Written by: Carroll Jenkins on April 2nd, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1969
Director: Lee Frost
Writer: Bob Cresse
Cast: John Bliss, Maria Lease, Michael Divoka, Roda Spain, John Riazzi, Wes Bishop, Bruce Kimball, Sanford Mitchell, Tom Siegel, Jody Berry, Paul Wilmoth, Uschi Digard
DVD released: 2010
Approximate running time: 93 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Full Frame
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: Something Weird Video
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $10.00
On the face, this low budget violent western appears to be a ‘Wild Bunch’ clone. The entire second reel, where the soldiers party in the saloon / brothel, seems to be an expansion of the similar, though quite short, scene in The Wild Bunch. But, this was released a month earlier, so it seems obvious that the primary influence here is Django. The opening scenes reek of sweaty desperation and are quite evocative of spaghetti westerns, especially the countenance close-ups favored by Sergio Leone. The brothel scene is one of the highlights, then the busty bar girls, including Uschi Digart, vanish away upstairs for the rest of the film.
But once Captain Harris fires the first shot, the movie becomes very violent, including several gang rapes. Despite prior output by the team of director Lee Frost (The Defilers) and writer Bob Cresse (House on Bare Mountain), this is not sexploitation. The nudity is mostly obscured and the rape scenes are not meant to be titillating. Shootouts are well staged, and though the fistfights obviously pull punches, the action is fast and furious (and therefore screen time is brief). The script is actually quite good and not only contains some delirious exchanges of dialog, but the conclusion is both memorable and thought provoking.
Captain Harris (John Bliss) doesn’t show up for a few minutes, but when he does he has a commanding presence and is believable as the leader, even while forbidding the men to eat his dying horse. His descent into madness is quite convincing as well, and he has a monolog about the demise of his family that prefigures the gold watch segment in Pulp Fiction.
This DVD-R is very basic without even a menu screen. The feature itself looks fair most of the time, but the beginning of each reel is pretty rough for a few minutes and color is muted throughout. The sound quality is actually excellent and dialog is easy to discern. The feature is preceded by the standard Something Weird intro and followed by assorted trailers. Thankfully it is free of any watermarks or logos (not always the case with SWV).
A quality production despite the low budget, the movie is a story rather than a spectacle. It may be too intense for some and not explicit enough for others. The sensational aspects are there but the overall product is well balanced even as the main protagonist is certifiably not.