The Black Eagle of Santa Fe Review
From The Spaghetti Western Database
Revision as of 22:38, 28 October 2012 by Dicfish
The Black Eagle of Santa Fe (Die Schwarzen Adler von Santa Fe)
The film opens with a bloody Indian attack on a western town; many people are killed, those who survive seek refuge in the nearby Cavalry Fort. Brad Harris is an undercover agent called McPherson, who's asked by the commander of the (seriously undermanned) fort to investigate why the Indians haven broken the peace treaty and are on the warpath. He soon finds out that the Indian uprising was masterminded by the evil rancher Morton, who's after the oil discovered under the reservation grounds. McPherson is a friend of the Comanches and their chief Black Eagle, and therefore the only one who may be able to prevent a massacre.
The Black Eagle of Santa Fe is listed as a 1965 movie and was indeed released in that year in both Germany and Italy. However, Italian actor Luciano Stella (Tony Kendall) has always sustained that he was offered the role of No Name in A Fistful of Dollars after Leone had seen him in this movie. This would imply that the movie was made prior to Fistful, which seems unlikely, considering the above. There's of course the possibility that it was shelved for some time (for instance because the release of Fistful had ruined the chances for these type of movies), but how on earth did Leone watch it in that case? Black Eagle was part of a loose trilogy, along with River Pirates of the Mississippi (1963) and Massacre at Marble City (1964). Kendall/Stella was also in the first movie and it seems more plausible that Leone saw him in that one. If Leone watched parts of the trilogy, Kendall wasn't his biggest catch: the most remarkable face in Black Eagle is that of Austrian actor Josef Egger, who also appeared in the second movie, and would become a legend (not to say a Prophet) thanks to Leone and the Dollar movies.
With a story of a corrupt white man stirring up the Indians in order to provoke a war, the film clearly follows the model of the Winnetou series. It's a bit more violent and the heroes are also a bit more cynical than the romantic heroes from the Karl May stories, but it all remains rather harmless. The girls (one blond, one dark) are cute and very honorable, and the ending - the Indians coming to the rescue (in true cavalry style!) of those who are under the attack of Morton's men - is completely in the spirit of Karl May. The outdoor scenes were shot in Almeria and - according to a certain Jan Švábenický (1) - in former Czechoslovakia, on grasslands just outside Prague. I also thought I had recognized the Cavalry Fort built for the Winnetou movies (in former Yugoslavia), but they might have used some stock material (the fort looks much bigger from the outside than from the inside). According to our Czech friend the town scenes were shot in the western town (originally built for the movie Lemonade Joe) of the Barrandov Studios near Prague. Location work, direction and cinematography are all purely routine.
It's often said that Brad Harris was as steady as a rock, even when he was acting and supposed to move, but he's not too bad here. Maybe the presence of Czech actress Schoberova inspired him: the two fell in love and would soon officially get married. In one scene, when preparing a bath, he may show that impressive torso of his. Horst Frank plays a good guy for once, a newspaper reporter who has some vital information on the incident which led to the hostilities. The score, by Gert Wilden, is unremarkable but there's a nice musical interlude with German singer Ronny performing Kenn ein Land on the premises of Fort Eagle Rock. The movie's title is a bit odd: as said the Indian chief is called Black Eagle but he's definitely not from Santa Fe (2).
- (1) See the Database Page, under 'Comment'
- The German title is also plural Die Schwarzen Adler von Santa Fé, The Black Eagles from Santa Fé. Sounds more like one of those American baseball teams. The Boston Red Sox. The Cleveland Indians. The Atlanta Braves.
Ronny and 'Kenn ein Land'
German Schlager Sänger Ronny was born in 1930 as Wolfgang Roloff in Bremen. He was trained as a sound engineer but even as a young man he was active as singer in various duos, trios and bands. He seemed to become a jack-of-all-trades but the master of none until he hit a gold vein in 1964 with a German version of My Darling Clementine. Roloff had become Ronny, Clementine had become Caroline, and the single reached the N°1 position of the German charts. Kleine Annabel was a second N°1 hit. He had a great voice, but unlike Freddy Quinn and Peter Alexander (who also appeared in western movies) he was not a real showman. His star faded when The Beatles and The Stones took over, but he remained in showbizz, mainly as a composer and producer. He discovered the Dutch child singer Heintje and wrote several hit songs for him. Ironically his biggest 'hit' was not a success when first released. In 1970 he wrote (with his usual partner Hans Hee) and recorded the song Sierra Madre del Sur. It didn't even hit the charts and was almost completely forgotten when the Austrian Schillertaler Schützenjäger recorded a cover version that became a smash hit. The original was rediscovered and today the song is one of the most popular in the German speaking world.
The song performed in Black Eagle, Kenn ein Land (I know a Country), was definitely not written for the movie, but added to it to lure fans of the singer out of their homes. It was the flip side of the hit Kleine Annabel, and is a simple, but charming little song about a man who was forced to leave his home ground and the girl he loves, because he had shot a former friend, who also was in love with the girl, in a duel. I know a country, somewhere, where the sun always shines. I know a girl who loves me very much, but I can't be with her.
- Ronny sings Kenn ein Land: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WaUJx7vllVk