By Richard Winters
My Rating: 6 out of 10
4-Word Review: This western gets weird.
Graham (Charles Bronson) is a part of a four member bank robbing gang on their way to another hold-up. Before they get there Graham’s horse gets injured and has to be shot. Later on they come upon an isolated mansion sitting all alone in the rolling hills of the west. The gang asks the woman owner Amanda (Jill Ireland) if she has a horse for sale. She says no despite the fact that she does, so Graham stays with her while the other three rides off to rob the bank and assures them they will be back with the money at three. During this time Graham and Amanda fall in-love and when three o’clock hits everything goes off-kilter featuring one wild twist after another in this highly unusual one-of-a-kind western.
This film is so offbeat it is hard to describe any of the twists without giving too much away however, after a rather slow start it does become entertaining in a quirky sort of way and filled with amusingly ironic twists. Writer/director Frank D. Gilroy seems to be challenging himself at coming up with one weird plot device after another and keeping the viewer off balance throughout. While this is basically fun it does end up making it more like a gimmick than an actual plot driven, character motivated movie. Categorizing this more as a fable or fairy tale might be more accurate and Elmer Bernstein’s playful, lighthearted score helps cement this.
Bronson is amazingly game for the offbeat material that goes completely against his persona. The change of pace is refreshing and although the part does not call for any great acting range he is still quite engaging and endearing. The part where he talks to Amanda about his inability to ‘get it up’ and the erectile dysfunction that he has suffered from for the past seven years is priceless as is the scene where years later when he meets Amanda again and he unzips his pants and takes out is shriveled penis to show her in order for her to recognize him.
Ireland is good and I loved the variety of dresses that she wears and hairstyle that is put up into a bun. This may be her best performance of her career and certainly the best one that she did with Chuck. She actually becomes the star of the story and even ends up with more screen time than him. As an added treat she sings the film’s closing song over the credits, which she does quite well.
I loved the image of this big mansion all alone in an otherwise stark and barren landscape, which has definite shades of Days of Heaven to it. I was interested in knowing if this was an actual house and where it was located, but the closing credits stated that the entire production was filmed at the Warner Brothers studios in Burbank California making it pretty clear that the home was just a prop built for the movie and most likely torn down after filming, which is a shame.
It is clear visually that Gilroy’s background was more in the writing end than in directing. While the story is full of unbridled wackiness the camera angles, editing, and staging is dull. There is also an opening segment where the men ride up on horseback to the bank and sky is completely cloudy. Then as the camera cuts to show them getting off their horses the sky is now suddenly sunny without a cloud in it. I realize most scenes are not shot in synchronized order and it is hard when filming outdoors to make the weather cooperate, so I am usually forgiving in this area, but this did seem extreme.
If you are in the mood for something different this novelty may do the trick and Bronson fans will be interested in seeing their favorite star in a more lighthearted type of role. The movie also makes a great statement at how the legend can sometimes overshadow the reality and at how people will sometimes perceive things the way they want to see them as opposed to the way they really are.
My Rating: 6 out of 10
Released: August 8, 1976
Runtime: 1Hour 39Minutes
Director: Frank D. Gilroy
Studio: United Artists
Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video