moving entry in the official Sartana series, starring Gianni Garko, there's a lot of twists and turns, with Sartana seemingly able to read minds, tell the future and see in all directions at once!
There's loads of gun-play and a fairly interesting mystery regarding who exactly has the gold. It's not quite groundbreaking cinema, but it'll do.
One gripe though, there isn't one single likable character in the whole movie, not even Sartana!
Adiós gringo (1965)
Decent Early Spaghetti Western And An Early Role For Giuliano Gemma
After unknowingly buying stolen cattle from an acquaintance, Giuliano Gemma is forced to kill their hot-headed owner in self-defense. Pursued by bounty hunters, he hunts down the cattle rustler in order to prove his innocence. Along the way, he finds a rape victim staked to the ground and himself at odds with yet another powerful foe.
An early western role for Giuliano Gemma, this borrows ever so slightly from the Kirk Douglas vehicle Last Train From Gun Hill, with it's spoiled rich-boy-gone-bad villain and is in turn is borrowed upon by Hang 'Em High, a few years later.
This is pretty unsophisticated and not one of Gemma's best, though it's entertaining enough and competently made, with a straight-forward story and some good Spanish scenery, although the petty townspeople that seem to populate the movie are just too much!
With his good looks, charisma and way with action, it's easy to see why Gemma went on to bigger things in Europe, even if he's only known as a cult star elsewhere.
Okay Italian Western
After proving himself quite resourceful during an attempted robbery of a gold shipment, newly appointed sheriff Giuliano Gemma finds himself framed for murder by ruthless cattle-rustlers that want someone a little more friendly in his place. Escaping jail, he fights the rustlers and the new sheriff to clear his name.
Wanted is pretty straight-forward and unpretentious and star Gemma is one of the great spaghetti western stars. There's also some good pulp-western atmosphere, with none of the silly humor and gimmicks that seemed to take over the genre in the years following this one's release.
On the other hand, there really isn't anything new here this time around and although it's decent enough entertainment, it's ultimately not very memorable.
2 once di piombo (1966)
Tepid, We've Been Down This Dusty Road Before
Mexican drifter Robert Woods returns to his hometown to find trouble in the form of a vicious group of cutthroats who have taken it for their own, a gang that Woods seems to have taken a real disliking to, or perhaps he's encountered before.
There's very little story here, just mainly a series of violent and not very imaginative encounters between Woods and the nasty, racist gang of killers, or the killers and various townspeople.
Though somewhat interesting in the lead role, Woods is pretty wooden. It's not really his fault though. His character is as cardboard as any I've seen playing the main protagonist in a spaghetti western. It's hard to believe this was popular enough to spawn a sequel.
The theme song is pretty nifty though