Dakota Joe (A Man and a Colt) Review
From The Spaghetti Western Database
Dakota Joe (A Man and a Colt)
Roberto Undari (Robert Hundar), is one of those names that, in my mind, are linked to early Spanish westerns with a pre-Leone feel. I would have sworn that he was Spanish, but he was born in Castelvetrano, Sicily, in 1935. Un Hombre y un Colt is from 1967 and blends elements from two types of movies, the Lone Gunman and the Zapata westerns, and there are also some scenes and story elements taken from Sergio Leone’s Dollar movies. At one point the hero is beaten up severely after giving some assistance to a young couple, later he is left behind in the desert by his ebullient Mexican partner. By this time, all directors, good, bad or ugly, wanted to roar like a real Leone.
Undari plays Dakota Joe, a gunman with a reputation (even across the border people are startled by the sound of his name), who’s asked by a Mexican landlord, Don Carlos, to kill a local doctor with revolutionary ideas. Waiting for the doctor to return to the region, he witnesses so much cruelty and injustice, that he starts having second thoughts about his commission. He finally changes sides, in the true style of the Zapata western hero, when he witnesses how Don Carlos’s sadistic younger brother evokes his jus primae noctis (that is the right of a lord to take the virginity of a bride working on his estate) on the wedding day of a young Mexican couple (1) ...
Un Hombre y un Colt is an entertaining little western, but it’s also uneven, often a little erratic. The first hour is all Zapata, with weeping women and kids, a peon 'crucified' on a fence, and two others buried to their necks in the sand by the evil Carlos brothers. But the younger brother (the one from the jus primae noctis) is killed halfway through, and then, all of a sudden, the whole thing turns into a revenge western, with Undari going after the man who had first stolen his horse, then saved his life, and finally left him behind in the desert to die of thirst. There are quite a few continuity problems, with story elements aborted or scenes interrupted in abrupt fashion. Sancho’s character is also a bit problematic: He comes and goes, in all kind of shapes (thief, revolutionary, traitor) and seems to have an explanation for all his metamorphoses, but in the end all explanations are denied. And believe it or not: he still lives with his dominant mother, a formidable battle-axe who smokes a mean cigar!
It took me some time to get used to Undari as the lone gunman. He physically towers above the other actors, but somehow doesn’t have the looks of this stranger-in-town type of hero. But he and Sancho play well together and the plot keeps them busy. The score (signed by two composers) is quirky, almost whimsical, and only occasionally we get a plaintive trumpet.
Director Demicheli was an Argentine. He was a sort of jack-of-all-trades of the European genre cinema, working as director, screen-writer, producer and consultant. He left his home country after a series of conflicts with the Peronist government and would only return to Argentina to make a documentary, El Misterio Eva Peron (1986). If we keep this background in mind, it’s interesting to see that one of the most despicable characters in Dakota Joe is a woman, Beatrice (Gloria Milland). She is arrogant, demanding and rancorous; she falls for Joe, but incites Don Carlos’ men to torture him viciously after he has rejected her. She also looks down on the working class people (the peons that is) from her room in Don Carlos’ ‘palace’. Those scenes were shot in the 17th Century complex of Nuevo Batzan, West of Madrid, more often used to represent the residence of a filthy rich Mexican landowner (2). Is this Beatrice a reference to Evita? Is this an anti-Peronist spaghetti western? Who knows. The genre is capable of everything.
- (1) Jus primae noctis, or in French 'Le droit du Seigneur'. There seems to be no historical evidence that such a right ever existed, but it's mentioned in numerous literary sources, starting with the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesj, one of the earliest surviving literary works in history. It’s also mentioned by Voltaire, who wrote a five-act comedy called Le Droit du Seigneur, and by Beaumarchais, in his play Marriage of Figaro (later adapted by Mozart). More recently it was used as a story element by Mel Gibson in Braveheart (1995). Most experts on the subject think it has a historical base, although it was never sealed by any official document.
- For Nuevo Batzan, see: http://y-yasuda.net/nuevo%20baztan.htm
Director: Tulio Dimicheli - Cast: Robert Hundar (Claudio Undari), Fernando Sancho, Gloria Milland (Maria Fié), Marta Reves, Mirko Ellis, Jacinto Martin, Raf Baldassare, José Canelejas, Simon Arriaga - Music: Olivier Pina Angel, Lallo Gori