TAKE A HARD RIDE to another destination than the one skunked up in this idiotic 1975 Italian-American spaghetti-meets-blaxploitation western, filmed in the Canary Islands by prodigious director Antonio Margheriti aka Anthony Dawson, who never met a bad script he couldn’t attach his name/s to. Here his deft touch gets “performances” from Jim Brown, Fred Williamson and Jim Kelly, easy sneers from Lee Van Cleef and embarrassed professionalism from Dana Andrews, Barry Sullivan and Harry Carey Jr. The token Euro bombshell this time out is Catherine Spaak. *
‘Pike’ (Brown) promises to deliver $86,000 to Sonora, Mexico (looking suspiciously like the Canary Islands), when his ranch-boss mentor (Andrews) croaks (the 66-year-old vet mercifully exiting this tanker early), but he runs across, into and over a slew of varmints on the way. They include dapper, shady, stogie-flashing gambler ‘Tyree’ (Williamson), a destitute prostitute (Spaak) and her mute, martial-arts-knowing (yeah, sure) Indian scout/ protector ‘Kashok’ (Kelly). Bounty hunter ‘Kiefer’ (Van Cleef) pursues for some reason.
Dumb writing, ridiculous action scenes, ‘you-wish’ costuming and bad acting. With Brown and Williamson it’s a testosterone toss-up between who carries themselves with more macho arrogance while demonstrating marked inability to speak any dialogue convincingly. Kelly is helpless even without having to talk. Spaak just looks miserable to be there. Van Cleef is picking up a check.
For venerable character actor Harry Carey Jr., this marked a nadir: as a grungy rat named ‘Dumper’, his big scene involves him doing just that. A long way from She Wore A Yellow Ribbon and The Searchers. Money talks.
103 minutes has a few of them made bearable by the only aspect of the mess worth approval, Jerry Goldsmith’s zesty soundtrack., one of 11 westerns he scored. With Robert Donner, Ronald Howard (son of Leslie) and Buddy Joe Hooker (the stuntman essentially played by Burt Reynolds in Hooper). Made for $2,300,000.
* Sample titles of films bearing the credit “directed by Antonio Margheriti/Anthony Dawson”—-The Long Hair Of Death, Naked You Die, The Unnaturals, Cannibal Apocalypse and Yor, the Hunter From The Future. Jim Brown’ first credit was as co-star in a good western, 1964s Rio Conchos, also blessed with a score by Jerry Goldsmith.