Upbeat Cynicism

what do you mean i lost my mind?

The Man from Nowhere, 1966

with 3 comments

The Man from Nowhere starts off with a prison break, which is pretty nifty. It’s a Mexican prison, seemingly, and a band of outlaws is taking as many men as they can away, to force them into the gang (replacing members that were killed).

One prisoner saunters out after the bandits have left except for one, named Whiskey. (And not for no reason, either.) The two grab a horse and ride off, eventually catching up with the outlaws.

The bandit leader is Gordo Macht (pronounced “matched” and “match” for some reason, but spelled Macht on the wanted posters), and he bears a striking resemblance to El Guapo from Three Amigos. His schtick is branding his men with an S on the left arm. He’s also a stone psycho, shooting men dead for no reason at all beyond his own amusement. He also tells a story about his pocket watch here, how his father showed it to him, and said that when he passed on, it would belong to Gordo. “Five seconds later, it was mine!” Given the way he acts throughout the film, it’s rather hard to believe this is anything but the literal truth.

Well, Our Hero ((Just wait till you see how much of a hero he’s not. Oy. )) arrives with Whiskey, and taunts Gordo a bit, saying he wants to “think about” the “offer” of joining Gordo’s band. This is right around the time that Gordo has shot a man who declined. Our Hero, who tells Gordo his name is Arizona (“like the land I come from”) Colt (making pointed reference to his gun). He shoots a guy or three who try to take him out, and leaves, saying he’ll give Gordo his answer later.

Gordo, of course, sends several men to go kill Arizona. The find his apparently sleeping form up in the hills and riddle it with bullets. Whereupon Arizona picks off all but one of them from the tree above. He lets the last one, Kay, live because, now that his clothes have been pounded by bullets when the decoy was shot, he needs new duds, preferably unholed. He lets the guy strip down to his union suit and get away, even though the clothes smell offensive.

When it finally comes, Arizona Colt answers Gordo’s offer in rather amusing fashion. The bodies of the men sent to kill Colt are arranged on the spot where he ambushed them, spelling out “No”.

Anyhow, Arizona goes into town on the stagecoach along with Kay, who is scouting out a bank for robbing. Colt fails to rat him out, for reasons that are none too clear, and they go into the local saloon together.

There are two women, daughters of the saloon keeper — the brunette, sightly and hot-to-trot Dolores, and the cold, supposedly gorgeous but actually homely ((And believe me, I’m being kind. )) Jane. Dolores goes off to a barn with Kay, sees his brand, and he strangles her so she can’t give him away.

Here’s where the movie lost me. It’s not even a moral point. It’s just there to shock the viewer. Granted, if Dolores were killed for being a slut I’d be even more put off — it’s not like Italy was saddled with the Hayes Office, so the whole virgin/whore false dichotomy has little justification in Italian films. ((Having recently re-watched Sergio Leone’s magnificent Once Upon A Time In The West, I was again astonished at Claudia Cardinale’s performance, where she is permitted to be both sexual and motherly, and punished by the film for neither. Would that more movies did this. )) But no, it was mostly pointless, except as a motive and motor for the rest of the plot, such as it is.

Dolores is buried, and her saloon-keeper father and sister Jane want vengeance. Arizona Colt offers — for a price. The price he accepts is five hundred dollars — and Jane. The father asks if he means marriage, and he smirks and says “Something like that.”

So yeah, he wants payola and a chance to boink the boss’s daughter. Lovely gent, ain’t he?

As he leaves to go after Gordo’s men, the preacher ((Who has been shown to be a moral paragon himself, having earlier taken a whip to his son for entering the “den of sin” that is a saloon. )) gets the following, admittedly rather awesome, piece of dialogue:

“In all my born days I’ve never heard a more monstrous proposal, a more dastardly, mean, underhanded thing! The Lord protect you, son.”

The delivery makes it even better.

So Arizona Colt (The Man from Nowhere!) goes off again to find the gang, and finds them (after they slaughter six men at a water hole). He tells Gordo of his deal, and offers to split the money he’ll get if he delivers Kay to the father. Gordo disarms both men, and makes them fight over a single gun, just to see who will win. Colt kills the baddie, and there follows a remarkably brutal scene which, if we didn’t already know, would give us a very clear idea of what a piece of garbage Gordo is.

Gordo shoots Arizona Colt (The Man from Nowhere!) through each leg and each hand, then leaves him for the vultures.

Of course, given that Arizona Colt (The Man from Nowhere!) is a scumbag rather than any kind of a hero, it’s tough to feel much sympathy for him. I mean, he cheats at cards, leaves bad men free to murder helpless women, then agrees to hunt a man at the price of a woman’s honor, plus five hundred dollars. So when this happens to him, it’s not like the audience is feeling his pain.

I don’t mind moral muddiness in my spaghetti westerns. But there’s a difference between morally questionable, and a man who is fully a cad. Arizona Colt is a charmless rogue. So, that whole audience identification with the protagonist thing doesn’t really apply here.

Plus, the actor playing Arizona Colt looks like a young John Kerry. Which doesn’t help. ((Hey! Maybe this was the pilot for Johnny Nuance! ))

It goes on and on, and while watchable, the fact that the protagonist is a piece of garbage makes it hard to get into it. (And they killed off the hottie, to boot.)

I will say this: the final shootout between Gordo and Arizona is effective. Gordo’s gun runs out of bullets ((Yes, a western where there are a finite number of bullets in a six-gun! )) and he runs into the coffin maker’s shop. Arizona follows him into the cluttered, shadowy room, and proceeds to cut off all means of escape. It becomes a game of cat and mouse in the dark, and it’s rather enjoyable to see Gordo panicking and out of control. It’s not great cinema, but it’s more interesting than most of what precedes it.

There’s some interesting moments here and there, but overall it was unengaging.

However, I should point out that, on the Mill Creek Entertainment Spaghetti Western set, this is one of the films that’s shown widescreen. The image quality is pretty poor, even by Mill Creek standards, but if this movie is of any interest to you, then knowing you get the whole picture in this set might make it worth it all on its own. (For me, having widescreen versions of Grand Duel and Beyond the Law has made the purchase more than worth the price.)

3 Responses

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  1. If you’re perfectly happy writing Yesterday’s Movie reviews for the rest of your life, fine. I’m not going to apologize. Don’t count on it. Because I know that we will have more fights after this. And they’re going to get much worse. I imagine we wouldn’t be fighting so much if we were together, because I could actually hold back if you’re here.

    Roanne Jean Isisdro Valenzuela, Maryland RN license no. R188912

    15 September 2008 at 6:47 pm

  2. I didn’t exactly sign up for a long-distance relationship, and you know I don’t do well in one, so I think I have every right to complain.

    Roanne Jean Isisdro Valenzuela, Maryland RN license no. R188912

    15 September 2008 at 6:54 pm

  3. Poor baby, why can’t the world ever realize that everything is always entirely about you, and that you are never ever responsible for anything?

    Congratulations, you have successfully tried my patience. Your refusal to keep private communications private has caused me to make all comments moderated.

    Ian Michael Hamet

    15 September 2008 at 7:21 pm

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