The Christmas Kid (1967)
Every year during either Christmas or Easter week you can usually catch the Jeffrey Hunter film King of Kings airing on a local television station. Not so with this spaghetti western that Hunter headlined just two years before his death at the age of 42.
Hunter’s character is born on Christmas day to Jack Taylor and Alejandra Nilo in a stable with three wise men standing by. A Mayor, a doctor and a lawyer who will become his surrogate parents when his Mother dies at childbirth and his Father becomes the town drunk.
Fast forward to Hunter in his youth and he is the town trouble maker who is always at the center of the action. When a copper strike is discovered nearby the town becomes a boom attracting new immigrants and Louis Hayward who promptly buys up property and opens a gaming saloon with wine and women to go along with the crooked roulette wheel. He then adds the local sheriff to the payroll.
He also brings along Perla Cristal as his featured attraction who instantly catches Hunter’s eye. Cristal and Hunter are featured in a comical battle of the sexes here at times in a spaghetti western that on occasion leads me to think we might be heading into a comedy but then it drifts back to the tried and true plot of a crooked saloon keeper vs. the town sheriff. In this case the town council fire their crooked crime fighter and give the badge to Hunter in the hopes that his fast gun will tame the town while at the same time make a man out of him.
Hayward still has a few tricks and bribes up his sleeve as we head towards the clash that will inevitably take place. Surprisingly it’s all rather tame compared to the countless other westerns that invaded theaters by way of Italy throughout the sixties. This one is directed by Sidney Pink who also gave us a Rory Calhoun oater titled Finger on the Trigger and the camp favorite Reptilicus.
Jeffrey Hunter was no stranger to the western but his best years in the saddle were behind him in the fifties. Films like The Proud Ones and the classic, The Searchers. Long time actor Louis Hayward was also nearing the end of his career. Back in 1939 he headlined James Whale’s Man in the Iron Mask before moving mainly into television.
How’s this for trivia…….leading lady Perla Cristal appears here with Hunter aka Captain Pike of Star Trek fame. One year later she’ll appear with THE captain of the Star Trek Enterprise, William Shatner in the spaghetti western White Comanche. She also appeared with Hunter this same year in Witch Without a Broom.
As far as the Christmas Kid of the title? It’s strictly a briefly mentioned handle that must have looked good for marketing purposes. Other than the opening Joseph and Mary styled scene there is no real connection to the spirit of Christmas in the poorly dubbed version that I recently found on an ancient VHS tape. As I have pointed out many times, never pass up a box of dusty VHS tapes as they can sometimes yield a title that is hard to come by.
Thanks for checking in and Merry Christmas.