|Navajo Joe (1966)|
|Writers:||Fernando Di Leo, Ugo Pirro, and Piero Regnoli|
|Starring:||Burt Reynolds, Aldo Sambrell and Nicoletta Machiavelli|
|The Plot: Duncan is a ruthless monster who has been working in-between the law for years. He was originally tasked with hunting down Natives who were considered to be outlaws, but eventually his ire was drawn towards any Native American village that he crossed. After ruthlessly massacring another group of Native Americans, Duncan heads into town with the goal of selling off their scalps. However, he finds opposition with the city council who no longer want Duncan’s help. After bullying the citizenry for a bit, Duncan is presented a much more interesting opportunity. A man named Lynne sells out the mayor of his neighboring town and tells Duncan of a train which is supposed to be bringing a substantial grant for this neighboring city. Joe (Burt Reynolds), a very tough Native who has been watching Duncan, quickly catches up with a group of prostitutes who have heard the details behind Lynne and Duncan’s plan. However, will Joe do what is right or is he only out to line his own pockets?|
Speaking of Joe, this wild character is fairly unique in terms of spaghetti western leading men. Not actually showing up until nearly twenty minutes into the movie, Navajo Joe establishes itself as anything except a run-of-the-mill spaghetti western. The fact that Burt Reynolds plays a Native American is still a point of controversy, and this is understandably so. He is obviously not a very convincing Native American in terms of his look, but I will commend the film for not pushing this character with a over-exaggerated stereotypical outfit. As bad as it is to spray-tan Burt Reynolds and throw him in a cloth outfit, the movie could have been so much worse had they dressed him up in full feather-hat regalia. Reynolds’ performance, despite the silly look, is wholly acceptable. He is not in his manic mode that would make him famous, but instead he plays this character with a quiet calm that makes him seem infinitely more dangerous. Not knowing his ambitions until later in the movie, Joe can come across as a very intimidating figure.
The plot is filled with brilliant genre-film staples as well as general movie-logic ridiculousness. For instance, I am a huge fan of the establishing story that focuses on the evil Dr. Lynne and the way the filmmakers introduce a very different sort of “thriller” aspect to the movie, mostly accomplished by keeping Lynne’s appearance hidden until later in the movie. Very smart stuff. As the movie keeps Lynne hidden, it does well by providing only one character who has actually seen his face and knows that he is involved with the nefarious bandit Esperanza. There’s a brilliant reveal where the audience finally discovers just who Lynne is, and the pacing of the movie is taut with a sense of tension. At the same time, however, the movie also shows Esperanza being approached by Lynne only moments before the train, the one that will be robbed, is apparently due to arrive. The timing of these very pivotal moments in the film do not seem to make sense, and it creates a sharp sense of confusion during the course of the movie. As much as I love the way the character of Lynne is introduced, the first forty minutes seem incredibly rushed together and jumbled.