China 9, Liberty 37 is a 1978 western starring Warren Oates, Fabio Testi, and Jenny Agutter and directed by Monte Hellman. It was one of the last spaghetti westerns coming at the end of that genre’s run. The American title comes from one of those road signs at the beginning of the film with arrowed boards pointing in different directions with city names and distances. One bit of trivia I learned was that there is actually such a sign on Highway 90 in Beaumont, Texas.
Clayton Drumm(Testi) is a gunman about to be hanged and given a reprieve by a railroad executive. Matthew Sebanek is a mine owner they want out of the way. A retired gunman himself, he’s refused overtures to buy his land and the railroad wants him dead.
Already weary of the gunman’s life, Drumm takes his time and ends up becoming friends with the older Sebanek. The thing that ends up causing problems is Catherine(Agutter), the beautiful and much younger wife. As he’s bathing in the pond before leaving, she comes to him, having fallen for the handsome man her own age, and they make love.
After he leaves, Sebanek figures it out and starts to beat her. She stabs him in self defense and takes off after Drumm, who she convinces to take her to Liberty.
But Sebanek is not dead after all. He and his brothers take off after them, the rest of the film becoming a chase back and forth. Mustn’t forget the railroad. They’re already impatient and send a group after everyone. It becomes a battle with odd partners and, of course the inevitable showdown between Drumm and Sebanek.
This was not a great western. I enjoyed it though, an hour and a half of guns and shootouts, with a liberal dose of exploding dynamite thrown in.
One highlight. Director Sam Peckinpah has a small cameo as Wilbur Olsen, dime novelist.