Friday, June 8, 2018

FEATURE FRIDAY: A MAN CALLED JOE CLIFFORD (1970)

    There are different kinds of men who rise to heroic stature in the world; but rarely do we encounter the combination of warrior, scholar, and gentleman in one character. And these types are just as rare on film as they are in real life. That's especially true in Westerns until you meet A Man Called Joe Clifford. 

    A Man Called Joe Clifford was produced in that land of unique and colorful Western heroes: Italy. 1970 was the height of the 'Spaghetti Western' popularity and actor Anthony Steffan---whose real life closely paralleled the parts he played---was a natural for the character of Joe Clifford. 

     Clifford was unusual among Western fighters because he had a fascination with the writings of William Shakespeare. He supplemented his traveling performances and Shakespeare by working part-time as a gunfighter. This latter vocation caused Clifford some problems with the local authorities in the opening scene when some rowdies with a score to settle broke up Clifford's performance of Hamlet with a gunfight. 

     Desperately hoping for a reason for Clifford's leaving town, the local sheriff's prayers were finally answered when a telegraph came announcing that Joe's uncle had passed away and left Clifford a gold mine in his will. With visions of financing a trip to England with his fortune, he sets off to claim his prize.

     Certainly by now we should have guessed that it wouldn't be that easy. 

    Joe arrives in town to learn that a claim-jumper named Berg (played by Eduardo Fajardo) and a small army of desperadoes have not only seized the mine; but have impressed some locals into forced labor. And Joe also learns that Berg accomplished this feat by having Joe's uncle murdered.

     Clifford, however, doesn't take these injustices lying down---to put it mildly. From this point on, we can see exactly why A Man Called Joe Clifford is invariably found on top-ten lists of 'Most Violent Spaghetti Westerns'. It's probably also a reason why this film has the alternate title Apocalypse Joe. 

     If you're a viewer who likes Spaghetti Westerns, this one is sure to be one of your favorites. Imagine a cross between Have Gun Will Travel and Sabata and you've got a pretty good idea of what this movie's like. It's one of my favorites, and one of the movies I really wished had a sequel. It's one of those types of Westerns that you can watch over and over again without getting tired of it.

✬✬✬✬---four stars for a darn good movie.


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