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15.3.09

Roy Colt and Winchester Jack (1970)



Director: Mario Bava
Starring: Brett Halsey, Charles Southwood, Marilu Tolo, Teodoro Corra
Not Rated Running time: 85 minutes
Released by Anchor Bay

As a big fan of director Mario Bava's work, I tried my hardest to come up with some nice things to say about his 1970 comedy/western Roy Colt and Winchester Jack. Even Bava fanatics describe the film as non-essential at best, an unfunny and overlong bore at the worst. You don't want to know what non-Bava fans have to say about it. As much as I'd hate to admit it, the film's detractors are mostly right.

Roy Colt (Brett Halsey) and Winchester Jack (Charles Southwood) are partners-in-crime -- when they are not beating the tar out of each other, that is. After one particularly intense knockdown dragout, they go their seperate ways; Roy takes up with a feisty Indian prostitute (Marilu Toto), while Jack stumbles into a Sheriff gig after saving a crippled banker from a nervous tic-afflicted bandit. It seems that the banker is in possession of a treasure map that leads to a hidden stash of gold - and a group of outlaws led by a holy man gone wrong known as the Reverend (Teodorra Corra) have their eyes on it. Coincidentally, so does Roy Colt. And Winchester Jack. And the feisty hooker who doesn't care what man she's with as long a he marries her and shares the wealth. The usual gunfights, fistfights, a surreal melee in a brothel, and even an intermission occur before all parties have their grand standoff at the "x" on the treasure map. All of this is played for laughs that are delivered in the typical zany Italian style. The cast is up to the task, and Bava does seem to understand comedy, but all the talent in the world can't overcome the fact that the film simply isn't funny. Roy Colt and Winchester Jack is rife with the kind of low humor that might appeal to folks who laugh hysterically at sight of someone being hit in the groin while a wacky noise plays on the soundtrack.

Bava's legendary visual style is limited to the odd shot or two (a skull with daylight shining through its eye socket, Roy and the prostitute walking through a foggy, reedy swamp); the flat earthtones of the Wild West are not especially conducive to the Master's usual experiments with color and composition. Bava handles the film with technical competence, but can't add much life to a lackluster script that is stretched too far. There is about an hours worth of story here that is padded with too many useless action scenes and misfiring gags.

So take it or leave it. Bava devotees will be all over this one, warts and all. People with a passing interest in the Italian director would be advised to skip Roy Colt and Winchester Jack and go after Bava's next film, the excellent Twitch of the Death Nerve, instead. It's not awful, but for a Bava film it is a disappointment. About the best thing Roy Colt and Winchester has going for it is the nifty little theme song at the beginning of the film.

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