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The Weekend Western: Yankee April 20, 2008

Posted by Ian W in : Film Reviews, Westerns , trackback

Before he became famous as a director of erotica, Tinto Brass made this early spaghetti western that’s very much in the Fistful of Dollars mould. A stranger known only as “Yankee” (Philippe Leroy) rides into a Mexican town that’s under the despotic rule of El Grande Concho. After seeing the wanted posters of Concho’s men in the sheriff’s office he suggests to Concho that they split the reward money. Strangely the bandit isn’t too keen on the idea of turning all his men in to the law, deciding he’ll make more money with them than without, particularly as he has designs on a shipment of gold being transported along the Rio Grandee by the US Cavalry. This leaves Yankee to collect the money for himself, provided he can kill them.

As you might have gathered, the plot is rather silly but Brass keeps the viewers attention with visual flourishes, always looking for odd angels to shoot from. Unsurprisingly the camera lingers over Mirella Martin as Concho’s woman, particularly when Yankee kidnaps her out of her bathtub and rides away with her across the desert with her modesty barely covered.

Adolfo Celi, the villain in the James Bond film Thunderball, is a suitably loud and intimidating El Grande Concho, but Philippe Leroy is sadly no Clint Eastwood, looking uncomfortable in western garb. The Frenchman lacks the sort of screen presence needed for the part and seems an odd choice. That he wears a rather silly looking hat doesn’t help either.

With a flimsy story and a weak lead performance the main reason to watch Yankee is to see one of the most well know Italian directors trying his hand at something a little different. Tinto Brass does enough here to leave you wondering what might have been if he hadn’t elected to concentrate exclusively on titillating his audience.

Just a brief note about Koch Media’s spaghetti western DVDs released in Germany. For some reason, unknown to me, their DVDs don’t list English subtitles on the packaging (only German), nor can you select English subs from the menu screens, yet most do have English subtitles and they can be selected using the subtitle button on your DVD remote. So don’t be put off by the apparent lack of English-friendliness.

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