The year is 1885, and in this Western town the lawman known as The Colonel (Robert Bronzi) was engaged in a shootout with a ruthless gang who had taken the place hostage. He was having none of that and proceeded to fill the wrongdoers full of lead, but it was not enough to save the woman who was kidnapped and strung up on the gallows that were meant for the leader of the gang, and The Colonel must bear that on his conscience, as well as the thought that he allowed that leader to slip through his fingers. However, as a bounty hunter he will now make his living, despite being choosy about what he gets involved with - as the desperate Ursula (Karin Brauns) discovers...
General, all round man of action Bronzi got his break in the movies thanks to one thing: his face was his fortune. That granite phizog bore a remarkable resemblance to a certain Hollywood star who still commanded an impressive cult following thanks to his appearances in violent Westerns and thrillers, and that man was Charles Bronson. One quick change of name from Kovacs to Bronzi later and our man was headlining his own vehicles, starting with Death Wish copy Death Kiss, which some were entertained by but was largely treated with suspicion by fans, those fans not bowled over by the chutzpah of what was basically a tribute act masquerading as a proper action movie.
All-round renaissance man of DTV exploitation Rene Perez was not about to allow the mixed response hold him back, however, and before Death Kiss had been released he was hard at work on this little item. Just as the first effort had been a tribute to Bronson's thrillers, this was paying its respects to his Westerns, sometimes very self-consciously with even certain shots reminiscent of the likes of Breakheart Pass or Chato's Land, and that title an obvious cash in on not only Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West, but also the popular television series Deadwood which had recently broadcast its wrapping up TV movie, and a certain Quentin Tarantino blockbuster, also then-recent.
Now, few were going to be fooled that this was anything other than opportunistic, which by all rights should have made it exasperating to sit through as the film tried to ride on others' coattails, yet the prolific Perez was by now an old hand at the cheapo end of the film industry and knew what was going to appeal to his target audience. The fact that he was so upfront about his, shall we say, influences, brought him admiration from one end of the movie buffs' following, and he was not about to produce any old tat shot on a camcorder with the barest minimum of effort, you could tell that unlike too many cynics in the field, Perez truly believed in his work, and that paid dividends when Once Upon a Time in Deadwood (which hardly took place in the titular town at all) proved to be unexpectedly watchable.
It was really no worse than many a B-movie Western from the heyday of the genre, when these were churned out with interchangeable scripts and casts to an undiscerning market, indeed it was rather better than a lot of the most production line of those items. Using a snowbound landscape for much of the action, it saw Bronzi's Colonel forced to work for Ursula, who poisons him with the promise of the antidote should he rescue her sister and their maid from the clutches of Swearengen (Michael Paré, not giving Ian McShane any sleepless nights) over in Deadwood. It was plain to see Bronzi's performance was entirely guided by the director, and his thick Hungarian accent meant his dialogue was not exactly plentiful, so you were never going to believe this was Bronson springing back to life (it depended on the camera angle on how convincing he looked as his double), but this was an unpretentious, low budget cowboy pic that entertained for its brief running time. Special mention to Brauns for filming a topless scene in what look like sub-zero temperatures, what a trouper.