Sonny and Jed - Wild East release
From The Spaghetti Western Database
This 1972 Italian western, internationally known as Sonny and Jed (La banda J. & S. cronaca criminale del Far West), is directed by the legendary “other Sergio,” Sergio Corbucci. Corbucci’s brilliance would grace the world with such masterful westerns asMinnesota Clay (1964),Django (1966), Navajo Joe (1966), The Hellbenders (1967), The Great Silence (1968), A Professional Gun (1968) and Companeros (1970). Unfortunately, Corbucci would only make two more westerns after this film, seeing his Italian western output end in 1975. Corbucci would unfortunately end his career in Italian westerns on two down notes, with two mediocre at best examples of the Spaghetti western sub-genre, the spaghetti-comedy, in What am I Doing in the Middle of the Revolution (1972) and The White, the Yellow, and the Black (1975). Sonny and Jed, revolves around the animalistic Jed Trigardo (Tomas Milian) and his eventual pairing with a young woman named Sonny (Susan George), who wants to be a bandit and in the process of becoming one, puts up with his violent outburst and bitter tongue. The bandit Jed, is at first portrayed as a Robin Hood type character, robbing from the rich and giving to the poor, but a shift happens part way through the film, after a sort of bonding between the title characters, when the put upon Sonny proclaims her love for the repulsive Jed and thus starts, the duo resembling an 1800’s Bonnie and Clyde. Sonny and Jed are followed after by a determined sheriff named Franciscus (Telly Savals), who has been after Jed ever since the territorial prison that Franciscus was the chief guard at, was blown up by the incarcerated Jed, killing twelve guards in the process.
There is a small Mexican village that Jed returns to from time to time, with some of the bounty that he steals from the rich and gives to the poor oppressed people of this village, the people revere him as a saint there. In this small village he has stored a machine gun for the oppressed people to defend themselves against the land hungry Don Garcia Marino (Eduardo Fajardo), and his minions. Sonny and Jed continue on their life of crime, all the while being pursued by the persistent Franciscus and other territorial sheriffs and also bounty killers as the reward money grows for their capture.
While this film, is in no way, shape, or form a classic of the genre, it is wildly entertaining, albeit a frustrating and sexist trip though the macho minds of its creators. Possibly Sergio, had hung around his brother Bruno Corbucci’s directional effort from the year before; When Men Carried Clubs and Women Played Ding Dong (1971), and used that caveman mentality when constructing Sonny and Jed aka Bandera Bandits. The film does present a female who is not a prostitute, a dance hall girl, or decoration, and that makes this film unique in the Italian western genre and adds to its watch ability. Sonny, may be a confounding character, who stays with the piggish Jed through many scenes of abuse, but at least she’s a fleshed out character and is an equal, for the most part, at least in screen-time to the lead Tomas Milian. The whole cast are uniformly good in their parts, including a brief and uneventful turn by Eduardo Fajardo, as the evil Garcia, even though his evil is never seen or shown on screen, only implied.
Susan George as Sonny is at times a figure of sympathy and at others is infuriating as the meek, sexually confused young woman, who somehow falls in love with the brutish Jed. Telly Savalas, is outstanding as always and was a natural actor, who had unbelievable charisma and a wonderful screen presence, here his part is a bit grating to the viewer, because of his inability to capture and outthink the bandit Jed. His quest for the chance to dish out his own brand of frontier justice, is his sole motivation and his eventual downfall. The Franciscus character evolves from a confident authority figure, into a tragic and buffoonish character, who throughout the film is determined to apprehend Jed, and eventually the pair. Tomas Milian is outstanding as the coarse bandit Jed, having no basic social skills, and only has the want to live life like an animal, free from societies rules and laws, he thus has become an animal and reacts to his animal urges, wherever they take him and no matter whomever he hurts in the process. He does have feelings for the villagers and is genuinely saddened when he returns at the end of the film to find his friends have vacated the premises because of the pressure from Don Garcia Marino, but the sympathy he exudes is unemotional to the viewer because of his barbaric treatment of Sonny.
The film does boast that machine gun that when finally pressed into action, jams up part way through the action, a possible poke at the legacy of Django and the film of its ilk, not being viable anymore in a changing Italian film market. Or possibly a reference to Franco Nero and his choice not to work with Corbucci anymore after feeling slighted by the director during the making of Companeros, over Corbucci’s supposed favoring of Milian. The Jed character is a half-breed, who defies and evades the mostly Anglo cast of law enforcement officers and even the Caucasian bandits who turn on their fellow bandit Jed, to try and enjoy the amnesty and the reward offered by the local judge to anyone who brings in Jed and Sonny.
Sonny and Jed, is beautifully shot and is a cold weather film, which very few Italian westerns (The Great Silence, Cut Throat Nine, Red Coat) traversed into, the film is set in the southwest territory, at the border, with most of the film taking place in Mexico. The cinematography by Luis Cuadrado is eye catching and like another of his cold weather efforts Cut Throats Nine (1971), is beautifully captured in the cold and earthy colors of the area this was filmed in. While not the greatest of scores from the master Ennio Morricone, it is still a very good playful effort that enlivened the proceedings. Look for the stunningly beautiful cult actress Rosanna Yanni towards the end of the film, as Linda, the wife of Don Garcia Marino, where she performs another oddity of the spaghetti western genre, and that is a breast baring scene.
The print used for the Wild East release is of exceptional quality and really highlights the fine camera work and cinematography on this film. Emphasis is put on the fantastic face tones and the cold barren look of the winter skies. The audio is flawless and has not a blemish that jumped out at me. The audio interview with Tomas Milian from 1989 is an interesting addition, that includes comments about the two films offered on this twofer Sonny and Jed and The Ugly Ones (see my other review). Both films included on this collection are outstanding examples, then add in the interviews, galleries, trailers and you have yourself a classic twofer right there, Amigo! Click here to order it from Amazon
- Thanks as always to the spaghetti western expert Tom Betts for his help on this review