Acquasanta Joe Review

From The Spaghetti Western Database


In the days after the Civil war a group of soldiers, led by the crazy Colonel Donovan, are terrorizing the border region. Their robberies are carried out with the help of a stolen army canon. Business is flourishing, but the army wants to eradicate the gang before the entire area is blown to pieces and a bounty hunter named Acquasanta Joe is on their trail because they have robbed the bank where he had put his earnings. Things are further complicated by a gang member who runs off with the loot and another member who challenges the Conolonel's authority ...

Apparently Acquasanta Joe (See Database Page) was supposed to be a tongue-in-cheek treasure hunt movie, a serio-comic subgenre mainly inspired by Leone's The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Castellari's Any Gun can Play. Plans were altered when it became clear that Trinity had changed the face of the Italian western once and for all. Things were pimped up with an incongruous score full of quirky tunes and the characters all got idiosyncratic tics and traits. Ty Hardin's renegade Colonel chews cigars instead of smoking them and Harrison's double-crossing rascal called Charlie has become a jabbering halfwit. Harrison developed the character himself and seems to think he did a good job (*1). I usually like Harrison, but thought he was pretty unbearable here.

No doubt the film would've worked better tongue-in-cheek. Some of the action scenes have potential and the script offers enough double-crossings and changing alliances to keep things moving. The film is not dull, but the mishmash of spaghetti western violence, zany comedy and off-kilter characters is simply exhausting. The finale, set on an Indian graveyard, was probably influenced by Corbucci's Navajo Joe but may, on its turn, have inspired Sergio Martino to model his tomahawk wielding hero Mannaja (1977), played by Maurizio Merli, after Tate's Acquasanta; in some scenes the resemblance between the two actors/characters is striking. Theatrical actor Musumeci has a few funny moments as 'The Sicilian', an outlandish character, but the real show stealer is Pietro Ceccarelli. He's one of those instantly recognizable supporting actors who was often only introduced to serve as a punch ball or a shooting target for the hero, but he has a slightly more important role here as the gang member challenging Hardin's authority. And yes: he's a convincing mean bastard. And Monelli? well, she's not really my type but she sure has a pretty face.

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  • (1) Marco Giusti, Dizionario del western all'italiana. According to Harrison, the character was originally written for Klaus Kinski

Dir: Mario Gariazzo - Cast: Lincoln Tate, Ty Hardin, Richard Harrison, Giulio Baraghini, Silvia Monelli, Pietro Ceccarelli, Tuccio Musumeci, Mario Novelli, Alfredo Rizzo, Dante Maggio, Fedele Gentile - Music: Marcello Giombini

Simon Gelten
Simon Gelten is a long time contributor to the SWDb. "I'm not as old as Tom B. but I'm working on it. I hope to catch up with him by the end of the next decade.", he says. Simon saw all movies by Sergio Leone and several by Sergio Corbucci in cinema, most of the time in Eindhoven, the city where he was born. Currently, Simon is living in Turnhout, Belgium. Simon is active within the database as both Scherpschutter and his alter ego Tiratore Scelto.