Navajo Joe

(Sergio Corbucci, Italy, 1966): Burt Reynolds, always amusing but never the best judge of his own career, used to have a field day ridiculing this early Sergio Corbucci western on talk shows. He’d claim he went to work for “the wrong Sergio”, and that it was made exclusively for people in prison and on planes “because they couldn’t leave.” But really, how many people would rather watch Stick? Made when Reynolds was yet to emerge from the sidelines of TV and the lowlands of B-movies, Navajo Joe is not only an energetic racially-charged revenge western with some sensational action sequences, it shows Reynolds off beautifully as an almost balletic physical performer. Where the conventional spaghetti dude stereotype is a stoic squinter  whose only moving parts are his duster coattails and trigger finger, Reynolds’ Joe is a human projectile: leaping, running, diving, sprinting and all the while planting knives and arrows just where they mean the most business. In other words, Corbucci knew exactly what he was doing when he cast the part Cherokee actor, even if Reynolds claimed not to know what he was doing when he went to Spain and stuck on that toupee. The guy he plays isn’t simple either: although motivated by both revenge and the prevailing period cultural conviction that the west had been won by genocide, Joe is too cold, efficient, solitary and calculating a killer to be an easy object of identification. The movie also looks great, demonstrating its largely underrated director’s facility for high velocity intensity and slashing composition, and it has an Ennio Morricone score as good as any of the composer’s much better known works. So there, Burt. Sorry. (MGM Home Entertainment)