Thursday, September 3, 2009

In short: Blindman (1971)

A blind gunman (or rather rifleman, going by his favorite weapon) only known as Blindman (Tony Anthony) is hired to escort fifty mailorder brides to their future husbands in a Texas mining town. Before he can even gets his hands on them, they are kidnapped by the bandit Domingo (Lloyd Battista) and his men and brought to Mexico. There, Domingo wants to use the women to help him deal with the local military in a never explained kidnapping and murder plot to get money out of an unnamed General (Raf Baldassarre).

Blindman lets his Manmohan Desai-clever horse take him to Mexico and nicely asks for his women back, of course to no avail. Abducting Domingo's stupider brother Candy (Ringo Starr, oh yes; well, actually, oh no) to exchange him against the women doesn't work out as our hero planned, and just leads him into captivity, but don't fret, he'll escape to do the usual Spaghetti Western revenge dance.

Someone in the Italian film industry thought it a good idea to finance this fever dream the drug-addled brains of director Ferdinando Baldi and his star/producer/story idea provider Tony Anthony cooked up, and who am I to blame him?

A Spaghetti Western variation of Zatoichi with the goofiest looking Western actor of them all in the lead role must have sounded irresistible. Unfortunately, the finished film isn't as fun or as accomplished as I'd like it to be.

It all starts out fine enough in the insane, weirdly good-natured - even when people are killed and mutilated - tone that would make Baldi's and Anthony's later The Stranger Gets Mean so much stupid fun, but after forty minutes or so of Anthony mugging through absurd set-ups (personal favorite: the bad guys hiding a snake in his salad), the film suddenly turns mean on us. There's a scene where Domingo's men are hunting down, raping and killing the escaped fifty women that would be effective, poignant, deeply uncomfortable and touching in a Corbucci film, but just comes over as vile and misogynistic here. In theory, Baldi pushes all the right buttons, he just isn't able to let the viewer connect emotionally to the victims of the violence, leaving the impression of someone just not knowing what he's doing and (worse) why he is doing it.

The film has more than one moment of this type, and I never felt that Baldi was able to connect this half of his movie with the manga-esque exaggeration of its other half. In fact, I was never sure that Baldi knew what kind of film he was actually making, nor what its themes or mood were supposed to be.

It doesn't help that our titular blindman isn't much of a hero, not even an anti-hero. When he's not actively shooting someone, he is about as effective as a traffic cop without any knowledge of traffic laws.

It's quite a shame really, because the film does look very nice, and some of the action scenes are very ably done. I just don't think it is worth wading through the muck for them.


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