(OOPS - SPOILER ALERT)
A promising start, you’d think – anything I’ve seen recently with Robert Woods in has been on the better side of marvellous – building up from Gatling Gun (1968), My Name is Pecos (1966), through Black Jack (1968) to the sublime El Puro (1969). (All films from the Golden Age of spaghettis - although this order is my own preference and not chronological.)
And here’s his name again, but a least a couple of years have past and maybe the genre is tiring out or losing direction. Certainly, in this fan’s point of view, this seems to be the case.
Anyway – a good rousing spaghetti trumpet and military drumbeat to get us started, a robbing of a chunk of dollars (300,000 in fact – so that’d do) and some double-crossing dealings in the backroom of the whorehouse – sorry, saloon.
Fanny and the new girls are entertaining, whilst Ahona, the long-legged lady-of-colour with one of those trays on a ribbon around her neck (you know – Betty Boop, hat-check style) looks after the backroom boys. (We’ll be back to her later.)
Organiser and boss Mr. Oswald is robbed of his previous thieving by one of his boys and without giving too much away, this leads to everybody out to try and get the dosh, whilst the sheriff (Woods) tries to get to the bottom of the crimes (and the half-breed squeeze-interest). Complicated relationships – stepmother; half (actually quarter) breed stepdaughter; a murdered father, a nearly to be brother-in-law to the Woods character who’s forever in fisticuffs with Woods, and then there’s a gang of ne’er-do-wells that Wood’s has got it in for as well. Sounds alright?
Well actually – it’s all a bit jumbled and incoherent. I reckon if I saw the first half of this with no sound I’d believe it to be a comedy. Besides the clichéd old drunk scrote coffin maker who stumbles about in his long-johns, there’s Woods himself who is overacting in the extreme, and I quote Weisser here …
“Woods gives an amazingly animated performance …. Constantly touching or hitting everything and everybody. He has a crazed semblance, as if he might start tearing apart the scenery at any moment, without notice. A very strange sheriff.”
A bloody strange film!
It’s almost pantomime with this level of animation. Half the film seems to consist of fisticuffs, slaps and grabbing of lapels and finger poking. It’s almost as if they’d forgotten where they’d got to in the script and kept starting again with a poke in the chest or somesuch. I would actually have believed that they made it up as they went along, except it is meant to be based on an actual book – so some structure does/should exist.
The second half looks more promising … for a while – there are some good bits and it seems to come together with the violence becoming nastier and more relevant. There’s a good catfight, as Silver has previously mentioned, betwixt step-mum and the ‘half-breed’. Woods gets seven bells knocked out of him and there’s some good choreographed shooting (Scherpy’s right here as well, when he referred to Wood’s ability to do his own gun stunts) – so all looks well.
But then it gets silly again and the film doesn’t know when to stop.
Besides this, Ahona (remember her?) keeps appearing – no matter where she is, out at the hideout for instance) still in evening whore wear – stockings garters and corset-thingy, still with a fuckin’ tray of drinks and cigars around her neck!
This leads me to mention an unhealthy dose of misogyny that permeates this film, which isn’t ironic. We’ve a terrified whore and a compliant Ahona, a catfight, and the ‘half-breed’ who is won over by a spanking and being called a bitch by Woods. In fact everybody is a bitch, a son of a bitch or a bastard in this. (Now I’m not getting all ‘right-on P.C.’ here – I just thought I’d mention it.)
And more silliness …
Woods (who tells us he’s got a broken rib and (left) arm) and his girlie (who’s now been shot in her right shoulder) go after the bad guys – fisticuffs a plenty abound – Woods throwing haymakers with both arms … and it goes on, and on , and ……on …and …on …
(and then on a bit more).
After all this nonsense Woods then lets the bad guy go back to town to give himself up?? He’s only guilty of murder and will hang. Of course you would. Wouldn’t you ??? Or will you go and do some more damage – whad’ya reckon?
It all ends with the cavalry (what the f…?) coming to the rescue - and why on earth they spent money on this bit I don’t know. Woods kindly offers his (good) arm out to his floor-bound squeeze – who’s hauled up by her bad arm – but it don’t matter cos they’re in love and it’ll all end happily ever after.
Best dialogue …
Old Scrote: “whisper, whisper” (in Woods’ ear)
Woods: “You tell anybody else about this?”
Old Scrote: “No, I’m silent as a tomb.”
Woods: “Phweeew – you smell like one too!”
Does anybody know where four candles come into it?
Anyway I gather it was the inspiration for this …