A cracker-jack western made in Italy and Spain by a group of Italians and an international cast, this is a hard-hitting item, ably directed, splendidly lensed, neatly acted, which has all the ingredients wanted by action fans and then some.
Basically, it’s about a loner, Joe (Clint Eastwood), who arrives in a small Southwestern settlement split by the rivalry of two families. For money, he plays both sides against the middle, eventually winning his longstanding battle with the heavy. Tale [by Toni Palombi, based on the 1961 Japanese film Yojimbo] is well developed, and though there is plenty of cliche, it’s handled with an all-stops-out style, vigorous use of widescreen camera, effective juggling of closeups and long shots.
Spanish landscapes pass well for Southwestern areas bordering on Mexico as do costumes and types chosen, be they German, Italian, Spanish or ‘original’ Yanks.
Eastwood handles himself very well as the stranger, shaping a character strong enough to beg a sequel. Further plaudits go to title animation by Luigi Lardani, which sets the style of this film from the start. Also to music, somewhat redundant but effective in the western vein.
[Version reviewed was 100-minute Italian one, with Eastwood dubbed by experienced actor Enrico Maria Salerno. English version was released in US and UK in 1967.]