HOME |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
 
Newest Reviews
We Summon the Darkness
Call Northside 777
Cup of Cheer
Lost at Christmas
Super Robot Mach Baron
Battle of Jangsari, The
Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds with Shane MacGowan
Safe Spaces
Stanford Prison Experiment, The
Assassination in Rome
Castle Freak
Pinocchio
Brother Bear
Raiders of Buddhist Kung Fu
County Lines
Polytechnique
We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Covert Action
Strangler's Web
Host
Nimic
House of Bamboo
Murder Me, Monster
Hell and High Water
Possessor
Flint
Miserables, Les
Ritz, The
Patrick
Cemetery
Girls of the Sun
Princess and the Goblin, The
Skyfire
Upright
Incredible Kung Fu Mission
Dirty Cops
You Cannot Kill David Arquette
Leap of Faith: William Friedkin on The Exorcist
Son's Room, The
Evil Hits Evil
   
 
Newest Articles
Newley Minted: The Strange World of Gurney Slade on Blu-ray
Bad Love: The Night Porter on Blu-ray
Brevity is the Soul of Weird: Short Sharp Shocks on Blu-ray
Get Your Ass to Mars: Total Recall on Blu-ray
Call the Professionals: Le Cercle Rouge on Blu-ray
When There's No More Room in Hell: Dawn of the Dead on Blu-ray
The Butterfly Effect: Mothra on Blu-ray
Living Room Theatre: Play for Today Volume 1 on Blu-ray
Didn't He Do Well: The Bruce Forsyth Show on DVD
Blood Wedding: The Bride with White Hair on Blu-ray
The Inhuman Element: The Ladykillers on 4K UHD
As You Like It, Baby: Breathless on Blu-ray
Stargazing: Light Entertainment Rarities on DVD
Down to the Welles: Orson Welles Great Mysteries Volume 2 on DVD
Herding Cats: Sleepwalkers on Blu-ray
Confessions of a Porn Star: Adult Material on DVD
They're Still Not Sure It is a Baby: Eraserhead on Blu-ray
Werewolves are Real: Dog Soldiers on Digital
Rose: A Love Story - Producers April Kelley and Sara Huxley Interview
Phone Phreak: 976-EVIL on Blu-ray
Living the Nightmare: Dementia on Blu-ray
Becky and The Devil to Pay: Ruckus and Lane Skye Interview
Big Top Bloodbath: Circus of Horrors on Blu-ray
A Knock on the Door at 4 O'clock in the Morning: The Strangers on Blu-ray
Wives of the Skies: Honey Lauren Interview
   
 
  Mannaja - A Man Called Blade Mud, mud, glorious mud
Year: 1977
Director: Sergio Martino
Stars: Maurizio Merli, John Steiner, Sonja Jeannine, Donald O'Brien, Salvatore Puntillo, Antonio Casale, Enzo Fiermonte, Martine Brochard, Philippe Leroy, Rik Battaglia, Aldo Rendine, Enzo Maggio, Sergio Tardioli, Sophia Lombardo
Genre: Horror, Western, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Before Wesley Snipes the original Blade was Maurizio Merli. In his only spaghetti western the mighty moustachioed Euro-crime icon portrays a hard-bitten bounty hunter whom we first glimpse hunting outlaw Burt Craven (Euro-cult cinema fixture Donald O'Brien) through the mud-drenched, misty wilderness. Their chase comes to a memorable end when Blade (or 'Mannaja' in the original Italian version) slings his trusty hatchet slicing off Burt's right hand. When Blade arrives with Burt in Suttonville he finds the town is ruled with an iron fist by the wealthy and powerful George M. McGowan (Philippe Leroy, looking much more frail and haggard than in his leading man days) who is not only the mayor but also runs the local mine. Blade, who already bears McGowan a hefty grudge for stealing his family's land and causing the death of his father, clashes with the tycoon's oily right hand Waller (the reliably venomous John Steiner). One particularly violent skirmish sees Blade injured and trapped under a rock-slide. Whereupon he is rescued and nursed back to health by Angela (Martine Brochard), part of a band of travelling showgirls led by improbably-named showman Johnny Johnny (Salvatore Puntillo). When bandits in league with the unscrupulous Waller kidnap McGowan's precious daughter Deborah (Sonja Jeannine), the desperate businessman turns to Blade who tries to use the situation to his advantage.

