After directing the rather tame Minnesota Clay, Sergio Corbucci's next western project was a, surprisingly, violent entry to the italian western genre. Johnny Oro stars Mark Damon as the over-confident, smart mouthed, bounty hunting anti-hero of the film's title. Oro shares a striking resemblance to Richard Boone's Palladin character from the American TV show "Have gun will Travel".
Johnny Oro, famous bounty hunter who carries a golden pistol and spurs, guns down notorious outlaw Sancho Perez for some reward money. Juanito Perez, Sancho's seemingly innocent little brother, wants to avenge his sibling's death and hires an entire tribe of cut throat Apaches to track down Oro and kill him. Unfortunatly for Oro, after a little mishap with some explosives, he has been incarcerated by the Sheriff of the border town of Coldstone. So now the Sheriff and a few townsfolks must defend the jailhouse (holding Oro) against the rampaging red skins.
This is certainly an enjoyable film. Miles ahead of Corbucci's first western effort Minnesota Clay (significant for preceding Leone's "Fistful of Dollars" by a few months). The Corbucci touch is not quite there yet but we see more than just a few hints of it here. For one, the violence. Women and children are brutally murdered on-screen, corpses are used as shields against bullets and outlaws are blown to bits. This is unusual for a spaghetti western made so early in the game. You can expect this kind of stuff after the release of the monumental Django (Corbucci's next picture) but it's difficult to find such outlandish violence before it. The light heartedness of the picture makes the violence even more unsettling, much like in Pistol for Ringo and the MacGregor films.
Damon plays Johnny as a cocky smart ass whose quick on the draw and only interest is gold. This is similar to his character in Johnny Yuma (his attitude not his motives), a spaghetti western that was made the same year. He does fine in this film. Though I think his hero characters are too light. He plays a much better villian (see Kill and Pray).
I have a few gripes. The segment between Oro getting captured and the Apaches finally arriving to kill him can get a bit draggy in places. Also there is a saloon whore (Oro's main squeeze) that has a singing segment. Saloon whores in westerns breaking into song is always a minus for me. It's pointless and it slows down the film.
Before the film's release, the title of Johnny Oro was changed to "Ringo and his golden Pistol" to capitilize on the major success of the two "Ringo" movies (both directed by Duccio Tessari and both starring Giuliano Gemma). In the english dub Oro's character is referred to as "Johnny Ringo". To make matters even more confusing the italian language theme song retains the character's original name during production (Johnny Oro) but this is not so in the english language theme song.
The music, composed by Carlo Savina, is very nice. The theme song harks back to a Gene Autry type cowboy tune while the instrumental tracks are full of bells and whistles.
Recommended for newbies and hard-core fans alike.