Navajo Joe DVD review

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DVD review of Navajo Joe, released by MGM/Fox May 13, 2008 in the United States (Region 1)

The Film

Scalp hunter Duncan (Aldo Sanbrell) sees his existence in danger when the locals stop buying scalps from him, which he has so gruesomely cut from native americans' heads, including that of Joe's (Burt Reynolds) wife. Instead, a local banker convinces him to rob a train full of money, to which the banker has the code to the vault. Joe, who's hunting after Duncan's gang ever since they massacred his tribe, finds out about the train from a runaway showgirl, and sets out to interfere with Duncan's plans. After the bandits have massacred the passengers, they're garding the conquered train to wait for the banker. But Joe hijacks the train and confronts the townfolk with the looming danger of bandits. He convinces them to hire him to kill the bad guys, who he manages to lay a trap for. When the bandits come to town to steal the gold, again, Joe is waiting for them with dynamite. But Joe is forced to turn himself in, after Duncan threatens to kill Estrella (Nicoletta Machiavelli), a beautiful local servant, who had laid an eye on Joe. With the help of Estrella and a few locals, Joe manages to escape and continue decimating the gang. With the money on him as a bait, he lures the rest of the gang, including Duncan, to an ancient burial ground.....

Review

Navajo Joe's reputation is probably better than the film itself. While it is defintely one of the better representatives of the genre, and comes with a number of stars attached, a chilling score by "il maestro" and some trademark Corbucci action, it doesn't outlive its potential and much of the film remains only a teaser of what could have been. The showdown is minuscule compared to the "foreplay", there relationship to Estrella is never expanded on, some plot elements are left in the dark and many of the characters, if not all of them, remain very one-dimensional. The overuse of the main musical theme are a pity. While all this sounds very negative, the result is still a damn fine Spaghetti Western, with nice compositions, some good acting and great moments.

The DVD

How long have fans had to wait for this! MGM finally dignifies the fan world with a release of this long-awaited Spaghetti Western cult classic, the wait is over, amigos. While MGM treats their western customers like idiots and think they can sell them to WalMart customers as long as their covers look like an American western is inside the package, the real customers are the Spaghetti fans, who would rather see them sold as what they are. But I guess you have to be grateful for at least this.

Audio: They included the English dub only, but it sounds clear and good. There are some glitches, reportedly over the music mix, which will convince a few people to wait for the Koch Media release later this year to see if it is a problem with the English dub in general, or just something MGM screwed up. But the track sounds great aside from that. Video: MGM gives us the full anamorphic widescreen glory and thankfully said no to yet another pan and scan version as they include them on many other DVDs these days. Who needs those? The picture is a very nicely cleaned up transfer, with rich colors and okay contrast. I think it could have used a tad more sharpness, but that's fine. What is a bit disturbing are the very strong edge haloes. Really a pity, as that ruins an otherwise great transfer to some extent. They have included subtitles in English, French and Spanish, so language wise, they have covered the whole American continent and the major parts of Europe with this. Koch Media will close the gap later this year by topping it with a German dub, and who knows, maybe even the Italian audio track. There are absolutely no extras on this disc, which is a major drag, as all the stars are still alive and active, a retrospective interview or something would have been cool. At least the movie is uncut, which makes everyone happy who's seen the chopped TV versions. Now Aldo can cut off some scalps and Burt can beat the shit out of unarmed bandits.

Verdict

A genre cult classic, a famous American actor, a howling score by Morricone, some brutal violence and sweet revenge. Navajo Joe is a long-awaited film to arrive on DVD, and while it does have a number of flaws preventing it from ever being considered one of the very best, it is still up there with a number of really great Spaghetti Westerns. Corbucci delivers an action-packed, entertaining and brutal film. Plus Burt Reynolds as a native American. The DVD by MGM offers very good quality, although some minor flaws, and no extras. Considering the low price, this one is a definite must-buy in my opinion. I have been waiting for years to be able to put this one into my Spaghetti Western shelf, and it was worth the wait. If in doubt, you can still wait and see what Germany's Koch Media cooks up on DVD for this film later this year (probably more extras).

--Sebastian 12:03, 22 May 2008 (UTC)

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