Navajo Joe (Sergio Corbucci / Italy-Spain, 1966):

Brutality is business in Sergio Corbucci's Old West. The first transaction is a raid through a Navajo village, only with the cowboys doing the scalping before the opening credits, scored to fervid shrieking composed by one "Leo Nichols," easily unmasked as Ennio Morricone. Aldo Sambrell is the comanchero leader, riding into town with his bunch; banjo strings become archery props at the saloon, but Sambrell's mug is on a "wanted" poster, so the outlaws decide to live up to their rewards by decimating the place. The city is spared through another violence-as-capitalism deal, bandits hired to relieve a Wells Fargo train of its loot -- the destination is a prosperous burg called Esperanza, situated somewhere between High Noon and High Plains Drifter, where padre Fernando Rey blesses the incoming money. Fernando Di Leo added to the caustic screenplay, so that an immigrant mother can sigh at the "beautiful country" that is the U.S. (as dubbed by Spain) moments before every train passenger is slaughtered. Buckskinned Burt Reynolds, the titular hero, gets framed against the bluish dusk atop a hill, readying for battle by picking up flowers. A lethal warrior and a free agent, laconically moved by vengeance, just what the townspeople need for protection against Sambrell's gang, for, as a dissolve from the jagged Indian grounds to the town cemetery proves, the notion of civilization here is precarious still. Equipped with no guns and less bravery, the city leaves heroism to the outsiders, dance-hall girls and half-breeds, though the same mixed blood courses through the veins of the villain, fueling his hatred for the world around him. Reynolds, meanwhile, is all-Navajo and all-American, thus fully adapted to Corbucci's withering view of the frontier, etching a target onto a cowboy's forehead with the man's own shiv before grabbing a nearby rock and going for a bullseye, a classic bit of spaghetti nastiness. With Nicoletta Machiavelli, Simón Arriaga, and Pierre Cressoy.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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