My words of wisdom(?) on yesterday’s viewing…
DEAF SMITH AND JOHNNY EARS
Set in 1830’s Texas, Erastus ‘Deaf’ Smith (Anthony Quinn) is an ageing but trusted spy for the president, despite the obvious handicap of being a deaf mute. His friend and companion is the sexually charged Spaniard Johnny Ears (Franco Nero), seemingly on a constant mission to obtain another notch on his bed post (or should I say, someone elses!). Infact, unlike your usual Spaghetti Western hero, he is probably more likely to be found in bed than in a bar brawl or gunfight.
The two have been sent by the president to halt the uprising down south, where a rebel by the name of Morton is rallying a rebellion to create independence and domination, with the help of German backing.
The whole emphasis of the story is the great bond between Nero and Quinn, which is quite enjoyable throughout. Comically, Johnny Ears is constantly throwing stones at the laid back Smith in order to get his attention. Ears’ relationship with the luscious local whore Susie (Pamela Tiffin) is also a fine display of character play, as their interplay changes from flirtation to sexual tension, and from lust to love. Hell, by the end, Ears seems willing to quit his womanising ways and settle down with the blonde beauty.
There are entertaining one-liners throughout (all obviously left to Nero, who is in fine comic form). As for Quinn, the whole idea that a deaf gunhand can survive and be held in such esteem is entertaining in itself (as he walks away completely unaware of the explosions metres behind him, and sneaks up on opponents oblivious to the fact that the bells on a whores garter - given to him whilst he awaited the return of the promiscuous Ears from the local brothel - are jangling together).
Aside from these highlights, the film is fairly average fare. At times Smith’s inability to communicate can be as frustrating to the viewer as it must be to Smith himself. The Director does however highlight this disability to some effect, with silence at any time when the story is shown from Smith’s eyes. Too much weight is also placed on the final action-packed climax, which goes on for an age with a maximum explosion count (although it does contain a priceless moment when Ears is unable to operate the enemies’ machine gun - a skill mastered to great effect by Nero’s Django).
In summary, this is an entertaining little film, high on cheese but low on substance. And there are days when that is exactly the sort of “popcorn” movie that you want to watch. If you are in that mood (I was) you will probably enjoy it (I did!). But it is definitely more “watchable” than “recommended”.