Psychedelic? Could Be.
The Lee Van Cleef factor? Bullseye!
Not only does Lee take the title role but he croons the closing song April Morning. Had I been reviewing this film in ’71 I would have been warning Frank. Purely in jest.
Van Cleef continued his run of overseas westerns with this effort from director Alexander Singer. Mainly a television director, Singer helmed everything from Police Woman episodes to some of the later day Star Trek variations. Sporting a funky theme song that Van Cleef pipes in with some spoken lyric, we find our cult leading man on the trail of just who killed the territory Indian agent and why.
Van Cleef dons an obvious wig and leaves his mustache off as the Captain who on more then one occasion is referred to as a “red ass.” by the various villains and thugs he’s to encounter on his search for answers on the killing and the meaning of the term April Morning. Just about every character in the film has something to do with the term. They either know it’s meaning and are trying to keep it a secret or believe it to be a mystery of great value that will put them on easy street.
Joining Van Cleef in this spaghetti production is Mr. Stuart Whitman. Though one can never be quite sure of his motives, it’s fairly obvious that he’s going to have to tangle with Van Cleef before the final reel closes. On the other hand, Carroll Baker’s tangling with Van Cleef will be more of an amorous nature where she brings a knife and he produces a gun. “You’re no gentleman,” she says before continuing their session of lovemaking.
Striking an imposing figure, Van Cleef in a supposed comedy bit has to strip down if he’s to talk to his tribe members. They refuse to accept him as a member of the military. Getting a look at Lee in a loin cloth, it doesn’t seem to be a stretch to imagine him as a Jock Mahoney styled later day incarnation of Tarzan.
I did mention psychedelic didn’t I. During the course of his investigation and crossing paths with a couple of Whitman’s thugs including Percy Herbert, Lee encounters a witch of all things who forces him to down some kind of liquid LSD. Time for our hero to take a Roger Corman styled “trip.” Bizarre to say the least.
Along the way to solving the puzzle, Van Cleef will encounter fake priests, wanna be generals and even a pair of twin gunfighters who seem to be in touch with their feminine side. It’s all going to lead to a not so exciting shootout where all the scripts questions will be answered.
I suppose the whole endeavor is meant to be a tongue in cheek affair but there are few laughs along the way. Lost in translation? Maybe. Either way it’s nice to see that the film was released on blu ray by Kino Lorber that far outshines any public domain VHS tape or budget label DVD that has been kicked around North American bargain bins for as long as I can recall.
Stuart Whitman looks good here in the role of the supposed bad guy and one has to ponder what he may have accomplished in a more substantial genre film for Leone or Corbucci. I’ve generally enjoyed his on screen presence in films with Sands of the Kalahari one that I like to point to when discussing Whitman’s career.
Hard to really recommend this one but it’s that Van Cleef mystique that “reels” me in.
For an enjoyable bit of lampooning, click here to see Van Cleef having a bit of fun for some Canadian television ads with a few surprise guests.