Category Archives: Spaghetti Westerns

COMIN’ AT YA! (1981): MOVIE REVIEW

Comin at Ya 2COMIN’ AT YA! (1981) – Directed by Ferdinando Baldi, Comin’ At Ya! is often credited with starting the pointless and bizarre 1980s revival of 1950s-style 3D movies. The film stars Tony Anthony, famous to us Spaghetti Western fans for the movie series in which he played a gunslinger called the Stranger. He appeared in others, as well, some reasonably good and others, like Blindman, so bad as to be virtually unwatchable.

Tony’s standout feature is the way he always looks like he’s ready to burst into tears, which always set him apart from the countless tough guys in Italo-Westerns. That feature stands him in good stead in Comin’ At Ya!

Tony Anthony

Tony Anthony IS Tinsley – I mean H. H. Hart – in Comin’ At Ya!

Anthony stars as gunfighter H.H. Hart. No, not H.H. Holmes, which would be an entirely different type of movie. Hart has, like many a fictional gunman, decided to leave his past behind and settle down with his one true love – a female gambler called Abilene aka the Cajun Queen. Abilene is portrayed by European actress Victoria Abril.

On their wedding day, H.H. and Abilene are separated when the ceremony is crashed by a gang of white-slavers led by brothers Pike and Polk Thompson. Our story inverts the setup of Louis L’Amour’s western The Shadow Riders, in which two brothers who fought on opposite sides of the Civil War set aside their differences to recover female family members from white-slavers headed for Mexico. 

In Comin’ At Ya! it’s the villains who are such a pair of brothers. Pike served on the Union side and Polk on the Confederate side. The duo command an enormous gang made up of veterans from both sides of the war in addition to renegade Indians and Mexican pistoleros. They steal the lovely Cajun Queen from her new husband and add her to the rest of their haul of young women to sell into slavery down in 1870s Mexico.

comin at ya - cinema quad movie poster (1).jpgOur main character, Triple H, ain’t havin’ it and sets out to recover his new bride and set free the other unfortunate women seized by the Thompson Gang. Needless to say he’ll also kill every member of the gang as well as some of the snobbish, upper-class Mexican aristos – male and female – who buy the ladies at an elegantly-appointed mansion/ former convent now used for slave auctions.

Even though this is really just a Spaghetti Western, albeit with slightly better production values, releasing a film titled Comin’ At Ya! clearly means you want it to stand or fall purely on its gimmick: 3D. First I’ll address the 3D effects and then examine the movie as a whole. Continue reading

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YELLOWHAIR AND THE FORTRESS OF GOLD (1984)

Yellowhair and the Fortress of GoldYELLOWHAIR AND THE FORTRESS OF GOLD (1984) – Reviewers need to lighten up about this movie. Especially over at IMDb. If those reviewers actually think this film deserves a low rating of 4.2 they’re being silly. I eat, sleep and breathe bad movies and I settled in to finally watch this supposed bomb fully expecting something hilariously awful. Nope. It’s no masterpiece but it’s a fairly good movie with a butt-kicking female lead. 

Actually, Yellowhair and the Fortress of Gold is better than 1980s schlock like the Allan Quatermain flicks or many Chuck Norris films. The production values are above many other Eurowesterns, which is what this really is, despite its Raiders of the Lost Ark pretensions. They’re also above many, many Grade Z action movies of the decade.

Yellowhair and the Fortress of Gold 2In my opinion the admittedly dopey opening seems to prejudice too many reviewers, who harden into hatred before the movie properly gets underway. The success of the first Indiana Jones movie a few years earlier prompted many studios to try touting all their new action releases as being “like Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

To capture that same old-fashioned cinema/ Republic Serial feel, director Matt Cimber presents the opening moments of Yellowhair and the Fortress of Gold as a “meta” trip to a movie theater, complete with excited, squeeing children. To pile on the corn even more, there’s a melodramatic voice-over setting the scene by depicting this movie as if it’s the latest chapter of the serialized adventures of Yellowhair (Laurene Landon), our half-breed Indian heroine, and her platonic friend the Pecos Kid (Ken Roberson). 

Pecos KidNOTE: Yes, that makes for a cringingly lame opening sequence but let’s face it, it’s only slightly more awkward than if Cimber had relied on setting the scene with an opening scroll like Star Wars and its sequels had revived years earlier and which other movies had been copying ever since. Anyway, you can tell some reviewers don’t bother watching beyond that opening sequence since their reviews bash the whole movie as if it’s like that. Actually, the voiceover disappears and the story proceeds like in any other film after that ill-advised opening dose of nostalgia.  Continue reading

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THE CHRISTMAS KID (1967)

Christmas Kid

Jeffrey Hunter as The Christmas Kid

I always think of this bizarrely-themed Spaghetti Western as The Gospel According to Sam Colt or Paul’s Letter to Smith & Wesson. Our title gunslinger is played by Jeffrey “Captain Pike on Star Trek” Hunter. As Jesus in the movie King of Kings, Hunter’s youthful appearance brought on ridicule from wags who called the film I Was a Teenage Jesus.  

Once again Jeffrey plays a character who is born in a manger at Christmas and gets visited by three wise (well … no) men. The Christmas Kid‘s half-assed Jesus parallels continue from there in sporadic fashion. The little babe – called Christmas Joe at first – grows up to be a philosophical boy who practices pacifism. 

Christmas Kid 2When our hero’s home hamlet of Jaspen, Arizona becomes a Boom Town after copper is discovered, the place turns into a proverbial web of sin and vale of tears. Michael Culligan (Louis Hayward), the greedy town boss, builds an empire for himself out of crime and greed as the copper rush continues.     

