Welcome to the old west, where life is brutal and unpredictable. Ben (Richard Roundtree) joined the Union Army so he could kill white men. When his commanding officer caught Ben in bed with his wife, Ben was forced to commit murder and go on the run. When Ben stumbles across an unnamed Indian (Roy Thinnes) with a bad leg, Ben forces the Indian to accompany him. Despite Ben being loud, cruel, and mentally unstable, an unlikely friendship develops between Ben and the Indian, cemented by their mutual hatred of the white man. When they find a deserted church, Ben and the Indian settle in and start to raise chickens. The Indian’s favorite chicken is a one-eyed bird that he has named Charley. Meanwhile, the Bounty Hunter (Nigel Davenport), a British racist, retraces their every step.
Richard Roundtree made Charley One-Eye after shooting to fame as John Shaft. This film was his attempt to show that he was capable of playing more than just the black private dick that’s a sex machine to all the ladies. Ben is a world away from Shaft. There’s nothing smooth or charming about Ben, who never stop laughing or talking about how much he wants to kill a white man. (Though the character introduces himself as being named “Ben,” the end credits simply read, “The Black Man … Richard Roundtree.”) The Indian is also half-crazy and given to fits of laughter. The Bounty Hunter never laughs. Whenever these three aren’t talking, the sound of buzzing flies is heard. Death and decay are all around.
Don Chaffey was a British director who best known for films like Jason and the Argonauts and One Million Years B.C.Charley One-Eye was a strange departure for him and he would never make another film like it. It has elements of the Blaxploitation genre and Spaghetti western fans will recognize Aldo Sambrell in the tiny role of a Mexican bandit. But it is really neither blaxploitation nor a western. It’s a slowly paced, sometimes boring character study of two outsiders. Both Roundtree and Thinnes give good performances, though their characters are sometimes hard-to-take. The only thing that makes Ben and the Indian tolerable is that their enemies, like the Bounty Hunter, are a hundred times worse. There is a weird religious subtext running through the entire movie and the ending will leave you wondering whether the director of Jason and the Argonauts was actually calling for armed revolution. Charley One-Eye is uneven and it goes on for at least thirty minutes too long but it is still an intriguingly strange movie.
One final note: Charley One-Eye was produced by none other than David Frost, the British media personality whose post-presidency interview with Richard Nixon was recreated in Frost/Nixon.
Duncan (Aldo Sambrell) and his gang are the most ruthless and feared outlaws in the old west. When first seen, they are destroying a Navajo village and shooting everyone that they see. Duncan even steals a pendant from a young Indian woman. When that woman’s husband, Joe (Burt Reynolds), discovers what has happened, he sets out for vengeance. With Ennio Morricone’s classic score playing in the background, Joe kills one gang member after another. When Duncan and his gang lay siege to the town of Esperanza, Joe approaches the townspeople and offers to defend them. His price? “One dollar a head from every man in this town for every bandit that I kill.”
Following in the footsteps of his friend and fellow television star, Clint Eastwood, Burt Reynolds went to Italy in the 1960s and made a spaghetti western. Navajo Joe was his second starring role, after Operation CIA. Reynolds has always described Navajo Joe as being one of the worst movies ever made but, with the excepton of Deliverance, Burt says that about every film that he has ever made. (Burt has also complained that the wig he wore in Navajo Joe made him look like Natalie Wood, which is true.) While it never reaches the height of some of Sergio Corbucci’s other westerns, Navajo Joe is a frequently exciting movie, featuring one of Morricone’s best scores and a lead performance that is never as bad as Burt claims it was. At first, it is strange to see Burt Reynolds playing such a grim and stoic character but, by the time he is throwing dynamite at Duncan’s gang, he has grown into the role and proven that he could actually play something other than a giggling good old boy. As usual for a Corbucci western, both the outlaws and the greedy and ungrateful townspeople stand in for capitalism run amok. Like many spaghetti protagonists, Joe is an outsider who fights to save a town full of cowardly people who will never accept him. As Joe explains, his ancestors were in America long before any of the townspeople’s ancestors. America is his land but the forces of progress and greed are robbing him of his home.
Navajo Joe may not be a classic but it’s a solid western featuring one of Burt Reynolds’s most underrated performances. If you have ever wanted to see Burt Reynolds smile while scalping a man, Navajo Joe is the film to see.
Hi there and welcome to October! This is our favorite time of the year here at the Shattered Lens because October is horror month. For the past three years, we have celebrated every October by reviewing and showing some of our favorite horror movies, shows, books, and music. That’s a tradition that I’m looking forward to helping to continue this year.
So, let’s start things off with a little indie film from 1980. This film was released under several names, including Monster. However, I prefer the title under which it has been included in several Mill Creek box sets: Monstroid: It Came From The Lake!
Monstroid tells the story of what happens when a monster emerges from a lake and starts killing people in Columbia. Superstitious villagers blame a local woman whom they believe to be a witch. Even though the town priest (and no horror fan should be surprised to discover that the priest is played by John Carradine) claims that he can exorcise the evil spirits that have possessed her, the villagers would rather burn her at the stake. Meanwhile, the local Big Evil Corporation has sent in Travis (James Mitchum) to take care of the monster!
And what a monster! Listen, there’s a lot of negative things that I could say about this low-budget film but the monster is simply adorable and must be seen by anyone who appreciates the rubber monsters that populated horror films in the days before CGI.
Plus, how can you resist a film that features not only Robert Mitchum’s son but John Carradine as well?