Synopsis: In perhaps the most atypical film of his career, director Mario Bava combines elements of THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY and BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID for one of the first tongue-in-cheek comedies of the ‘Spaghetti Western’ genre. Brett Halsey (FOUR TIMES THAT NIGHT), Charles Southwood (FISTFUL OF LEAD) and Marilù Tolo (DJANGO, KILL!) star in a tale of two good-natured outlaws, one wily Native American prostitute, and a fortune in gold that triggers the greed of ruthless gunmen, dyspeptic clergymen, and even a Sergio Leone look-alike. Teodoro Corrà (5 DOLLS FOR AN AUGUST MOON) co-stars in this little-seen charmer blending rousing action and bawdy humor with inventive visuals that remain undeniably Bava.
eyelights: its light-heartedness. its brisk pace.
eyesores: its low budget. its inconsistent tone.
“Here we go again. One day they’re going to hurt each other for real.”
Spaghetti Westerns are a funny thing.
The fact that Sergio Leone started a trend with his legendary take on Akira Kurosawa’s ‘Shichinin no samurai’, essentially ripping off another movie while ripping off a genre – and then being ripped off by his peers and influencing the genre he was ripping off, is quite absurd, really.
And yet, that’s how it went.
Spaghetti Westerns had existed for ages, but 1964’s ‘Per qualche dollaro in più’ took the international box office by storm and created a star out of Clint Eastwood. For half a decade, film producers tried their best to recreate Leone’s success – or, at the very least, piggyback on it.
By 1970, when Mario Bava’s first Western came out, the genre had died out and in its stead Westerns with a comedy bent (ex: ‘Il mio nome è Nessuno’, starring Terence Hill) were being churned out. ‘Roy Colt e Winchester Jack’ is exactly that: a mixture of gritty Far West action and goofiness.
The plot is pretty simple: Roy Colt and Winchester Jack are friends and rivals who are always pummeling each other over one thing or another. After giving the win to Jack in their latest melée, Roy decides to leave their posse to make an honest living, leaving Jack to lead the pack.
As per usual, the gang isn’t very successful at crime, but Jack catches wind that a local banker has a map leading to hidden treasure, and pairs up with The Reverend’s gang to track it down. But little does he know that Roy has been hired by the banker to protect all of his assets.
Roy and Jack are in for the (mis)adventures of a lifetime.
What’s appealing about ‘Roy Colt e Winchester Jack’ are its light-heartedness and brisk pace. Though it presents nearly wall-to-wall action, it also peppers the proceedings with a few offbeat moments to lighten the load. So it’s not uncommon to find a few gags in the middle of a gunfight.
For instance, when Roy meets Samuel, the banker, it’s after Samuel is threatened by a ruffian at gunpoint and Roy saves the day. This is pretty typical for the genre, except for the fact that the outlaw twitched as he talked and made strange squeaking noises in between. Very, very wacky.
Or when Roy saves an aboriginal woman from two men, who are taking her in for a ransom (seeing as she’s murdered her partner), he ends up following her home for a lustful “thank you”. But he doesn’t notice her grabbing his gun and then threatening him with it… to force him to take a bath.
It does get a bit much at times, though.
The most obvious is when Roy, now the town’s Sheriff, makes a rousing speech to gather up men to hunt down The Reverend – but, when he turns his back, everyone scampers off. The most outrageous is Roy and Jack’s trip to a bordello, where they find The Reverend and a campy tussle unfolds.
There’s even an Entr’acte at the midway point of the picture – something you’d find in three-hour epics like ‘Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo’, but hardly in an 85-minute cowmedy. Surely that must have been tongue-in-cheek. And surely there are tons of references for fans of the genre.
‘Roy Colt e Winchester Jack’ has a fun premise and had potential but somehow it doesn’t quite deliver on either. Part of the problem is that it feels cobbled together (ex: there are editing slip-ups, like clearly seeing Manila’s pasties in bed) and the fact that the humour is pretty erratic.
It leaves one mildly unsated at the end, even though it breezes by and never bores. It feels as though it would have needed a bit of a polish to really hit its mark – perhaps a sharper script or a generous production budget would have benefited it. Still, it certainly has its moments.
It’s a portrait of what could have been.
Date of viewing: July 3, 2017