Navajo Joe

From The Quentin Tarantino Archives

  • Released in 1966
  • Directed by Sergio Corbucci

Film Review

Sergio Corbucci's Navajo Joe was actually supposed to be a star making vehicle for a young American TV actor named Burt Reynolds. This Spaghetti Western doesnt reproduce the marvelous debut of another American actor named Clint Eastwood, but it is a solid revenge film with some good action and story. As I was watching the opening credits, I noticed that the 1st Assistant director on this film was the Italian genre director Ruggero Deodato and the script was co written by 70s Italian Crime film master Fernando Di Leo (Mr. Scarface, Wipeout).

As the film opens we see a young Indian woman at the edge of a stream washing some clothes, a man on a horse gallops up to the other side of the stream, as he stares at her she smiles shyly, but suddenly, we see the man pull out his revolver and he shoots her dead. His band of commacheros rides up from behind and the man kneels down and slices the Indian girls scalp off. As his band of thugs massacre the entire tribe village, Ennio Morricone's (who uses the psuedonym 'Leo Nichols' for this film) brilliant theme score kicks in with the sounds of Indian screams, the credits roll as the man and his group of commacheros ride through the wildnerness menacingly.

When the men come to a large canyon, they spot a figure on top of the mountain watching them, they realize its Navajo Joe whos been traioling them since he found out his tribe had been massacred and scalped. Duncan (Fernando Rey) sends two of his men to kill Joe. They ride up to the top of the hill, and they just see Joe's horse, suddenly Joe appears and jumps and tackles one of the men. They fight and Joe kills them. As Duncan, his brother and the men wait, they see a horse trotting down from the hill with 2 dead bodies tied to it. Joe's just begun his rampage of revenge.

Duncan and the men, then ride to a town, when they arrive Duncan sees a Wanted poster with him and his brother on it. Hes not happy. The men make their way into a local sallooin where some sexy girls and dancing in a burlesque show while a old man on a banjo plays along with the piano. Duncan and the men disrupt the proceedings, after they sit down, a local contact of Duncan tels him that there is a train filled with money traveling to a town nearby called Esperanza. He tells Duncan to rob the train and get the money to him. Duncan agrees, then the towns sherriff shows up and tells Duncan to leave. When Duncan shows all the Indian scalps he has, the sheriff isnt impressed. He sees that Duncan is nothing but a thief and murderer and tells him to get out of town. The burlesque girls and the old man hightail it out of there when they see trouble is brewing. Some of Duncans men chase the wagon with the girls and when they catch up they try to accost them, but Joe saves them and shoots the thugs. The girls explain that they have overheard Duncan is going to rob the train, Joe realizes this is a perfect chance to get Duncan and the other killers.

As the trains rolling towards Esperanza, the conductors notice logs in the middle of the tracks in the distance. They stop the train, and when they do, the thugs come up shooting and they kill the passengers and conductors. They hijack the train and camp out near it until Duncan shows up. Navajo Joe is lurking in the shadows and he disguises himself as one of the men. When another thug asks him to wake up he stabs him!

Navajo Joe brings the train back to town and explains the money is all there. The townsfolk dont believe him at first, then they check and its true. One of the townsfolk is an informer for Duncan and he rides out and tells Duncan that he'll help him get the money. When Duncan and his men get to town they enter the bank only to find that the informers story wasnt true. The money isnt there. Duncan shoots the informant, and the men take an innocent Indian girl hostage and Joe has to give himself up in order to save her life.

They beat Joe up in true Spaghetti Western fashion. Then they string him up and let him hang upside down. Luckily, he gets some help from the burlesque banjo player who shoots an arrow from a distance and cuts one of the ropes holding Joe. Joe escapes to the hills and the next day Duncan and his men go looking for him. Joe kills all the men one by one and completes his rampage of revenge on the thugs, saving Duncan for last.

This isn't the greatest Spaghetti Western I've seen, its nowhere near as finely directed as Sergio Leone's films, but it is a good story and the soundtrack by Morricone is one of the best things about it. Director Quentin Tarantino used two of the songs from this film for his Revenge epic Kill Bill. The two songs he used were "A Silouette of Doom" a suspenseful buildup theme and "The Demise of Barbara/The Return of Joe" theme which is filled with heavy electric guitars and Indian screams.

Reviewed by Pete R - 5/26/07

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