Italian westerns breathed their last gasp in the late Seventies with a mini-wave of brooding, surrealistic pictures that infused the genre with interestingly artsy, psychological, sometimes even mystical undertones. Chief among these was Enzo G. Castellari's masterful Keoma (1976), an outstanding vehicle for Euro-cult icon Franco Nero. Maurizio Merli, who rose to prominence in Euro-crime as something of a Franco Nero impersonator and reportedly regarded the more versatile international star as a great rival, promptly shot back with Mannaja, sold outside Europe as A Man Called Blade or latterly a combination of both titles. Merli had the good fortune to ally himself with Sergio Martino, the versatile, often visually inspired craftsman behind numerous giallo horror-thrillers who later proved as adept at other genres. Martino imbues Mannaja with a gloomy gothic intensity not far removed from Keoma but with its own distinctive downbeat identity. Images of rolling mists and what must be record levels of mud in a spaghetti western combine with ominous, unsettling sound effects, dreamlike slow-motion and visceral splatter effects create a mood akin to a horror movie. As if to underline the film's debt to vintage Euro-horror, John Steiner leads a couple of huge, ferocious looking dogs similar to those that accompanied Barbara Steele in an iconic image from Mario Bava's genre landmark Black Sunday (1960). Martino also punctuates the film with flashbacks and dreamlike visions that evoke the fragmented flourishes Nicholas Roeg brought to Don't Look Now (1973).

In terms of cinematic virtuosity Mannaja is audacious and fascinating. Where it falls apart slightly is the story. Concocted by Martino with co-scripter Sauro Scavolini, it is shapeless, derivative of Sergio Leone westerns (offering more muddled takes on the antihero plays both sides angle in A Fistful of Dollars (1964) and revenge-motivating flashbacks of Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)) and confuses tragedy with nihilism. While the plot works hard to make Blade seem sympathetic, our protagonist (one would hardly call him a hero) proves spectacularly inept at saving people. It is never entirely clear exactly what Blade's end goal is meant to be given his actions, along with those of a significant portion of the cast, are wildly inconsistent. Though he occasionally springs into dynamic action sequence, he spends more time pottering ineffectually on the sidelines. Meanwhile the film racks up a genocidal body-count of innocent bystanders. Martino and Scavolini waver between a standard spaghetti western revenge story and a vague environmental message wherein Blade seemingly sets out to avenge the rape of his land by destroying McGowan, though as things play out neither angle adds up. If the story has a theme at all it might well be: why bother chasing dreams when you are bound to wind up face down in the mud anyway? Although Blade himself is not among the most well-etched spaghetti western protagonists, Merli's steely-eyed intensity proves as compelling as ever. Similarly John Steiner's effete villainy is the perfect complement to the leading man even though the actor sounds like he is attempting Southern, German and English accents simultaneously. Like Keoma, Mannaja also has a croaky folk rock ballad composed by Guido and Maurizio De Angelis that, while something of an acquired taste, captures the film's grimy downbeat tone.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

This review has been viewed 1012 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

 
Review Comments (0)


Untitled 1

Login
  Username:
 
  Password:
 
   
 
Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.
   

Latest Poll
Which star is the best at shouting?
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Brian Blessed
Tiffany Haddish
Steve Carell
Olivia Colman
Captain Caveman
Sylvester Stallone
Gerard Butler
Samuel L. Jackson
Bipasha Basu
   
 
   

Recent Visitors
  Geraint Morgan
Graeme Clark
Andrew Pragasam
Enoch Sneed
Darren Jones
Paul Smith
  Lee Fiveash
  Mick Stewart
   

 

Last Updated: