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With: Burt Reynolds, Fernando Rey, Nicoletta Machiavelli, Aldo Sambrell, Tanya Lopert, Franca Polesello, Pierre Cressoy, Nino Imparato, Lucia Modugno, Lucio Rosato
Written by: Piero Regnoli, Fernando Di Leo, based on a story by Ugo Pirro
Directed by: Sergio Corbucci
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 93
Date: 12/06/1967

Navajo Joe (1966)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Get Me Some Dynamite

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Made the same year as Sergio Corbucci's great Django, Navajo Joe is a good deal lighter, more of a popcorn entertainment, though it still has its moments of cruelty.

Burt Reynolds had been on TV's "Gunsmoke" and was probably looking to break into features. Like many other American Western TV stars (Clint Eastwood, Chuck Connors, etc.), he went to Italy. His Navajo Joe character probably didn't provide him many acting challenges; he's something of a super-hero, designed to pop up from behind a hillside and get the drop on large groups of bandits. But he sure is lots of fun to root for. He even has a great Ennio Morricone theme song. (Try not to walk around chanting "Nav-a-ho-jo" after seeing this movie.)

The plot starts with an unscrupulous doctor (Pierre Cressoy), who has married into wealth and status and has grown tired of it. He teams up with a band of robbers to steal a huge pile of money so that he can skip town. Three dance hall girls and their goofy bandleader are witnesses to the dirty deal, and they are chased out of town. Navajo Joe saves them, and goes on to waylay the money. Thus begins a huge standoff between the bandits, Navajo Joe, and a town full of unarmed innocents. Of course, Joe isn't made of stone; he has his own agenda here.

Corbucci really plays up the concept of cowardice here. Not one of the town members dares to make a move to protect their money or their families. The great Spanish actor Fernando Rey plays a priest that keeps trying to appeal to the bandits' humanity, to no avail. Only the beautiful housemaid Estella (Nicoletta Machiavelli) seems brave enough to help Joe. I also loved the scene with the goofy, older bandleader who uses a slingshot/arrow trick from his stage act to rescue Joe; anyone can be brave.

In certain moments, when Navajo Joe is going nuts against the bandits do we see samples of Corbucci's trademark brutality. When Joe gets his hands on one bad guy, he carves a symbol into his forehead, and then bashes him with a rock. It should be noted that future director Fernando Di Leo co-wrote the screenplay here; he would go on to make some equally astonishing cop movies in the 1970s.

Overall, Navajo Joe proves that Corbucci had his entertaining side as well as an artistic one. Without question, he went on to make some better, richer movies (as well as some much worse ones), but this one strikes a nice balance. Indeed, Corbucci could have gone on to make a whole series of Navajo Joe movies. Perhaps someone still will.

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