Tag 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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OVERLOOKED SPAGHETTI WESTERN HEROES

Jeffrey Hunter as The Christmas Kid

Jeffrey Hunter as The Christmas Kid

Frontierado is coming up on Friday August 4th!

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 but the forced Jesus parallels make this movie as UN-intentionally funny as the Holy Ghost Spaghetti Westerns (“Looks like this is your Last Supper.”). Continue reading

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ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (1968)

Frontierado is Friday, August 4th!

ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST is, to me, the definitive Spaghetti Western. This movie incorporates all of the best elements of Italo-westerns and has the additional advantages of actual artistic merit and some location filming in the real American West. One of the most distracting elements of many Spaghetti oaters is the fact that the films were mostly shot in Spain’s Jarama Valley, which is great for a Spanish Civil War buff like myself, but that valley doesn’t really resemble the American west that the stories are set in.

Sergio Leone got to shoot some scenes for this flick in Monument Valley and such authentic scenery definitely helps in a film that exploits visuals to a degree unseen since the age of silent movies. This is undeniably an action film, but Leone and his co-writers on the script ( Bernardo Bertollucci and Dario Argento. I’m serious!) intentionally used the framework of an old-fashioned western plot about the railroad, land-grabbing and westward expansion, yet made it all seem fresh.    

I often jokingly call this movie Evil Is A Man Named Frank, because, in a masterpiece of reverse-casting Leone put Henry Fonda himself in the role of the conscienceless, sadistic and predatory Frank, the lead villain. Watching the black-clad Frank calmly blow away a defenseless child early in the film lets the 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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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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LLAMA WESTERNS: SPAGHETTI WESTERNS ABOUT INCAN TREASURE

Lost Treasure of the IncasFrontierado is coming up on Friday, August 7th! In keeping with the seasonal feel, Balladeer’s Blog has been showcasing various neglected westerns. And when it comes to neglected it’s tough to top the tiny sub-genre of what is already a sub-genre: Spaghetti Westerns. I’m talking about Llama Westerns, the microscopic fraction of Italo-Westerns that deals with gunslingers in Peru shooting it out over Inca treasure instead of the usual gold or revenge.  

If Indiana Jones used a gun exclusively and thrived on riddling his adversaries with bullets in slow motion while blood squibs burst open THAT would resemble these Llama Westerns.

LOST TREASURE OF THE INCAS (1964) – Alan Steel, best known for Peplums like the Hercules or Maciste movies, plays an often shirtless gambler/ gunfighter called Samson in this film. He and his gunslinging pal Alan Fox (Toni Sailer) nip a frame-up job in the bud, then get caught up in a violence-filled race for the untouched treasure of a lost Incan city in the Palladi Mountains of Peru.   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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