Thursday, March 22, 2012

Seen It: Navajo Joe (1966)

Just as Italian directors like Sergio Leone hired American actors such as Clint Eastwood and Charles Bronson to play clearly "American" drifter-gunman, some "before-they-were stars" actors got their starts playing Native American (Indian) leads. One such example is the Burt Reynolds starrer, Navajo Joe (1966) directed by Sergio Corbucci; who would follow up this film with the genre defining Django (1966). Because Reynolds was a rising star who was himself part-Cherokee, he made the perfect choice for producer Dino De Laurentis' follow up to the Eastwood/Leone collaboration A Fistful of Dollars.

It's always worth mentioning that along for the ride was Ennio Morricone who scored the film but is credited under the name Leo Nichols. As is often the case with Morricone's scores, Navajo Joe's beats have been lifted for many later films, most noticeably (as always seems to be the case) by Quentin Tarentino in his  Kill Bill (2003) movies.

The story is standard for the genre: after being wronged by a band of scalp hunters, Joe hunts down the gang and in the process uncovers a plot to rob a train. Despite being leery of the Indian, the townspeople who receive the money hire Joe to stop the robbery. Check out an interesting (and brief) Turner Classic Movies article about Navajo Joe here for some more educated insight regarding the film.

The layman's review? Navajo Joe is not nearly as offensive as its un-PC title might have you believe--there is quite a bit of subtle reverence paid to Joe's non-descript heritage--and the young Reynolds is quite charismatic in an early role that he would later disavow. As far as Netflix films go, you could spend evenings in much less entertaining ways than with this strong Spaghetti Western. At worst, it can provide a gateway film experience to stronger films it is influenced by (as well as influencing).

No comments: