JOHNNY YUMA is a western with a difference. Oh, it’s your typical spaghetti western. A high body count. forty-three, the bulk of them by the hero. No, I didn’t count them up. There’s a blog that specializes in adding them up into two groups, the hero’s and everybody else. The stars here are better than average actors also. Mark Damon, Lawrence Dobkin, and Rosalba Neri.
Mark Damon isn’t your typical spaghetti hero: a scruffy, unshaven quiet killer. He’s clean, handsome(one review declares he bears an “unsettling” resemblance to Englebert Hunperdinck though I didn’t see it. American Lawrence Dobkin is a chess playing gun for hire. And Rosalba Neri is not just around for pretty scenery, playing a scheming black widow type.
Johnny Yuma(Damon) is headed for his uncle’s ranch, summoned to run the ranch because his uncle, Thomas Felton(Leslie Daniels) is wheelchair ridden and finds his brother -in-law, Pedro(Luigi Vannucchi, billed as Louis Vanner), worthless. His wife, Samantha(Neri), sets her husband up for Pedro to kill as he’s practicing shooting indoors with one shot pistols, reloaded by a servant who happens to be Samantha’s lover.
Samantha is practiced at deceit, using her feminine wiles on any man she needs for use. She sends the erstwhile lover with a message to Linus Jerome Carradine(pronounced carra- dine, as in eating). Inside is half a five hundred dollar bill and a letter instructing him to kill the servant/lover who killed her husband. She has other plans for him as well. She knows her husband left the ranch to his nephew, Johnny(presumably Felton; he introduces himself, and others speak of him as “Johnny, they call me Yuma”), but she doesn’t know where the will is hidden. Carradine is also an old lover of Samantha’s who’d been left behind because he wasn’t rich. Theirs is strictly a business arrangement.
Johnny and Carradine form a bond early in the picture when Johnny catches cheating going on in a poker game by two of the other players when he has the winning hand. A brawl breaks out in the saloon and Carradine sits back amused as Johnny is wiping the floor, only taking a hand when one of the cheaters pulls a palm gun, shooting the fellow through the palm. Johnny in turn saves him when two behind try to shoot him. The two admire each other’s gun belts and, on impulse, Carradine suggests they swap. Johnny is ambidextrous because he’s wearing a left side holster and Carradine’s is right side. he proves equally adept with his right hand as the movie moves along.
Lots of interesting stuff going on here. A jousting segment with Johnny on foot and Pedro on horse with a long pole with a nail in the end. Carradine and Johnny agreeing to meet for a showdown at noon after Samantha hires him to kill her husband’s nephew. They seem friendly, but, you know, business is business. They end up teaming up against a host of killers sent by Samantha and her brother Pedro(early in the film we get a hint of some sort of incestuous relationship between the two). Johnny even has a comic sidekick, Fidel Alvarez Cortese Sanchez Garcia(Fidel Gonzales). Cortese to his friends. You know the type: a hanger-on who attaches himself to the hero, a bit cowardly, but brags about what “they” did after the action is all through. The location of the will is in a pocket watch Johnny carries, one with a picture of his uncle, and quite unique it is. The hiding place of the will I mean.
Liked this one.
Directed by Romolo Girolami(billed as Romolo Guirrieri), he also had a hand in the script. The landscape in the film was bleak and rocky, another spaghetti trait. At least for one sub-genre. The clip below is the opening segment of the film(I viewed a version complete on Youtube) that highlights the very good theme song.