Awkward Hands Review
From The Spaghetti Western Database
An interesting but uneven paella western with influences from melodrama, horror and martial arts movies. Peter Lee Lawrence is a stable hand who is humiliated and banished after marrying a girl who was promised to a rich land owner. An old China man teaches him how to use a gun.
Awkward Hands opens with Peter Lawrence having premonitions about his own death at the hands of a black-clad stranger. He is a simple stable hand who’s all but respected by his colleagues. He also has a secret: he has fallen in love with his boss’s daughter, the beautiful Dorothy, and she has answered his feelings. The girl’s father strongly opposes to the affair, because he has promised his girl to the rich landowner, a man who also controls the water supply of the region. When Dorothy’s parents find out that Peter and Dorothy have married in secret, the boy is severely whipped (twice) and escorted into the desert, where he’s left for dead to serve as food for the buzzards ...
The first twenty minutes of the movie are melodramatic and dull, but things pick up when Peter is banished and left for dead in the desert. His life is saved by a mysterious black-clad gunman called Latimore, who tells Peter that he’s looking for four men. The four are waiting for Latimore in a ghost town because they know he won’t ever give up chasing them. After the four are taken care of, Latimore brings the young man to a wise old China man, who tells him there are three types of men in the West: those who kill, those who die and those who run away. Even though Peter’s hands look 'awkward’, the old man turns him into a proficient gunman, ready to carry out a vendetta on those who have humiliated him and ruined his life.
With a story about star-crossed lovers, elopement and banishment, the script has its roots in folk history. Mediterranean folk stories often feature a young man who is forced to flee a region or country after a violent outburst; a popular scenario is that the young man joins the French foreign legion while the girl, who’s equally blamed for the tragedy, ends up in a bar in a harbor town, becoming a singer for the lost and the lonely (a folklorist paraphrase of prostitution). But Manos Torpes is a western, so the boy becomes a gunman and an avenger instead of a legionnaire.
This is an interesting genre contribution, but some have complained about the zigzagging script. The film opens in the style of a melodrama, makes a shift towards a master-pupil plot, turns into a revenge western, and eventually returns to its melodramatic roots with a downbeat, rather sudden finale. There's also some influence from horror and martial arts movies (in this protracted sequence with the Chinese teacher). Peter Lee Lawrence is pretty good and Alberto De Mendoza’s black-clad bounty killer is a cool and grim character. A couple of visually strong moments stick to mind: One of Latimore’s victims is tied to a leper - quite a unique way to dispose of your enemies - and then there’s this remarkable, symbolic scene telling us what happened to Dorothy after her young husband was sent away: The parents had sent the girl to Johnny, who had cutt off their water supply, and after her return the parents rejoice at the sight of the water gushing from the pump in ejaculatory fashion. The horror in Pilar’s face tell us exactly what the gushing water stands for.
- The film was released in Italy under the title Quando Satana impugnò la colt (When Satana took up the gun) and is therefore listed here and there as a co-production, but there was no Italian production company involved. It’s purely paella ...
Director: Rafael Romero Marchent - Cast: Peter Lee Lawrence, Alberto de Mendoza, Pilar Velázquez, Antonio Casas, Manuel de Blas, Luis Induni, Antonio Molino Rojo, Frank Braña, Aldo Sambrell, Mariano Vidal Molina, Lorenzo Robledo - Music: Anton Garcia Abril