As I was watching this film, It seemed all too familiar at times, even though I knew I’d never seen it before. It took me way to long to figure out why. I can only plead that it has been forty-five years or so since I last read the novel upon which it is sort of based.
It starts off with a fat man running from someone. He kills several people that get in his way, then takes a room at a saloon/hotel run by a man known as Uncle Pink, who constantly talks about his days as a cook in the Confederate army. He tries to hire Juan Chasquisdo(Gilbert Roland), a man with an iron hand, to guide him into a desolate valley deep in the desert. No money up front though. No go.
The man, Bob Ford, then pays a young Mexican boy named Tommy to bring his food up to his room at each meal, warning him to be on the lookout for a scar faced man with a patch over one eye.
That man, an advance scout for a band of outlaws led by Serraldo, arrives only to be killed by Ford, who then proceeds to hide something in a nook of the ceiling of his room. Tommy sees him.
When the rest of the gang rides up, Ford is killed in the fight before he can reveal anything and they start slapping around Pink, demanding to know where the map is hidden. A search finds nothing and the place is set on fire, the bandits riding off in disgust.
A mystery man shows up at this time, known as Pat(Richard Harrison), helping to get everyone out, then rescuing Tommy when he goes back into the fire to rescue the hidden object. it turns out to be a map.
That’s when things start to come clear. A treasure map, a villain with an eye patch, a boy, a rogue with an iron hand, the quiet man who steps in to help. I was watching a spaghetti western Treasure Island.
The boy is charmed by Chasquisdo, who seems to have an agenda of his own, making deals of his own with Serraldo and his gang.
Pat turns out to be Father Pat Jordan who was on the trail of Ford, whose men looted a Catholic mission at the end of the Civil War and hid the gold and jewelry in a cave. He’d broken out of jail and went after the gold, Father Jordan pursuing him.
The story sticks pretty close, just substituting the desert for the ocean, and Tommy becomes close to Chasquisdo, who seems to have a soft spot for Tommy. There’s double cross and double cross again as we’re never quite sure whose side Chasquisdo is on. Of course we know where this is all headed.
The movie has a lot of shoot-em-ups, but still is not nearly as violent as most films in the genre. This is, after all, an adventure story, not a tale of revenge, and one the whole family could enjoy together.
I give it a B. It also has a decent music score.