Stranger and The Gunfighter, The / El kárate, el Colt y el impostor (1974)

3.5 out of 5

1974 was a banner year for Shaw Brothers studio and their involvement with foreign productions particularly those from Europe. This Italy-Hong Kong produced picture was one of them. Heavily hyped in Hong Kong, it didn't perform very well there, but nonetheless remains a fascinating curio on the resume of Antonio Margheriti. It's a lively and fun show about the search for a treasure whose location is tattooed on the backsides of four prostitutes by a cheeky Chinaman, the uncle of Ho Chiang played by Lo Lieh. Ho must find Dakota, his uncles accidental killer, as only he has the clues as to the location of the buried booty. Other interested parties are after the treasure including a psychotic preacher man and his giant Indian sidekick.

The films production values are extravagant benefiting from some of the Shaw's staggeringly ornate set pieces. The one major mis-step is in the fight choreography. It's terribly lacking in excitement considering the kinetic punch of other Shaw action pictures of the time. Still, the fights do improve over the course of the picture and it's hard to not be entertained by both Van Cleef and Lo Lieh, both actors brimming with charisma. Lo Lieh dubs his own voice and he works extremely well off of Van Cleef who seems to be having a grand time and his last scene is a hoot.

There were a few other East meets Europe westerns, but this is the biggest and most sprawling of the bunch made even more impressive in that by 1974, Italian westerns weren't in vogue. Comedy is definitely in evidence here, but not the nauseating and badly choreographed silent era slapstick that dominates so many "comedy" westerns. The movie further displays its mindlessly entertaining qualities by mashing together elements of both Tessari's Don't Turn The Other Cheek, 1972 and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, 1966. It's great fun for those in the right frame of mind and far more goofily engaging than the poverty row shenanigans of the similar Fighting Fists of Shanghai Joe, 1974.

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