4 June 2017 | Wuchakk
James Garner leads an outlaw gang with gold fever
Released in 1970 and directed by Vic Morrow (and Giorgio Gentili), "A Man Called Sledge" stars James Garner as the leader of an outlaw gang, who experience gold fever after hearing about a cache of gold temporarily stored at a desert prison. They hatch a harebrained heist, but things go awry due to their greedy obsessions. Dennis Weaver and Claude Akins play members of the gang while John Marley appears as an old man who joins them. Laura Antonelli is on hand as the striking babe while Wayde Preston appears as the sheriff.
Aside from his TV work with shows like Maverick and Cheyenne, Garner only appeared in nine Westerns with just four being serious Westerns (rather than comedy-tinged Westerns). "A Man Called Sledge" was the last of those four and his character, Luther Sledge, is a far cry from likable gambler Bret Maverick or heroic Jess Remsberg in "Duel at Diablo" (1966) or the determined Wyatt Earp in "Hour of the Gun" (1967). Even as an outlaw, though, Garner still has his genial charm, but when innocents start dying due to his lucre-hungry schemes he pretty much loses all sympathy. And his band of owlhoots get zero sympathy from the get-go.
While often referred to as a Spaghetti Western, "Sledge" is actually a Dino De Laurentiis production with an American director/writer (Morrow) and main cast, but shot in Spain with Italians and other Europeans in peripheral positions (cast & production); for instance, the Spaghetti-flavored music by Gianni Ferrio.
The movie comes across as a mish-mash of Sergio Leone Westerns, "The War Wagon" (1967), "Mackenna's Gold" (1969), "The Wild Bunch" (1969) and "There was a Crooked Man" (1970). But with a few imaginative elements, such as the wintery opening, which is rare for a Western, and the funeral component at the Mexican village in the final act, not to mention the quirky late 60s-ish theme song repeated throughout. Also the opening gunfight in the saloon is thrilling and I like how the film closes with a pretty moving moral. It's even haunting. Unfortunately, the movie features some clumsy editing in the third act starting with the card game and the immediate aftermath.
The film runs 93 minutes and was shot in Almeria, Andalucia, Spain, and Rome (interiors). WRITERS: Morrow, Frank Kowalski & Massimo D'Avak.