God’s Gun (1976, directed by Gianfranco Parolini)

During the dying days of the old west, outlaw Sam Clayton (Jack Palance) ride into the town of Juno City and try to take things over.  Because the sheriff (Richard Boone, who reportedly walked off the film before shooting was complete) is old and ineffectual, it falls to the town priest, Father John (Lee Van Cleef), to chase them off.  Father John is hardly your typical priest.  He’s a former gunfighter who, even though he no longer carries a weapon, still knows how to throw a punch.  Though he manages to put Sam and the gang behind bars, they are all eventually released.  The first thing they do is gun down Father John in front of his own church.

A mute child, Johnny O’Hara (Leif Garrett), flees town to track down Father John’s twin brother, Lewis (also played by Lee Van Cleef).  What Johnny doesn’t know is that Sam, who years ago raped Johnny’s mother (played by Sybil Danning), might actually be his father.  When Johnny finds Lewis, he finally manages to communicate what’s happened.  Lewis and Johnny head back to town so Lewis can get his vengeance  The only catch is that Lewis promised his brother that he would no longer carry a gun so he’s going to have to use his wits to get his revenge.

God’s Gun is a strange film.  It was one of the last of Spaghetti westerns but, though the director was Italian, it was filmed in Israel and it was produced by none other than Menahem Golan.  Golan brings the same producing aesthetic to God’s Gun that he later brought to many Cannon films — a few recognizable veteran actors (Jack Palance, Lee Van Cleef), an up-and-coming star (Leif Garrett), an international sex symbol (Sybil Danning), and a spin on a popular genre.  Like many of Golan’s films, the plot is occasionally incoherent and the entire production feels cheap and rushed but, at the same time, it’s hard to resist the mix of Van Cleef, Palance, and Danning.

Adding to the film’s strange feel is that every actor is dubbed, even the ones with trademark voices like Jack Palance and Lee Van Cleef.  Palance sneers throughout the entire film and could be giving a good performance but every time he starts to speak, you hear a voice that is clearly not Jack Palance’s and it makes it hard to get into the story.  There’s also an annoying squawking sound effect that explodes on the film’s soundtrack whenever someone is shot or whenever Lewis makes an appearance.

It’s not all a loss, though.  The Israeli desert is an effective Western backdrop and there are a few good camera shots.  When Lee Van Cleef and Jack Palance have their final confrontation, the picture starts to spin around and it’s pretty cool.  Finally, if you’re a Van Cleef fan, this is a rare chance to see him playing a traditional hero.  Because he’s dubbed, it’s hard to judge Van Cleef’s dual performances but this film does show that he could do more than just be a smirking killer.  He’s actually a pretty convincing priest.  Who would have guessed?

One response to “God’s Gun (1976, directed by Gianfranco Parolini)

  1. Pingback: Lisa’s Week in Review: 4/20/20 — 04/26/20 | Through the Shattered Lens

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