= Highest Rating
Burt Reynolds Spaghetti Western Experience!
little-known American TV actor when he starred in this film,
Burt Reynolds subsequently disavowed Navajo
Joe as his all-time worst movie. Now I don't know exactly
when he's supposed to have made that statement, but surely
he couldn't have been serious. Aside from Boogie
Nights (1997) this Sergio Corbucci Euro-western is more
entertaining than virtually anything Reynolds has done
in the last 30 years. As a relentless killing machine on a righteous
mission of vengeance, he displays all the right action hero
Paid a dollar a scalp,
the vicious raiders of the Duncan Gang earn their scratch slaughtering
Indians for the upstanding citizens of the territory. Problem
is, local tribes have finally submitted to white rule and the
troubles are now over. Suddenly the cutthroats aren't only out
of a job, they're also charged with murder for their latest
unauthorized rampage. Their leader, sadistic misanthrope Mervyn
Duncan (Aldo Sambrell, Satan's
Baby Doll), guns down a sheriff who tries to arrest him,
then orders the entire town pillaged and destroyed. Adding to
Duncan's frustrations, a mysterious Indian (Reynolds) is methodically
stalking the gang and bumping members off a couple at a time.
Amidst these woes
Duncan is unexpectedly offered a deal to strike it rich. An
old prison buddy (Pierre Cressoy), now living as a doctor under
an assumed name, contacts him with a proposition to split $500,000
in cash. The money will be arriving by train the next day in
the town of Esperanza. A prominent citizen of Esperanza, the
who's also the son-in-law of the town's banker —
knows the combination to the train's safe. All Duncan and his
boys have to do is capture the train before it arrives and eliminate
all the passengers. This they do with bloodthirsty zeal. However,
while waiting for the doctor to show up and open the safe, the
mystery Indian stealthily kills the guards and takes off in
the train, money still onboard.
The citizens of Esperanza
are surprised when the Indian shows up with their cash and tells
them of the massacre. Joe, as he calls himself, warns that the
Duncan Gang will soon come to town looking for the money and
they won't be very happy about it. He offers to wipe out the
whole gang for a dollar a head plus the bounty on Duncan. At
first dismissive, the meek and defenseless residents agree to
the deal once it's learned that the telegraph line's been cut.
The odds against Joe would seem grim. He's outnumbered 30 to
1. Other than a "half-breed" servant girl (sultry
Nicoletta Machiavelli) he has few real allies in town, and at
least one concealed enemy, the traitorous doctor...
Joe certainly has its share of flaws. Chiefly, the story
and characters are woefully thin. People do really dumb things
in this film. None of the townspeople get the bright
idea to simply leave before the gang shows up. Duncan
makes an idiotic move when, after discovering the leverage he
needs to force Joe to surrender, he then inexplicably foregoes
that leverage when it comes to making Joe reveal where the money's
been hidden. (Our villain prefers to have him tortured, even
though it's obvious that the stoic warrior would rather die
than talk.) Of course, it practically goes without saying that
neither Reynolds or Machiavelli look much like real Indians.
It's not just the "I am Kirok!" buckskin attire,
either. Coated with skin bronzer, Reynolds sports a shaggy Beatles
wig that could've been plucked from the Japanese "Frankenstein"
of Frankenstein Conquers
Yet the movie works
regardless. Action is plentiful and fast-paced; within the first
five minutes we're shown the reason for Joe's vendetta (later
fully explained with a single line of dialog), get through the
opening credits and see two of Duncan's goons slain with brutal
efficiency. Reynolds may not be all that convincing as a Navajo
brave but he is believable as a guy who can kick ass
and take names. In his athletic prime, he performs most of his
own stunts in this picture (even potentially dangerous ones),
which goes a long way in selling the character and, indeed,
the entire film. Equally important is his nemesis. Sambrell
may just be playing a generic psychopath with a six-gun, but
he does it very well.
This was director
Sergio Corbucci's third spaghetti western. From a technical
standpoint it's a bit more rough around the edges than his later,
more famous works in the genre (Django,
The Great Silence
which obviously benefited from higher budgets), but his facility
for interesting widescreen compositions and masterful use of
strikingly rugged Spanish locales is evident throughout. Corbucci
isn't concerned with existential questions or political themes
here; Navajo Joe is strictly an
action-fueled revenge drama, and as such delivers the goods.
The film isn't particularly bloody —
there's a little PG-level gore near the end —
but is nonetheless extremely violent, with a very high body
count. Duncan and his gang gleefully terrorize and kill innocent
people purely for sport, so the merciless punishment Joe dishes
out is richly deserved.
I'd be remiss not
to mention the score of maestro composer Ennio Morricone (billed
as "Leo Nichols"), whose main theme memorably
blends Native American-style chanting with his more familiar
spaghetti western sound. It works nicely for the film, even
if it is hammered into the dirt from overuse.
bare-bones MGM disc that doesn't even offer a trailer — optional
subtitles in English, French and Spanish are the extent of the
"extras". Its anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer looks marvelous,
however, taken from a pristine, virtually unblemished source.
The mono audio track isn't particularly strong but is at least
clean, free of any hiss, pops, distortion or drop-outs.