The Man Called Noon (1973)
Here’s a western that in my opinion tries it’s best to imitate the style and feel of a spaghetti western and kind of succeeds despite the cast and director. None of them being Italian aside from the film’s leading lady. The title character is played by American Richard Crenna and he’s ably supported by Ireland’s Stephen Boyd, American Farley Granger and Rosanna Schiaffino. No it’s not directed by the likes of Sergio Corbucci or produced by anyone within the Spaghetti Factory of Italy. It’s directed and produced by a pair of England’s own, Peter Collinson and Euan Lloyd. The story itself is taken from a 1970 Louis L’Amour novel. What does give it the flavor associated with the European westerns is the location work in Spain, the supporting cast of dubbed cowboys, the odd camera angles Collinson injects into the story and finally, the McBain ranch I recognized from Once Upon a Time in the West and the set used for a certain Massacre at Fort Holman in the James Coburn-Telly Savalas oater.
The story picks up in a dusty frontier town with Crenna in a hotel room seemingly on edge awaiting trouble. A shot rings out and the bullet glances off the side of his head (the flesh wound) and he falls from the second story window to the street below. He’s conscious enough to keep moving and catch a moving freight train’s boxcar evading the killers on his tail. It’s here he’ll meet Boyd who is also catching a free ride. Crenna has no gun and no memory of who he is. The fall and the bullet have rendered him an amnesiac.
Have to admit I really liked this part of the plot and it’s subsequent development.
Crenna tags along with Boyd not knowing who he is and Boyd leads him to an outlaw’s sanctuary where lovely Rosanna is the hostess at the one time McBain ranch. It becomes quickly apparent that Crenna can handle himself in either a fist fight or with a gun. Whoever he is, he plays it cool in the face of danger and clearly has used a gun before and might even be a gunfighter. Might he be the “man called Noon” who is expected to turn up at the outlaw ranch?
So far this one had me interested and I’m wondering why I hadn’t seen it yet though it fell into the public domain years ago. My copy is the one put out by Kino on blu ray. Yes I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to public domain copies unless there is no other choice and it’s a movie I need to see. Anyway, I kind of thought the movie lost my attention around the two thirds mark and I can’t quite put my finger on why. Maybe I just need to rewatch the final thirty minutes one more time. I felt it got a bit complicated with Granger turning up and money at stake.
Is Boyd a red herring who has been stringing the “lost” Crenna along the whole way to the outlaw post knowing exactly who he is? He’s certainly avoiding any gun play with the eventual Colonel Trautman. While my focus may have become a bit blurred (or was it the plot) I’ll agree to the fact that there is plenty of action down the stretch when lines are clearly drawn between just who one is rooting for. The ending even recalls a certain Glenn Ford western from 1956.
A quick observation on the movie’s score from Luis Bacalov. There’s a distinct melody in it at times that stirs memories of the Morricone theme that accompanies Claudia Cardinale when she’s on screen in Leone’s classic Once Upon a Time in the West.
Crenna had just starred in another L’Amour adaptation from producer Lloyd, Catlow, that was also filmed in Spain. As the 1970’s progressed into the 80’s he’d become a regular fixture in movies of the week for network television making him a welcome presence in my home growing up during that era. Boyd, best known for his Messala opposite Heston’s Ben-Hur remained busy up till his death in 1977 at only 45 years of age. A sad loss to be sure. Apparently before his death he was pegged to take on a role in producer Lloyd’s explosive the Wild Geese in ’78.
Like Boyd, director Collinson would pass away at a young age as well. He was only 44 when he passed in 1980. His best known film is probably 1969’s The Italian Job. Among his other features is the stomach turning Open Season and the Oliver Reed espionage thriller, The Sell Out.
Any fans of this wanna be spaghetti western that has been available in bargain bins for years?