group of bandits attack a small Navajo village, killing and scalping
them all hoping to claim the one dollar reward per head, on their way
to town to collect the bounty they are stalked by an Indian (Burt
Reynolds) who kills two members of their group as they try and catch
him. In town Duncan, the leader of the bandits, is disgusted to find
that wanted posters have appeared for him and that the Sheriff has
decided not to pay the bounties any more for killing Indians. After
ransacking the saloon, the gang learn about a train carrying money
heading for another nearby village and set out to rob it, but they are
still being followed...
Shortly before beginning work on the iconic Django (1966), Sergio Corbucci helmed Navajo Joe.
The Spaghetti Westerns were slowly marking their independence but the
script still shows its roots, in this case not so much in the American
films but the German Karl May series. Similarly to Navajo Joe,
this short running but incredibly popular series had used a Native
American as the hero and shown them as peaceful people, forced into
violence by the actions of Yankee gangs rather than being violent of
their own nature. However the
Italian roots and hints of Sergio Corbucci's future projects
come in the script's incredibly ruthless atmosphere - although Karl
May's bandits are bad, these bandits are
genuinely evil, content to kill women and even children without a
thought in their persuit of gold and indeed at the start are prepared
to kill for little more than a couple of dollars.
doesn't really need much characterisation, he is your typical man out
for revenge, unfortunately he does lose a lot of his mystique in the
first almost banal conversation with the showgirls, that makes you wish
he were more the strong silent type - fortunately his dialogue gets a
little better later on but it is certainly not as well crafted as that
Duncan is rather more developed and the script is careful to avoid
making him into a mere comic book villain, unfortunately the contrast
between him and his obviously more conscientious brother is not
explored as much as it could have been. The banjo playing saloon man
gives a few chances to lighthearted comedy that the script chooses to
downplay as much as possible, helping to retain its downbeat
the director's chair, Corbucci doesn't seem quite as confident as he
would a few months later - some of the editing is a little snappy and
despite the script, the film still has a traditional Western look, more like Hellbenders (1967)
rather than the all out unconventional and grim tones of Django and his later Great Silence (1969) - but he certainly provides a good show. The fight
scenes in particular (Joe prefers the knife to the gun) have an
incredible intensity, with the camera moving in with the action and
even rolling over dead, that was rarely matched in the genre. The
Spanish locations all look very good, with a nice town set and steam
train providing much of the background. Ennio Morricone is credited as
Leo Nichols, but he deserves all the credit he can get for the film's
unique score, blending Native themes with traditional Western to make
one of the genre's very best soundtracks.
the idea of Italian Westerns was completely settled in the minds of the
public, it was common to cast an American actor in the leading role to
give the whole production an American feeling. Burt Reynolds is the
American this time, at the time an occasional television actor with
only a couple of minor films to his credit. Slightly darkened up to pay
the role (but really never looking anything like a real Navajo) he
looks very good in the action scenes but never quite
convinces in the dialogue - although he is not particularly helped by
the rather stilted dubbing in the English language version. As usual,
Aldo Sambrell makes a very good villain while hard working Fernando Rey
looks good as a priest.
the most original or well written script and with a rather oddly cast
leading role, a very strong directoral turn by Sergio Corbucci and an
amazing Ennio Morricone soundtrack really save this film and make it a
recommended although not compulsory viewing for Spaghetti Western fans,
it is certainly of interest to Corbucci fans.
Anyone famous in it?
Burt Reynolds - a hard working American actor, best known for starring in grim adventure film Deliverance (1972) Ferdinando Rey - Spanish born actor who also appeared in Corbucci's later Companeros (1970)
A amazing Ennio Morricone score - like most of his early work, it was written under a pseudonym.
Who is it for?
Certainly one for Spaghetti Western and Sergio Corbucci fans to track down.
Original Aspect Ratio - 2.35:1. Anamorphically Enhanced. Colour Picture quality is generally strong with only light damage and a little grain.
mono - sounds fine and the music comes through very well. (Note
that like the US DVD, the music here seems to be slightly out-of-sync
at the start and swells a few seconds before the titles come on screen,
probably a fault on the original print, the dialogue is never
Region 2 (UK, Europe) - PAL
on an almost identical US R1 disc from MGM (although that print is fully uncut). A Japanese R2 release contained a
non-anamorphic transfer. Expected from Koch Media in Germany later in
This DVD is cut.
6 seconds of footage are removed from two paces to remove scenes of
cockfighting and a dangerous looking horsefall. The latter adds a
noticable jolt in the middle of a riding sequence. English language
Hardly the most original storyline but the script is otherwise sound and the film looks great. Recommended to genre fans.
A decent looking and sounding print, but let down by the BBFC cuts - the US DVD has the same print and is fully uncut.