Written by: Michael Den Boer on August 8th, 2004
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1966
Director: Sergio Corbucci
Writers: Fernando Di Leo, Ugo Pirro, Piero Regnoli
Cast: Burt Reynolds, Aldo Sambrell, Nicoletta Machiavelli, Fernando Rey
DVD released: October 26th, 2002
Approximate running time: 93 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby digital 2.0
DVD Release: Stingray
Region Coding: Region 2 NTSC
Retail Price: $49.95
Joe (Burt Reynolds), is the sole survivor after Duncan (Aldo Sambrell), and his gang of bandits slaughtered everyone of his tribe including his wife. Duncan’s gang collects all their scalps and tries to sell them at a near by town. The sheriff and his deputy try to arrest Duncan’s gang, but Duncan has other plans and has them killed. In the Salon watching the shoot out is Dr. Chester Lynne who offers Duncan the chance to become rich. There is a train coming into to town with a lot of gold and if Duncan’s gang helps Dr. Lynne by holding up the train he will split the gold with them. Joe has been tracking Duncan and his boys since the murdered his wife and he will spoil there plan by stealing the train with the gold and returning it to the town’s people. Dr. Lynne offers to get help we the town hears Duncan’s boys are there way to take back the gold and kill everyone in town. Joe Knows that Dr. Lynne has a side deal with Duncan’s gang so Joe offers to protect the town if every one of them pay him one dollar each per head for each man he kills.
Sergio Leone’s monumental Dollars trilogy announced Spaghetti Westerns to the world and because of Leone’s success many imitator’s flooded the market watering the product down. Navajo Joe just like the Dollars trilogy cast in its lead a T.V. actor Burt Reynold who along with Clint Eastwood would later become cinema icons in the 1970’s. Navajo Joe was Sergio Corbucci’s fourth Spaghetti Western and it was released shortly after Corbucci’s masterful Django.
Leo Nichols is alias for Ennio Morricone who would compose many classic scores Sergio Corbucci, just like he had for Sergio Leone and Navajo Joe marked their first collaboration. At times the plot form Navajo Joe had me scratching my head as most of the characters just seemed prone to do the stupidest things. Navajo Joe story wise is a pretty standard Spaghetti Western with a few faces familiar to fans of this genre like Aldo Sambrell and Fernando Rey. Sergio Corbucci’s direction like all of his films that I have seen so far is solid as he always keeps things interesting. Ennio Morricone’s score if filled with Indian tribal like songs that perfectly complement the film and one of the film’s center pieces music wise “Silhouette of Doom”, was used by Quentin Tarantino in Kill Bill volume 2.
Casting Burt Reynolds as the lead Navajo Joe is definitely an interesting choice, but then years later Lee Van Cleef did play an Indian in Captain Apache. Navajo Joe overall is a well crafted Spaghetti Western with some good performances and what it lacks in character development it more then makes up for in its camp value.
Navajo Joe is presented in its original widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35.1 but is not enhanced for anamorphic television sets. The colors are not as strong as Corbucci’s Japanese the Mercenary DVD and the blacks are good but could have been better. The flesh tones look natural and grain is kept to a minimum. This DVD would have benefited from an anamorphic enhancement as the detail in the frame isn’t always sharp. Overall the source print used looks pretty clean as it never takes away from ones viewing enjoyment.
There are two audio options included on this DVD English and Japanese Dolby Digital Mono. The audio tracks are clear and easy to hear without any noticeable distortion. This DVD comes with Japanese subtitles included.
Navajo Joe like many Japanese Spaghetti Western releases come with little or no extras and this DVD’s only extras is the films original English trailer. Considering the high price tag that comes with most of these Japanese imports the lack of extras some might be discouraged from buying this DVD. Seeing Navajo Joe like most Spaghetti Westerns is essential and Stingray’s DVD is the best version of this film currently available. MGM currently owns the rights to several Spaghetti Westerns in region 1, but who knows when they will ever get around to releasing them. Navajo Joe is a very good Spaghetti Western that I recommend that hardcore fans of this genre check out if only to see Burt Reynolds as an Navajo Indian.