This being a western, the day comes when Christmas Joe must strap on a gun and pin on a badge for a three-year mission – I mean term in office – to fight the forces of evil in Arizona Territory. Now called the Christmas Kid our hero spreads the Good News of Gunplay as he blows away various bad men who leave him with no other choice.  Continue reading

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LEGACY OF THE INCAS (1965)

Legacy of the IncasFrontierado is coming up on Friday, August 5th! In keeping with the seasonal feel, Balladeer’s Blog has been showcasing various neglected westerns.

LEGACY OF THE INCAS (1965) – Guy Madison and Fernando Rey starred in this Llama Western which would be guaranteed to make some of the emotional cripples of the 21st Century faint at its “Colonialism Squared” plotline. To me the staggering tastelessness of it all makes it more funny than pernicious.

Rey plays President Castillo of late 1800’s Peru. He has a Jim West-style assignment for his  gunslinging agent, nicknamed Jaguar. His birth name is Wutuma, and he’s the last of “the proud and noble Incas”. His job is to eradicate a gang of Native Peruvian bandits and guerillas who are robbing and killing all non-natives as part of their bid to resurrect the ancient Inca empire to rule Peru! Continue reading

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THE MAN CALLED NOON (1973)

Man called NoonFrontierado is on Friday August 5th!

In the past Balladeer’s Blog has examined some of the big names among the fictional gunslingers of Spaghetti Westerns. I’ve covered the original Django, Sartana, the Holy Ghost, Dynamite Joe, Harmonica and even Tony Anthony’s character the Stranger. Here is a look at the Italo-Western hero Noon. 

The Man Called Noon (1973)

The Story: Long before Robert Ludlum’s amnesiac secret agent Jason Bourne came this film. Based on a Louis L’Amour story The Man Called Noon featured Richard Crenna as the title character, an amnesiac who has incredible abilities with a gun but no knowledge of his past.

Just like Jason Bourne in the later novel, our hero Rubal Noon must piece together who he really is, why he has access to some large sums of money  and why various dangerous factions want him dead. He also struggles to survive while all this chaos closes in on him. Luckily his instinctive skill at killing keeps him alive, albeit increasingly confused.   Continue reading

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NEGLECTED SPAGHETTI WESTERN HEROES

Jeffrey Hunter as The Christmas Kid

Jeffrey Hunter as The Christmas Kid

Frontierado is coming up on Friday August 7th!

In the past Balladeer’s Blog has examined some of the big names among the fictional gunslingers of Spaghetti Westerns. I’ve covered the original Django, Sartana, the Holy Ghost, Dynamite Joe, Harmonica and even Tony Anthony’s character the Stranger. Here are a few of the lesser lights from Eurowesterns.

Christmas Kid 2THE CHRISTMAS KID

Film: The Christmas Kid (1966)

The Story: Jeffrey Hunter portrayed this memorable gunslinger, who got his nickname from the date of his birth, December 25th. His nickname was always bitter-sweet, however, since his mother died giving birth to him on Christmas.

The Kid is a pacifist in fictional Jaspen, AZ during a copper rush. Our hero reluctantly takes up a gun and at first seems like he might be corrupted by the faction led by the crooked town boss (Louis Hayward) but eventually his girlfriend Marie dies as the violence escalates. The Christmas Kid redoubles his efforts against Hayward. Good but not a great film. The Kid deserved more than one screen appearance. Continue reading

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THE ORIGINAL DJANGO MOVIES

FRONTIERADO IS COMING AUGUST 7th!

The best Django, Franco Nero, played the gunslinger in Django, Django Strikes Again and (wink) Django’s Grand Return

Like Tarzan, James Bond and Sherlock Holmes the melancholy bounty hunter Django has been presented in various incarnations and with wildly differing continuity. And like soccer the Django movies have been an enormous success almost everywhere except the U.S. 

The great Franco Nero created the role in 1966 in a film so popular in Europe (but banned in the UK for its still- controversial violence) that it spawned a legion of sequels. Some sequels starred Franco Nero or others in the role of Django, while others were just unrelated westerns whose distributors simply  attached a phony Django title to them, sometimes redoing the dubbing to have the lead character referred to as Django, other times not bothering.

Original Django poster Balladeer’s Blog helpfully presents a synopsis of the films featuring (legitimately or not) the most durable Eurowestern hero of them all. And, yes, if you’re wondering, the western bounty hunter Django was indeed the reason George Lucas named that outer space bounty hunter Jango Fett.

DJANGO (1966) – In 1867 Mexico Django, a veteran of the Union army in the Civil War, seeks revenge on Major Jackson, the Confederate officer behind his wife’s death. Jackson and his still-loyal troops, now turned  outright Klansmen, are, like so many other fleeing Confederates, fighting for the Mexican Emperor Maximillian in the war to keep his throne.   Django battles Jackson’s hooded thugs, even ambushing dozens with the Gatling Gun he keeps concealed in a coffin. When he’s out of men Major Jackson calls on Maximillian’s Imperial troopers for reinforcements and prepares to face Django and the Mexican rebel troops he’s fallen in with. For a detailed review of this unforgettable film click here: https://glitternight.com/2012/08/08/the-original-django-and-two-blaxploitation-westerns-a-primer-for-django-unchained/

DJANGO SHOOTS FIRST (1966) – AKA He Who Shoots First. Django comes into an enormous inheritance from his murdered father, an inheritance he learns he must share with his late father’s unscrupulous business partner, Mr Cluster. Django starts blowing away a host of bad guys as he tries to piece together who is responsible for his father’s death.

DJANGO, A BULLET FOR YOU (1966) – Django uses his guns to protect a group of downtrodden farmers from the villainous, land-grabbing town boss of Wagon Valley. He Continue reading

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