Bad Man’s River (1971)

Bad Man's River
Director: Gene Martin
Starring: Lee Van Cleef | James Mason | Gina Lollobrigida | Gianni Garko | Diana Lorys | Jess Hahn | Eduardo Fajardo

By the early 1970s the Spaghetti Western was waning in popularity. To breathe life into the genre, film producers and directors were trying new things. Some chose to latch onto the kung-fu craze, resulting in films like SHANGHAI JOE. Others chose to go the comedy route, the most popular being the Trinity films with Terence Hill and Bud Spencer. BAD MAN’S RIVER also wanders down the comedy path, but also latched onto another popular genre at that time, the caper film. The result is a jarring mish-mash of styles, only buoyed by the cast, who at least appear to be having fun.

In the film, Lee Van Cleef plays Roy King, the leader of an outlaw gang recruited by Gina Lollabrigida’s character, Alicia, to steal one million dollars from the Mexican government. The story itself is quite okay, I won’t outline it here, but it ticks all the boxes that a film of its kind should. There are double crosses, triple crosses, and characters who aren’t who they appear to be. But as the story progresses, genuine moments of tension are blown by silly slapstick gags.

Don’t get me wrong, BAD MAN’S RIVER is by no means a ‘stinker’, but it’s hardly essential viewing for Spaghetti Western fans. At best, it’s a minor diversion.

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