ROUGH NIGHT IN JERICHO
(1967, Arnold Laven)
Bizarre western, if only for casting good old Dean Martin as a villain without any redeeming qualities. But there’s more: the story about (the lack of) law and order in a small western town, sounds like a fifties western, but the level of violence is more in accordance with the early seventies. Rough Night in Jericho is brutally violent, and the violence is bloody and gory. And all this for a film predating Bonnie an Clyde and The Wild Bunch, the two movies usually held responsible for the gory killings that would deluge action movies (and especially westerns) in the late sixties, early seventies. In fact there’s a large action sequence towards the end, with Martin’s men trapped in a town street by the townspeople waiting for them on the rooftops, that will remind many of us of the opening massacre of The Wild Bunch. I’m quite sure Peckinpah saw it and was inspired by it. The two men, Laven and Peckinpah, were old acquaintances: Laven had been one of the producers of the TV-series The Rifleman, and had also directed the equally violent (but less gory) The Glory Guys, scripted by Peckinpah.
Don’t get over-exited, Rough Night in Jericho is not a great movie. It’s watchable, especially if you like your westerns gritty and violent, but Dino simply is not the right man to play a ruthless villain and too many town scenes are shot in the studio, giving the film a sort of cheap ‘Bonanza look’ (or Rifleman look). The story is rather basic: Town boss Martin is determined to have total control over the town, and therefore wants to own at least 51% of Jean Simmons stagecoach line, but Simmons refuses. Hell breaks loose with the arrival of two men: Marshall John McIntire (called to town by Simmons) and former lawman turned gambler George Peppard.
Some have suggested it was influenced by spaghetti westerns. It seems a bit early (A Fistful of Dollars was released in ’66 in the US as far as I know), and spaghettis were not known for gory tendencies, but Dino’s town bully does behave more like a mafia boss than a regular western heavy.