Man Called Sledge, A / Sledge (1970)

3.0 out of 5

Italian, 70s western packs its share of grit and greedy characters, most obvious in the transformation of James Garner's often painful congenial screen-type into that of a mean, whore-keeping outlaw obsessed with stealing a prison stronghold of gold. And his name is Luther Sledge, which makes him sound more like a pimp. Actor Vic Morrow directs with an efficient style, obviously influenced by Leone and Corbucci, but it's a serious improvement over the numerous American westerns emulating the European style at the time, for example, Ted Post's awful Hang 'Em High. Musical score is disappointing for an Italian western, especially the theme song Other Men's Gold which sounds like it was performed by Pat Boone, yet the rest of the soundtrack is enjoyable and even features some rock drums. Garner's use of a crucifix as a splint for a wounded arm is a nice touch, but the flaring buckskin shirt he wears is a bit Las Vegas. John Marley, as "The Old Man", lets a thick New York accent taint the giggling tinhorn character he's supposed to play, especially when spouting terms like "reckon". Some dodgy editing in places murks up the plotline, likely the result of a censored U.S.A. cut, that keeps Garner's lady offscreen only to die minutes later in his arms from a ton of unexplained injuries. Marley's bizarre fertility dance after successfully bedding a whore is another of the film's highlights. Some imagination is also to be applauded in a bad-guy sheriff being tied to a dead man, and his horse, and set loose in the desert.

Maurizio Merli header graphic courtesy of Paddy O'Neill of Foxyfide Graphics