Thursday, April 25, 2019

Inexorable Vengeance

A marauding band of scalp hunters are pursued by a lone, vengeful Native American man called Navajo Joe in a 1966 Sergio Corbucci Spaghetti Western. Not a fondly remembered film--even its star, Burt Reynolds, didn't seem to like it--it's still a taut story with good performances, terrific action, and a wonderful score.

As Joe, the title character, Reynolds is almost unrecognisable. If you're looking for the mischievous moustached man, he's not here--Reynolds certainly looks odd without a moustache, his heavy brow making his face look unbalanced. With the bad makeup and really bad wig, he looks more Romulan than Navajo. But an interesting thing happens when you have a charismatic actor play a quiet, relentless man of action. Reynolds is so full of personality that some of it inevitably comes through and you get a sense of the man Joe used to be despite the film's minimal dialogue and lack of elaborate backstory.

Ennio Morricone's score is a showcase of what he did best; electric guitar and weird vocalisations along with grim, isolated piano. The vocals have a much angrier, horrific, scream-like quality than in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, though. It's another thing that fills the void left by the minimal story. We know Joe's wife was killed by the leader of the marauders, Duncan (Aldo Sambrell), and that's all we need to know.

The marauders are a product of a town's bounty on Indian scalps. Even the townspeople no longer recognise the need for this bounty as the gang have now taken to scalping women and children and expecting to be paid for it. When Joe comes to town with the train load of money the town thought the marauders stole, he casually demands the sheriff's badge at the point of a gun. He's got too much on his mind for their bullshit. Navajo Joe is available on Amazon Prime.

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