Saturday, July 14, 2012

El Professore Movie Review: Navajo Joe (aka A Dollar a Head)

Navajo Joe (aka A Dollar a Head)

Director: Sergio Corbucci
Starring: Burt Reynolds, Aldo Sambrell, Nicoletta Machiavelli, Tanya Lopert, Fernando Rey
* * *
After the huge success of Django, director Sergio Corbucci found himself an in demand director in Italy. An innovator who took the more well known Sergio Leone's concepts and exxagerated them often to the tenth degree, Corbucci would be the one who moved the Spaghetti Western into heretofore unexplored territory and featuring violence so extreme (by 60s standards), that they often ran into censorship problems. Navajo Joe was a good example of this.

Full review after the jump.

Navajo Joe involved the massacre of an entire Indian tribe by a small band of gunmen (the loathesome leader curiously is a 'half breed' himself) and the vengence wrought by it's title character, the lone survivor. For the part of Joe, Corbucci wanted Marlon Brando. Not surprisingly, Brando was unavailable for the part (Marlon would never have made a Western that featured 'fake' Indians). Disappointed, he told Producer Dino Delaurentis that he wanted someone who physically resembled his unobtainable top choice. Going back to the American T.V. series 'Rawhide' (where Clint Eastwood was discovered by Sergio Leone), Dino spotted an athletic unknown named Burt Reynolds. Noting his resemblence to Brando, Dino immediately signed young Burt to the project. Initially, Burt was pleased as he thought he'd be following in Eastwood's bootsteps. That is, until he realized that the 'Sergio' who will be directting the project was not Leone (in fact, Corbucci was every bit the talented innovator that Leone was). Miserable about his 'mistake', Burt soon found himself baffled by the very Italo production. "What the heck is going on in this film?!" Reynolds asked. "This is the Italian Western. It deals with extremes" was Corbucci's response. So bad was Burt's experience with the movie that when asked about it, he once declared his hatred of the film by calling it, "so awful, it was shown only in prisons and airplanes because nobody could leave. I killed 10,000 guys, wore a Japanese slingshot and a fright wig."

I'm sure it is to Mr. Reynolds disgust that so many of his fans consider this one of their fave films that he has ever appeared in. Navajo Joe may not quite rank with Corbucci's greatest Westerns (Django, The Mercenary and The Great Silence), but silly though it sometimes is, it is stylish, energetic, very violent and alot of fun. Certaintly, this is one of the livelier Italo Westerns I've ever seen. Burt is shot mostly in extreme closeup or from great distances which go a long way to giving him that 'mythic' look so necessary for this type of movie. He also did virtually all of his own stunts (which judging by the harshness of some of them, must have added to his displeasure). The finale, a one on one showdown in an Indian grave site, is one of the more harrowing I've seen.

Complemented by one of maestro Ennio Morricone's most crazed scores, Navajo Joe is a good bet for Burt fans (whether he likes it or not) and Spaghetti Western officiandos alike.

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed this movie! Guess I'm a big dork like that!