by Jaime Grijalba.
Hiya people, I’m back! And this time I’ve got a treat for you. Since we are in the western mood due to the incredible Western Countdown here in Wonders in the Dark, I thought that maybe I could make something out of it. When I first knew about what was going to be next in the most famous countdowns in the world of the internet movie blogs, I said that maybe I wanted to actually participate, by watching a lot of westerns and then chime in with a list of my own. I finally had the excuse and the chance to watch a lot of westerns, a genre that I could say that I’m not a fan of because I’ve seen very little of it, and that very little, while some great, some meh, wasn’t still representative enough to give a list to the members who were running this countdown. But, time and work came, and I was unable to fit westerns in my film schedule. I still wanted to participate, but I had only strong reasons to write about one particular movie that made it to the countdown (it’s my favorite western of all time, even if it’s definition as a western is… shifty to say the least). But I still wanted to do something, so I came up with doing this small series, that will run every thursday for as long as the western countdown runs, where I’ll talk about some obscure westerns that I’ll be seeing.
Every one of the films will be placed in 4 different categories based on how they rate in this obscure western world that I’m dwelling into, from worst to best, the categories are as follows:
So, the first category is ‘Hang’em High!’ for the movies that are so awful that you might as well burn the negative. Then comes the ‘Town Drunk’ for films that could’ve been something interesting, but just couldn’t make it. On the more positive side of things, the ‘Sheriff’ is for movies that are awaiting for their discovery, they are good, not great, and they deserve some sort of cult status. And finally, ‘The Man with No Name’ or ‘The Legend’, is for those films that are hidden gems that should be recognized and seen immediatly by the majority of the people who are fans of the western genre. Special thanks to Bob Clark for helping me with the categories and the design of the rating.
So, the film we see today is a spanish western made in the 80′s by the infamous director José María Zabalza that had the custom of directing his films while being completely drunk the whole time. Many actors and elements of the crew can confirm that while directing this particular western, there was not a single moment in which the director wasn’t sober, and you can tell. The first words that we hear are a summary of what happens in the United States before the Civil War happened, a Wild West where the division between the indians and the people who had settled there was rough, even some of the people who speak their mind about the subject have to say that guns are horrible, but if they didn’t exist, they wouldn’t, as the territory would still be populated by indians. As you can see, quite the amusing picture when it comes to its politics, specially when we’re thinking that this was made in the 80′s. The first words of the film are spoken, hah, by the drunk old man of the town, that seems to always remember a woman that he had in his arms… that has actually no significance in the overall story arch, and it’s not even funny, so its presence is only understandable from the delirious point of view of the director.
The story tell us about a group of gunslingers that go around the countryside (the desserts of Spain, doubling as the desserts of the american west) hanging by the noose to anyone who resembles or seems to be an outlaw, including indians and innocent people. This tries, somewhat, to be a critique of the violence of the american man in the modern days, but it comes out as a forced and trashy attempt to what could’ve been an important subject to tackle. There’s also the other storyline (what is this? ‘Babel’ (2006)? hehehehehe no) about a family that goes to buy some stuff to the local town, but they are ambushed, and for some stupid reason the father ends up trapped by some rotten logs in the beach, and the tide is rising. The daughter accompanies her father as the mother goes out on a quest to find someone that would help her husband. This is another of those messages that the director desperately attempts to tackle in this movie, but it also fails, even if his intentions are nice, when she doesn’t find help from anyone (USA is so mean!) until she can free her husband… a thing that she couldn’t do at the beginning.
The movie plays out like a bad trip most of the time, there are a couple of shots that seem to be under the vision of a drunk man, or a fly to be a bit kinder to the story behind the making of this movie. It would’ve been interesting if they were used in an interesting way, in this case, they just appear from nowhere and they are never given any weight or meaning for them to exist, and the fact that they are ugly and non-serviceable doesn’t help to even make it as some kind of eye candy to those who were bored by the plot of the movie (almost anyone who watches it). The editing is also weird and strange, and it simply doesn’t work, it’s one of those small broken things that you marvel at just to say how much it can possibly be wrong. Repetitions, raccorts that don’t match, bad dubbing most of the time, it’s a disaster. It’s no wonder that the film was made by a drunk director, it shows that kind of desorientation that happens when you drink alcohol, you aren’t sure how close or far you are from the ceiling or floor, but you sure are sorrounded by friends (or foes, depending on your attitude).
I’d call this western obscure because it had less than 10 votes on its IMDb page, no one other than me has seen the film according to the Letterboxd database, and because I was only able to find another review, in spanish, of this western, calling it the worst movie that the reviewer has ever seen. Can’t really agree on that statement, there’s a style in directing drunk that many bland or just incompetent directors can’t seem to surpass, and that’s why I can say that this isn’t the worst film I’ve seen in my life, but it still deserves the lowest rating we have in this system.