5 June 2010 | lazarillo
Not a classic, but interesting and entertaining
The American Western had gotten kind of tired by the early 60's and ended up moving overseas during that decade where it begat the Spaghetti Westerns or Euro-Westerns. There is no doubt these films really revitalized the genre, but what was especially interesting is the influence they in turn had on the American genre in the 1970's. This is most obvious perhaps in early American Clint Eastwood Westerns like "Hang 'em High" and "High Plains Drifter" which traded on Eastwood's mercenary "Man with No Name" character. The more left-wing political Eurowesterns, meanwhile, probably had at least some influence on American films like "McCabe and Mrs. Miller" and "Pat Garret and Billy the Kid" (as well as on overtly political pseudo-Westerns like "Billy Jack"). This rather obscure American film is especially interesting though because it really betrays the influence of the third type of Eurowestern, the slapstick-comedy Westerns typified by the "Trinity" films of Terence Hill and Bud Spencer.
This movie is also interesting in that it casts two the scariest screen heavies of all time--Lee Marvin and Oliver Reed--in roles that sre not only sympathetic but funny. Reed plays an Indian(!), which easily could have been a disaster, but he turns out to be quite funny as a resentful half-breed who kidnaps a bunch of prostitutes in order to infect them with a dose of clap he has in order to create an epidemic that he hopes will reach all the way to the White House! He quickly forgets about this hare-brained scheme, however, when Marvin's character enlists his aid in getting revenge on an old partner (Robert Culp) who swindled them both and stole the Marvin character's perpetually unfaithful wife (Elizabeth Ashley). Rounding out the gang is character actor Strother Martin and Kay Lenz as "Cathouse Thursday", one of the prostitutes who decides to stay with her abductors. And this itself becomes a problem because she is the favorite of a lesbian madame (Sylvia Miles), who commands her own gang and owns the only motorcar around. It all comes to a head at a boxing match/political charity for the election of William Howard Taft.
Besides Marvin and Reed, the other main asset of this film is Kay Lenz. Lenz was a very appealing actress but not a traditional Hollywood beauty (she was kind of like Sissy Spacek or Hilary Swank), which often got her cast in "loser" or "outsider" roles like the title role in the ridiculous TV movie "The Initiation of Sara". After her memorable debut in "Breezy", she also kind of got typecast as a younger woman romantically involved with much older male partners ( William Holden in "Breezy", Lee Marvin in this). She was definitely very cute (she was once married to 70's heart-throb David Cassidy) and Hollywood should have done a lot more with her.
This isn't really a classic Western (and it's pretty hard to find right now), but is an interesting and entertaining film.