Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Silliest Western in the HBS/EFC Database: "The Meanest Men in the West" (1967)

This unknown western is actually two episodes of the old television series "The Virginian" edited together, badly, to try to form a cohesive whole.

Michael Conrad is Harge, Sr., a hard man who wants a son from his invalid wife. He chooses the baby over the mother's life after the difficult birth, much to the horror of little Kalig (Lance Kerwin), Harge's stepson. Kalig kills his stepfather before he can be abused again, and takes Harge, Jr. to an aunt's house. Kalig grows up to be an outlaw (Lee Marvin), and Harge (Charles Bronson) grows up to be, well, an outlaw. Marvin and Bronson did not appear in the same episodes, much less the same season. The editors then try to mesh the stories together, and mass confusion sets in.

Kalig hates Harge, and gets with a sheriff and tips him off. Harge's bank robbery goes wrong, and Harge blames the Virginian (James Drury). Kalig blames a judge (Lee J. Cobb) for his own imprisonment in a whole other revenge plot. Harge kidnaps the judge's daughter, Kalig kidnaps the judge, and the Virginian must get involved in both abductions, again four years from one plot to the other. In the end, the two brothers meet (not really) for a final gunfight.

The editing together of the two episodes was a good idea, if they had originally been a two-parter, or had related characters. Instead, lousy special effects, stock footage, and insert shots take over for any flow. The two kidnappings are one too many for the film and the amateurish handling gives away its origins.

The video box does not mention this little deception, and with Samuel Fuller's name on it, you might be tempted to fall for this. Don't, the only mean men in the west are the money hungry opportunists who slapped this crap together. (*) out of five stars.