Top critical review
2 people found this helpful
on 26 February 2012
Despite being directed by Django, Companeros and The Great Silence's Sergio Corbucci, Navajo Joe is a rather flat and average Italian Western that would probably be as hard to find today as many of his other lesser westerns if it weren't for an early starring role for Burt Reynolds. Unfortunately Reynolds hadn't quite harnessed his movie star mojo in 1966 and merely makes an adequate rather than iconic hero as the Navajo seeking revenge on Aldo Sambrell's gang of scalphunters who murdered his wife and child. After stealing a train and its $500,000 cargo from them after they kill both the soldiers guarding it and all the passengers, women and babes in arms included, he finds himself rather ineffectually defending a town of second generation immigrants that hates him for not being a proper `American' and going through all the genre staples - picking off the bad guys two-by-two or one-by-one (for no good reason Sambrell never sends enough men to do the job of killing him properly), getting captured and tortured, escaping with the help of the meekest of the supporting cast and finishing off the rest of the baddies.
In principle there's everything you need for a decent actioner here, but it doesn't quite play out that way. None of it is terribly imaginative and the action only sporadically well handled, which may well be a sign of the behind the camera tension. Reynolds reputedly only signed because he thought Sergio Leone was directing and hated every minute of the production and never made any secret of his contempt for the film while Corbucci only signed because he thought Marlon Brando was starring, and at times you can definitely tell that this is a film the two are only making because they're under contract. Corbucci does manage to include a couple of digs about racism and it's nice to see eternal supporting player Sambrell (billed on the English credits as Sanbrell) get a more substantial role for once, and even get a motive for his violence, making far more of an impression than his rather scrawny onscreen nemesis. Ennio Morricone, still being credited as Leo Nichols, turns in a memorably over the top score that turned up again in Tarantino's Kill Bill, and the writers include early Leone collaborator and future poliziotteschi genre cult figure Fernando Di Leo and twice Oscar nominated Ugo Pirro, who co-wrote Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion and The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, but like pretty much everyone else here, this is definitely not one of their better days.
While the UK DVD is cut because of one particularly nasty double-horse fall, the German Blu-ray is uncut and comes with an array of extras, including a trio of featurettes including interviews with assistant director Ruggero Deodato, co-star Nicoletta Machiavelli and Corbucci's widow, a location comparison, German trailer, stills gallery and booklet, but only the American trailer is English-friendly, the featurettes being primarily in Italian with German subtitles. The 2.35:1 transfer is okay but a little underwhelming, with English, Italian or German language options but only German subtitles.