Saturday, September 29, 2012

God, the Bad, and the Very Ugly: "God's Gun" (1977)

*SPOILERS* Parolini, directing under the American-friendly name "Frank Kramer," comes up with a western that almost succeeds.

Jack Palance and his gang take over a small town. Leif Garrett and priest Lee Van Cleef stand up to the gang, and Van Cleef is killed. Garrett rides off to find the priest's twin brother, a gunfighter, also played by Van Cleef. They ride back and defeat the baddies.

The film makers give Van Cleef the world's most hideous wig in his scenes as the priest. He and Garrett seem to be competing in a contest for the film's most unappealing hairstyle. Palance, as the outlaw gang leader, must get on his knees every day and thank God "City Slickers" came along and rescued his career from messes like this. Sybil Danning, as Garrett's mother, is given little to do but stand around wide eyed, worry about her son, and flash her right breast in a rape scene to be discussed later. Richard Boone, desperately missing John Wayne and the chance to be in his films, plays the stereotypical drunken sheriff who cannot stop the outlaws.

Garrett, who does not sing in this, heads to Mexico to find the gunfighting brother. It takes him just two days, since apparently Mexico is the size of a city block. Van Cleef as the gunfighter is more effective, especially in a clever plan to stop the outlaws by making them think the priest has come back from the dead. The gunfighter does this with the minimum use of guns, and it is entertaining.

The bad news? Ennio Morricone should sue the composer here for ripping off "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly"'s soundtrack. Every time Van Cleef is shown, you here that "aahh" sound that pops up all time in the superior Sergio Leone film. About an hour into this, the gang tries to rape the judge's daughters. They then go to the saloon and proceed to rape the women there. Then Danning tells Palance he is the father of Garrett, and we are treated to her flashback when Palance raped her years before. I do not know why the majority of modern westerns must feature rape, but this trio of scenes lasts a very long SIX minutes, and seems longer. They are ugly scenes that did not have to be done, and only pander to the lowest form of viewer who needs to have it hit over their head that these are villains, in case all the murders and robberies were confusing.

Parolini finally starts doing some funky things involving his camera with about twenty minutes to go, but it is too late. The baddies are defeated, Garrett learns a big life lesson, and gunfighter Van Cleef rides home.

"God's Gun," also known as "A Bullet from God," had a lot going for it, but cannot overcome its own ugliness. I cannot recommend it. (*) out of five stars.