Mannaja: A Man Called Blade Review
- Year: 1977
- Director: Sergio Martino
- Writers: Sergio Martino, Sauro Scavolini
- Music: De Angelis (Guido & Marizio)
- Starring: Maurizio Merli, John Steiner, Philip LeRoy, Donald O'Brien
Bounty hunter Blade (Merli) catches outlaw Bert Craven by chopping his hand off with his hatchet. They arrive in Suttonville so Blade can turn in Craven. However, the town is controlled by Mr.McGowan and his right hand, Voller. They have a tight, religious oriented hold on the town. And no sheriff. Blade sets Craven free but first gets into a fight with Voller and his men. Disagreement comes between Voller and McGowan, and Blade sees it as the perfect opportunity to make a buck, and exact revenge.
This was one of the very last spaghetti westerns to ever be made. This is one of a very limited handful that Merli starred in. Like most twilight spaghettis, this has a very gothic atmosphere. Almost made like a horror movie at times with some scenes filmed in slow motion and an eery heartbeat over the audio. This creepy atmosphere makes sense since it was directed by horror director Sergio Martino. It is more emotionally involved than most spaghettis. Maybe not as much as Keoma but still engaging. One aspect of this film that makes it fun is the strange weapon our anti-hero carries. It is a hatchet, hence the name Blade. Instead of just shooting his opponents, he brings a little variation to killing. He can shoot them and axe them.
This film is not all action. But because of the strange locale and gothic atmosphere, these shortcomings can easily be forgotten. This film definitely has a pinch of Leone when it comes to death. There is tension in the air and you sit at the edge of your seat waiting for the action to come. Then bang, it comes. But, unlike Leone, this film is far from the mainstream spaghetti. Instead of Spanish locations, we get Italian locations. This was filmed in Manziana. South of Rome. It is very sulfuric and swampy and is a great location for this movie. Another aspect that distinguishes this movie is the great use of fog. Although it is used for a different reason, it adds to the atmosphere. The fog was added to the film to mask the decaying Elios Studios.
What makes this film good is the tension and emotion it may create. Very character driven but still takes time out to entertain the audience with a few short bursts of violence or prolongued action scenes. All these are filmed brilliantly by Martino. Because of the late period, it is far more violent than most spaghettis. Martino also does a great job at creating the mysterious charcter of Blade. You know there is more method to his madness but, most of that is shown in the later part of the film. In fact, most of the movie is solely focused on Blade. Although there are a few subplots that detract a lttle from the dark and rough feel of the film, these are the only major flaws of the film. Martino does a great job of one scene in particular. He shoots the scene itself without sound and intercuts the violence of the scene with a troup of saloon dancers doing a song and dance routine back at the town. He adds a lot of squiby violence and shoots it in slow motion. It is a very cool scene. What makes this a very "cool" film is how stylish it is. It is definitely not a bland film. Very eccentric, which keeps the focus of the viewer high throughout any boring scenes. These scenes are the subplot scenes where the movie doesn't really stay true to itself as I noted above. These scenes are too happy and bring too much hope. But after this subplot is done away with (in a way that stays true to the film) the interest and attention resurfaces and you start to care again. These scenes are done great. The finale is very creepy and filmed through the eyes of the heavy. It is filmed back at the now deserted town. Full of fog. A very creepy set piece. Gives the film a surreal feeling and almost makes the hero out to be a ghost. This film is not completely different. It still has many of the good spaghetti western cliches. A hero who never misses a shot is the main one. He also never loses a fight. For Tony Anthony fans, there is a short section where Merli is blind and faces his enemies in a dark cave with only a couple of hand made hatchets. This is one of the best scenes. Adds to the ghostlike feel of the main character. After defeating all but one of his foes, he materializes out of the cave to finish the last two. This scene is great.
The acting is great. John Steiner creates one of, if not the most vile and evil villain of any spaghetti western. Maurizio Merli is also great as the anti-hero. Can be very violent and without mercy to his enemies. Philip LeRoy is good but his character is very wishy washy. You really don't know if he is a good guy or a bad guy. I suppose that is up to the viewer.
The music is also great but definitely not for everyone. Similar music to Keoma but without a lady singer. Very baritone voice instead. The music is one of the factors that contribute to the atmosphere.
A very good spaghetti western. Quite surreal and violent. It is definitely in my top 10. You can say it is good because all the factors of the film contribute to the other. The music and locale contribute to the atmosphere and the atmopshere contributes to the film. This film is all about atmosphere. Also, despite what anybody says or thinks, this is NOT a knock off or imitation of Keoma. It definitely borrows from Keoma but creates a completely different vision of the west. Much darker and violent. Very good way to turn the final chapter of this great genre. Mannaja: A Man Called Blade.