If Sean Connery can star in Shalako, then surely Terence Stamp can star in a western all his very own. In this case it’s Blue, from director Silvio Narizzano and producer Irwin Winkler. With second unit directing credited to Yakima Canutt, this seems to take a dash of Shane and a hint of The Magnificent Seven (minus six riders) as Stamp portrays a vicious south of the border outlaw who sees the righteous path after living with a group of homesteaders who have saved or perhaps spared his life might be the more appropriate word.
Stamp begins the film riding in with his adopted Father, Ricardo Montalban to a small south of the border whole in the wall that sees their outlaw band overseen by Montalban terrorize a group of Mexican soldiers taking time to relax at a bordello. Setting the tone, Stamp will brutally kill the officer in charge of the small unit before riding on with Ricardo and the other forty or so riders. Think of bandit Eli Wallach and his gang in the 1960 classic, The Magnificent Seven.
As it turns out, Stamp is an adopted Gringo raised by bandit Montalban to take his place at the head of the gang when the time comes. Stamp is a man of very few words, letting his actions speak the loudest as the gang enjoy their drinking, whoring and gambling. Things are about to change when Montalban leads his bloodthirsty brood across the Rio Grande to raid a small settlement of homesteaders on U.S. soil. It’s here that Stamp is going to have a close look at his true heritage and what might have been.
Karl Malden represents the leading actor of the homesteaders across the border. He’s the town doctor, widowed and with a daughter of his own played by Joanna Pettet. When the outlaw band arrive to rob and kill anyone who stands in their way just as the community are having a social gathering with food and music, Pettet is back at the family farm where one of Montalban’s men happens along to see if anything is worth stealing. One look at the young woman and the outlaw has rape on his mind. Stamp enters the scene and prevents the crime from being carried out, killing his fellow gang member. When Montalban and his riders race back towards the river, they’ll find themselves targeted by the rampaging men of the community. Montalban will have sons killed and Stamp will find himself shot up seeking refuge at the Malden farm. Due to his single act of kindness, Pettet will convince Malden not to kill the young outlaw but to save his life instead.
As the wounds heal, the cold and quiet Stamp will slowly begin to trust Malden and vice versa. Not surprisingly, romance will soon be in the air between our two young leads. Will the love of a good woman and the trust of an honorable man in Malden be enough to steer Stamp away from the gun and violence of his past? Not if a returning Montalban who feels betrayed by his adoptive son has anything to say about it. When Montalban swears vengeance against the farmers and promises to wipe them out for the killing of his sons and loss of his adopted one, Stamp will either have to ride off or lead the community in a raging battle along the river front.
Far from a great western, Blue is still enjoyable and the Utah backdrop is breathtaking on more than one occasion. It comes across as a mixture of the American western with spaghetti influences seen most notably in some of the camera work and the Stamp role seeming to be a character plucked from one of any Italian productions during the ever increasing popularity of the overseas westerns at this time. Aside from Malden, Montalban and character player James Westerfield, this is a western that isn’t populated with many of the genre’s stalwarts. For a late sixties effort made in Utah, I somehow find myself looking for a bigger cast. Wise old character players like Paul Fix, shady ones like Strother Martin, back shooters like L.Q. Jones. Just a thought. But I’d liked to have seen a few more “western” names on the credit list.
A first time viewing for me, Blue isn’t all that bad. Like most of the late sixties oaters it features plenty of violence and bloodshed filmed far more graphically than films of the previous decade. Stamp and Montalban go head to head in a rousing battle at the finish line that had me thinking of Sam Peckinpah and how he might have turned this climax from good to classic. Having watched pretty much any western I’ve ever gotten my hands on, I’m not sure how this one eluded me for so long. Perhaps it wasn’t a staple of late night television growing up. Either way, I came across a DVD release of it from Paramount and quickly added it to the shelf here at home. You might like to do the same.