The Beatles sadly never got around to their proposed western, A Talent for Loving, but everyone’s favourite mop-top drummer appears in this cult spaghetti western. Blindman (Tony Anthony), a sightless gunslinger charged with delivering fifty, beautiful mail-order brides to the miners of Lost Creek, Texas, is double-crossed by his partner Skunk (Renato Romano). Sold to vicious Mexican bandit brothers, Domingo (Lloyd Battista) and Candy (Ringo Starr) and psycho sister, Sweet Mama (Magda Knopka), the women are tortured, abused and used as bait to trap a Federale General (Raf Baldassarre). After dealing with Skunk, Blindman heads south to negotiate, but winds up tricked, imprisoned and brutally beaten. He escapes and together with sweet, innocent Pilar (Agneta Eckemyr), a gringo girl whom Candy covets, goes gunning for revenge.
Many regard this strange, counterculture spaghetti western as a classic, but frequent bursts of misogyny lend it an unpalatable edge. Everyone knows women did not have an easy life out west, but seeing them herded like cattle, beaten and mauled seems somewhat at odds with the comic, gimmicky tone. The big action set-piece where all fifty escapees flee in terror across the sand dunes only to be trapped, raped and shot by Domingo’s men is pretty harrowing stuff, all the more so for being exquisitely filmed in scope by spaghetti western favourite Ferdinando Baldi. This was a pet project for star Tony Anthony, who co-wrote the script (with uncredited input from friend/co-star Lloyd Battista) and co-produced with latter-day Beatles manager Allan Klein (who cameos alongside Beatles roadie Mal Evans as Skunk’s sidekicks!) and Saul Swimmer (who produced the Beatles’ Let It Be (1970) and co-directed Come Together (1971) a sexy road movie starring Anthony which suffers a similarly misogynistic bent).
Anthony became a spaghetti western star in a series of films: A Stranger in Town (1966), The Stranger Returns (1967), The Stranger in Japan (1968) and Get Mean (1975), featuring a scruffy, impoverished hero who was far more cynical and amoral than Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name. He makes for an interesting, vulnerable and sympathetic blind avenger, with a penchant for self-deprecating asides (“A man without sight isn’t much of a man. A man without sight and no money? Now that’s a bitch”), seemingly modelled on the famous blind samurai Zatoichi. And yet, for all his sharpshooting skill and deadliness in close combat (including a memorable, edge of your seat skirmish with Sweet Mama), the film often treats him like a joke. Villains trick him by swapping the kidnapped brides with elderly peasant women, hide a snake in his prison meal, while even the closing scene has him tricked by an ally. This supposedly humorous coda leaves the women’s fate quite bleak ending things on a rather sour note.
Bombastic action scenes and inventive camerawork make the most of the bigger than average budget, but the real pleasures are incidental performers like lovely Agneta Eckemyr (later in Disney’s The Island at the Top of the World (1974)) as the gentle, yet redoubtable heroine; gorgeous Magda Kanopka (whose numerous spy movies deserve a DVD release) quite marvellous as the malevolent Sweet Mama; and yes, Ringo - surprisingly good, despite having little to do. Hispanic horror fans will recognise Shirley Corrigan (Dr. Jekyll and the Werewolf (1971)) and Janine Reynaud (Kiss Me Monster (1967)) amongst the captive women. The sitar-driven soundtrack by Stelvio Cipriani is outstanding too.