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Madron (1970)

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An obscure western, an American-Israeli production, shot in Israel, the Negev substituting the American Deep South. Madron was one of the first movies produced by GBC Edric Isracine and the first Israeli movie set in a non-Israeli location. It was co-produced by Chicago based Zev Braun productions  (*1). The movie was released a few month after - and almost completely eclipsed by - Don Siegel's Two Mules for Sister Sarah, which told a similar story about a mercenary and a nun and their journey through the desert.
Leslie Caron is Sister Mary, a French-Canadian nurse and the only survivor of an Apache attack on a wagon train (*2). She is picked up, in the middle of the nowhere, by a drifter called Madron, a primitive man who has survived so far by following his instincts. He promises to bring her to safety, but the two must fight off Mexican bandits and marauding Indians. The journey is long and grueling, and poor old Madron also has to deal with a smooth-talking woman who starts di…

Sam Whiskey

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"Sam Whiskey was way ahead of its time. I was playing light comedy and nobody cared." - Burt Reynolds
Most American westerns released in the late Sixties, early Seventies interpreted the genre in revisionist terms. Even the immensely successful, seemingly light-hearted Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was essentially a thoughtful, pessimistic movie. Sam Whiskey anticipates Burt Reynolds' comedic roles in movies like Smokey and the Bandit, and in that sense it was ahead of its time, but it's by no means a revolutionary effort. It's labeled as a western but often plays more like a heist movie; some have characterized it as a caper movie in reverse.
In a genuine caper movie the protagonists - usually a trio of friends or professional partners - perform one or more crimes in order to lay their hands on a treasure. In Sam Whiskey the trio is trying to locate a stash of gold stolen from an army mint and bring it back to where it came from.  In other words: they'r…

Invitation to a Gunfighter

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A flawed but interesting western set in the aftermath of the Civil War. It has been labeled as 'a strong contender for the dullest Hollywood western ever' (*1), but others think it's a minor classic (*2). It's far from perfect, but tells a story about racism and  hypocrisy that is probably even more relevant today than it was back in the Sixties. Yul Brynner is a professional gunfighter who's commisioned to a small border town in New Mexico. Matt Weaver, a war veteran, has returned to his hometown to reclaim his homestead and his fiancée, but Weaver was one of the few inhabitants of the border town sympathizing with the Confederacy and therefore wasn't welcomed by the others. Moreover the town boss, a banker named Sam Brewster has sold his farm in his absence and his fiancée (Janice Rule) has married another man, a Unionist who lost an arm in the war ...
Both men of course want Weaver out of town and pay the professional to to the job, but this is definitely a w…

The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw (1958)

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The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw
In this British-American comedy western Kenneth More stars as Jonathan Tibbs, the last surviving member of a family of British gunsmiths. He has no desire to step into his father’s boots - he’d rather spend his time on his inventions (that often don’t work at all) - but when he discovers that the family business is not doing well, he decides to travel West. To the American West that is, because in the 1880s the Far West has become the best outlet for guns. Jonathan has never rode a horse or fired a gun, but thanks to a side-effect of one of his gadgets he is taken for a gunslinger and named sheriff in the western town of Fractured Jaw.
The idea for the movie is usually traced back to Leo McCarey’s classic comedy Ruggles of Red Gap (1935) in which an English manservant (played by Charles Laughton) ends up in the American West, but also seems to have taken inspiration from Nicolai Gogol’s famous 19th Century play The Inspector General (in Russian Revizor), in…

The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing

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Burt Reynolds is Jay Grobart, a former army captain who has spent some time in jail for shooting the man who raped and murdered his wife, an Indian woman named Cat Dancing (hence the odd title). After his release, he takes to robbing trains with three of his friends, Dawes, Billy and Charlie. Sarah Miles is Catherine Crocker, a highborn Lady who accidently witnesses their latest robbery. Jay wants to take her horse, but Dawes and Billy are also interested in the lady. When they flee into the mountains, they're persecuted by Lapchance, a railway detective, and lady Catherine's husband William ...
I had always avoided this movie, because of the negative reviews, so I was surprised to see a genuinely enjoyable western. Okay, it runs for nearly two hours, at least half an hour too long, and there are a few issues with the script, but Reynolds and Miles are a nice, unlikely couple and Jack Warden and Bo Hopkins are an interesting pair of sex-crazed baddies, both trying to get their …

Cattle Annie & Little Britches

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Cattle Annie and Little Britches (1981)
A little western, loosely based on the real-life adventures of two girls - AnnieMcDoulet and Jennie Stevens - who traveled West to learn more about outlaw life. They had read Ned Buntline's dime novels about frontier brigandage and desired to meet their idols in the flesh. The film is set in the late 19th Century, in a West that is no longer as Wild as it used to be, and when the girls finally meet the infamous Doolin-Dalton gang, they're confronted with a demoralized bunch of has-beens ... a wild bunch grown tired ... Their leader, Bill Doolin, feels inspired by the presence of the young girls, but his efforts to live up to their expectations put himself and his gang in danger of being dismantled by their arch enemy, the patient but determined sheriff Tighman ...
If you think - like Sergio Leone did - that women basically hold-up the action of a western movie, this is not a movie for you. It's a western and there's some western ac…

Showdown (1963)

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Showdown (1963) Aka: The Iron Collar
The  border town of Adone is one of a kind: it has no jail, therefore perpetrators are chained to a post in the middle of the town street. This is what happens to two friends, Chris (Audie Murphy) and Bert (Charles Drake), after spending a night in town. Chris was already a bit skeptic about their visit, because his friend has a habit of drinking and making trouble at the card table. Of course his worries come true: a drunken Chris provokes a brawl in the saloon and the two end up in the middle of the street, with an iron collar around their necks.
It's an unpleasant situation, but under normal circumstances they will be released the next day, so Chris tries to get some sleep while Bert is sobering up. Unfortunately, they're not alone: also tied to the pole, is a dangerous outlaw called Lavalle, who forces the others to dig out the pole.  After a brief shootout, the 'prisoners' manage to escape and fly into the hills. Chris and Bert …