We'll kick off with the bigger disappointment. Pretend you're a filmmaker in the 1970's. You want to make a western, which are on the fade again...BUT you want it to be funny, which thanks to Blazing Saddles (1974), should be a go. You take the handsome, charismatic hot black property, Fred Williamson, and you take the hottest black comedian of the time, Richard Pryor...and you should be able to spin gold, yes?
But being no stranger to the weird and the awful, I tried again. So this time we're going to rewind the clock back to 1969. Now we're in the hot stretch for Westerns following Sergio Leone's Dollars trilogy, and Hollywood wants to cash in. You've got young up-and-comer Burt Reynolds whose already been in one Italian oater (Navajo Joe, 1966), and you've got black football sensation Jim Brown whose was in one of the action hits of the 60's, The Dirty Dozen (1967). Add to that the smoldering sex-pot that is Raquel Welch, and again, you should have gold, yes?
Well....100 Rifles (1969) seems to take much of its direction for the great Sergio Corbucci's The Mercenary (Il Mercenario), which also featured a cunning peone, a hard-fighting foreign outsider, and a hot girl in the midst of some Mexican revolutionizing. But while Rifles seems to have the characters and have the chemistry, it never coheres into the adventure that The Mercenary pulls off. Instead it sort of wobbles, betwixt endless chase scenes, between half-comical banter and Peckinpah-esque brutality. Still, it's not all a bad time, if you can get past the stunning gaps in character-driven logic. All I know is, if I'm trying to escape from a pursuing Mexican general, who's a tad on the butchery side, and his well-armed troops, I don't stop for a chat or a fistfight until I'm way way way far away. Having said that, it was a generally enjoyable way to pass some time. Burt was well on his way to being Burt. Raquel Welch has a sexy shower under a train cooling tower. And the film was cut or banned in a number of places for some smoldering horizontal monster mashing between Jim Brown and Raquel. The movie's well-shot, the scenery gorgeous, and the action, especially the finale, exciting...it just never adds up to much.