CHALLENGE OF McKENNA is a low budget film filled with stock characters, yet manages to rise above all that because of a well written script. Four writing credits are listed on IMDb post: Pedro Gil Paradela, León Klimovsky, Edoardo Mulargia, and Antonio Viader(story). Kilmovsky, a journeyman director, turns in his best work here.
The film opens with a hanging. A young man in white is being wrestled up to a tree by three young bucks while an older man watches from the back of a horse. A young woman tries to stop the hanging, but is roughly shoved aside. We learn later the older man is Don Diego(Roberto Camardiel) and the three young men are his son Chris(Robert Woods) and two hands. The young woman is Barbara(Daniela Giordano), Don Diego’s daughter. The hanging victim is her lover. His crime, though educated and planning to start a school in Laredo, he is poor.
The old man seems to have a mad on at everybody. He resent’s his son Chris(the feelings are returned), a psychotic young fellow that has unnatural feelings for his sister and laughs maniacally. Barbara is virtually a prisoner in her home.
After the hanging, the four ride off leaving Barbara lying on the ground.
One thing I spotted immediately. As the body swung back and forth with the sun behind it, The tree resembled nothing more than a cross.
A drifter(John Ireland) comes along and buries the young man, speaking some angry verse over the body, then tossing the bible into the grave. Barbara he returns home, taking a job with Don Diego, identifying himself only as Jones. I’d wondered where the name in the title came from. It’s never mentioned in the English dubbed version I saw. On the post at the Spahetti Western Database they list the character name, in addition to Jones, as Jonas McKenna. It’s obvious from his actions at the burial, Jones has his own internal problems.
It doesn’t take him long to get on the boss’s wrong side when he refuses to dig the body up and move it. Don diego doesn’t want “that animal under my land!”
Some of the other stock characters are the whore with a heart of gold. Maggie(Annabella Incontrera) owns the local bar/bawdy huse. She liked the young hanging victim and takes to Jones. Another is the rancher that wants to marry Barbara and allies with Chris to take out Jones.
Jones’ story comes to light as he’s about to have sex with Maggie and a flashback reminds him of a past incident that derailed a twenty year career.
Nicely staged finale and a better than average western.