Saturday, February 4, 2017

THE VIOLENT ONES (1967)


The first thing of note about this Madison Productions, Inc. production, aside from the production company name itself and a misplaced detail of a steam locomotive whistle in 1967, is a driving score by Marlin Skiles befitting a major military operation with tanks rumbling through the North African desert. Yet what we see is a sheriff’s 2-door Impala Sport Coupe [first-class all the way] being driven within the speed limit through town and country. A lengthy segment which eats up enough film to include all the credits and then some. The film was not expected to be a Golden Globe nominee but the star and director, Fernando Lamas, manages this drama fairly well despite some unlikely sequences, a clich├ęd script and overlooked editing. Perhaps to ease some directing complications, there is plenty of driving in this film. A strange vignette is used once during a road sequence to break the apparent monotony. An ineffective experiment that hopefully was an editing oversight. This ninety-five minute film would have benefited by trimming it twenty minutes.

The low-budget melodrama, set in a New Mexico border town, concerns three apprehended white men, Aldo Ray, Tommy Sands and David Carradine. A casting director’s dream. One is guilty in the rape and death of a local girl. Lamas, no fan of gringos, is the deputy sheriff who interrogates each individually, starting with a big smile and cordial questions as if he intends to release them once he hears their story. In reality, he is waiting for each one to say something to set him off so he can verbally assault or slap each around. Also on his conscious is the possible lynching of the three prisoners by the townspeople. The “mob” seems particularly uncommitted to string up anything as they sheepishly gather in small groups around the jail quietly discussing what to do next.


With a lynching eminent, a townsperson punctures Lamas’ car tire so they cannot escape. But Lamas has a agricultural truck backup. He and his chained-together prisoners escape out the back as no one covered that exit. I mentioned the mob was not very committed. However, very committed is a car load of locals trying to bump Lamas’ two-ton truck off the road. Traveling around twenty-five miles per hour they are not very believable nor is it plausible. They constantly lay on their horn as if taunting them like high school rivals. The truck makes a move off-road and their slow synchronized chase in the desert is pretty silly. Not being a fair fight, the truck maneuvers to ram the car, flipping it over. The truck soon runs dry with their subsequent escape through the desert on foot being tedious and time consuming for them and viewer alike. They spot coffee-brown water and immediately ingest some. Seizing an opportunity to overwhelm Lamas, the four-man choreographed fight scene is supported by solo piano and percussion sounding a bit like a halfhearted Keystone Cops routine only in slow motion.


All three prisoners eventually feel their life slipping away from dehydration and each one's story begins to reveal the murderer through a process of elimination. Another scuffle and Lamas' gun ends up at the back of the bad gringo. An injured Lamas gets flanking leg support from the remaining gringos as he proudly hobbles toward a nearby town. The three now appear to be buddies as if they were successful in their defeat of Rommel. 

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