The brainchild of the team behind the low budget zombie schlock Hell of the Living Dead (1980), Apache Kid and its partner film Scalps, venganza india (1987) are a real curiosity. Filmed in Spain, almost a decade after the iconic Spaghetti Western genre had come to an end and during a lull in the American Western, the films show a strange mix of influences.
Deep in the Old West a small wagon train is attacked by bandits who kill the men, women and children there, but just before they kill the last survivor, an group of Apaches arrive on the scene and kill the bandits. They rescue the woman who survived and take her back to camp where she gives birth, but dies of her wounds. Her son is named Shining Path (Sebastian Harrison) and he is raised by White Bear the Apache Chief as his own, alongside his son Black Wolf. The boys are inseperable as youngsters, but fall apart over the love of Rising Sun and as they fight for her, Black Wolf is accidentally killed. Shining Path leaves to live with the white men but discovers that they are a vile bunch who plan to kill off the Apaches who are stopping their "progress"...
The storyline of a child raised by Native Americans is not an uncommon one and the opening, as we see how Shining Path comes to be raised by the tribe, is a rather by-the-numbers affair and quite dull - the interaction with his 'brother' Black Wolf and the love interest are not particularly well written and would seem more at home in a kids film, this is not helped by a very cliché and quite unnecessary voiceover narration. Fortunately the film matures somewhat once Shining Path enters the white man's world and from here on in the storyline becomes a lot more interesting. The atmosphere is quite grim, although certainly never to the nihilistic levels of many Italian Westerns, pacing is slow but never drags and the film builds to an interesting although slightly confused climax as we never find out the fate of the Apache village and you get the feeling that a bit more character could have made it a lot more emotive.
Native Americans were almost unseen in the Italian Western boom, aside from a few appearances in the earlier genre entries when the films were still masquerading as American titles. They did however form the main focal point of the West German Karl May Western series and the counterpart Communist East German Indianerfilm - the latter films used the plight of the Native Americans to make a political point against the US and its perceived expansionist policies. Apache Kid doesn't seem quite as ready to make a point and although it is keen to show the Apaches as the heros and the white men as almost exclusively evil, the white men are acting on their own accord and not under government orders (unlike the perpretrators of the massacre in American Western Soldier Blue (1976), the film that Scalps borrows from heavily).
Director Bruno Mattei (under his usual moniker of Vincent Dawn) is often derided as one of the lesser Euro-cult directors - like the script, the direction does not start off too well and the opening massacre is so overwraught as to be unintentionally comic. However from this point on he shows that he can do a solid job when required and even includes a few nice touches, using the bright light and lens flare to good effect. Working to the low budget, the film never tries to overstretch itself, for example it carefully but subtly limits what we see of the Western town. The bloody effects are reasonably well done and a lot less pronounced than one might expect from the director (certainly fewer than in the sequel Scalps). Frequent Mattei collaborator Luigi Ceccarelli provides the soundtrack and like everything else in the film, it doesn't start off too promising, sounding overly light and comic during the early sequences, but providing some nice Native American themes later on and generally proving quite effective.
Sebastian Harrison, son of the Euro-cult veteran Richard Harrison, certainly looks the part, with a phsyique guaranteed to make all of the women in the audience go weak at the knees (and he does spent a lot of the film shirtless). Unfortunately his acting is not really up to much, although the role fortunately requires little in the way of emotion. The very attractive Miss Spain, Lola Forner (best known today for parts in two Jackie Chan films) gives a good performance as Rising Sun, while Cinzia de Ponti (ferry-bound victim of the New York Ripper (1982)) plays the white love interest Isabella. Euro-cult veteran and Mattei regular Luciano Pigozzi (Sabata (1969)) gives a good showing as the Indian symphathiser Cribbens.
It is quite hard to classify Apache Kid; despite the presence of a veteran exploitation crew behind the camera, it doesn't go in for the all out sex and gore that one might have expected, but although the storyline seems quite family friendly, there is enough blood and sexual hints to keep this from ever receiving an family rating (at least not for Anglo-American audiences). For Euro-Western fans this title and its partner film make a fascinating curio and Bruno Mattei fans will certainly want to see this unexpected detour for the director.
|Anyone famous in it?||Sebastian Harrison - son of Richard Harrison, he also appeared in Lucio Fulci's Il fantasma di Sodoma (1988)|
|Directed by anyone interesting?||Bruno Mattei - an Italian film-maker often considered to be the 'bottom of the barrel' of the Euro-cult directors, his credits include Caligula et Messaline (1981), SS Girls (1982) and Women's Prison Massacre (1982).|
|Any gore or violence ?||A couple of quite bloody shots, although nothing gory compared to the rest of the 1980s|
|Any sex or nudity?||Several sexual references and some implied rape scenes but no nudity seen.|
|Who is it for?||Euro-Western and Bruno Mattei fans should enjoy this curio.
|Visuals||Original Aspect Ratio - 1.85:1. Not anamorphically enhanced. Colour.
Some grain and print damage, otherwise nice detail and colours (a couple of scenes seem to be faded). Occasional wildlife stock footage scenes are of lower quality.
|Audio||English, Spanish, German and Italian audio - all sound fine.|
|Extras||This disc includes:
|Region||Region 0 (ALL) - PAL|
|Other regions?||Not otherwise available|
|Cuts?||Cut status unconfirmed. English language print.