18 March 2007 | ChungMo
Passable Italian Western
In the world of the Italian western we have the lofty pinnacle reached by Sergio Leone, the lower plateaus managed by Sergio Corbucci, a few other efforts (Trinity series, works by Solima) that share that space and a multitude of films piled into a dark valley of wretchedness. True exploitation films, the average Italian western manages to touch all the required genre identifiers (lone hero, nasty villain, absurd gunfights, saloon scene, etc.) without any sense of pacing or originality. When a film comes along that actually tries something different, it seems like a ray of wonderful sunlight has suddenly entered the dark valley.
The idea of a gunfighter who would rather be a Shakepearean actor is interesting but the idea is never taken very far. Antonio Steffan is not a wide-ranging actor and it's really obvious whenever he is in a disguise (about four times in the whole film!). The film opens with a great scene where Clifford is performing Hamlet's famous soliloquy and he suddenly shoots four men with a gun hidden in the prop skull! Unfortunately nothing tops that image for the rest of the film. We never find out why he shot the men as the film moves on to a stock story about a stolen gold mine deed.
Great title (although the name "Apocalypse Joe" is meaningless), good score and decent photography help the film along. The pacing is slow at times and the final extended gunfight is juvenile, like a bunch of kids playing in the park.
Better then most Italian westerns so if you are a fan this is a good one to find. For the average movie person, it promises more then it can deliver.