Roy Colt & Winchester Jack (1970)

Posted: May 27, 2021 in Uncategorized

Steve Sullivan and I continued our Mario Bava watch-along with Roy Colt & Winchester Jack (1970). This is the most atypical Bava we’ve seen yet — a Spaghetti Western. More precisely: a spoof Spaghetti Western.

Now, there is a school of thought that sees the arrival of full-on comedy to a form that was already over the top as the mark of its decline, with most of the blame falling on the shoulders of Terence Hill and Bud Spencer, whose starring vehicle They Call Me Trinity really kicked things off with its huge success in 1972. But Bava was there two years earlier, and though this film wasn’t successful enough to start the wave of comedy (it was apparently the 22nd most successful Spaghetti Western released THAT YEAR, which tells you something about how many were being churned out), it got in first, and so counts as a pioneer. And decline or not, the film is damn funny.

Taking place almost entirely during the day, Roy Colt & Winchester Jack is pretty much completely devoid of Bava’s usual visual artistry. The colours are rather bland, and there’s a washed-out, grimy, wintry look to the whole thing. The most striking visual moments are what I have to believe are deliberately bad uses of matte paintings, where Monument Valley-style rock formations are slapped onto the Italian landscape. The result could hardly have been less convincing if the film had combined live action with the backdrop of a Road Runner cartoon. But given that this is a film whose locations include “Karton City” and “Wimpy City,” the bad matte jobs feel to me like yet another joke.

And the jokes come as fast and furious as the action. Our heroes are numbskulls, one of whom (Roy) thinks he’s smarter than he is. He gives up the life of an outlaw, leaving control of the gang in the hands of Jack, because they’re so incompetent at being bad guys that he figures he should look into getting an honest job, though he’s not sure what that is. He does miss his fistfights with Jack, though. Events lead to all the characters chasing after buried treasure (of course), and the antagonist is the perpetually shivering Reverend, who once ran into Rasputin (surely the only time that figure has been name-checked in a western). Slapstick fights, ridiculous gunplay, rubber snakes and hijinks with dynamite are the order of the day, plus a little bit of post-colonial subversion at the end, to add bit of spice to the silliness.

If there’s very little about the film that is recognizable as Bava, it is raucously entertaining, and by 1970, the Spaghetti Western was due for its own bit of parody.

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