A Man Called Sledge (1970)

When SLEDGE hits town it stays hit!

James Garner is Luther Sledge, the leader of a pack of rebels who are planning to steal a stash of gold. But after the thieves actually manage to get away with the bounty, they soon discover that the enemy lies within their midst. As they begin to bicker over who should get the biggest cut, the stage is set for a deadly showdown. Claude Akins and John Marley co-star in this Italian Western directed by Vic Morrow.

Luther Sledge.
A Man Called Sledge is directed by Vic Morrow and Morrow co-writes the screenplay with Frank Kowalski. It stars James Garner, Dennis Weaver, Claude Akins, John Marley, Laura Antonelli, Wayde Preston and Ken Clarke. Music is by Gianni Ferrio and cinematography by Luigi Kuveiller.
Luther Sledge (Garner) is a wanted outlaw who upon hearing about a huge gold shipment stored in a prison, promptly assembles his gang and sets about executing a daring robbery.
A Pasta Western filmed in Technicolor/Techniscope out of Andalucia in Spain, A Man Called Sledge is a most interesting and entertaining addition to this splinter of Westerns. From the off we are in no doubt that Garner is serving up a character not of his normal portrayal varieties, here he's not heroic, all American or a lovable rogue, he's a bad egg, gruff, rough and tough, and driven by law breaking activities. Added into the mix is a rather cheeky premise, that of gold being stored in a working prison, which is naturally heavily fortified, protected and seemingly impossible to breach, but Sledge and his cohorts have other ideas that gives the narrative and dramatic drive much strength.
You couldn't take it with a pope!
In spite of the odd flecks of humour, such as a terrific organ sequence and Akins' constant cynical asides (both orally and visually), pic is grim in texture, there will be blood and the unfurling of other hateful human traits. Morrow knows his Pasta Oaters, both as regards visual ticks and via characterisations. So we get camera zooms, low level up-tilts and spins, while the characters range from the foolish to the greedy - to the twitchy and the dumb - and even a howling man! The story plays out through differing back drops, be it a snow storm, an arid landscape or a sweaty bar - not least the imposing prison at the centre of the plot - Morrow is taking his story through visual variations.
I would have died for you Sledge!
There are a number of great scenes to enjoy, usually where action is concerned, not least the quite exhilarating show-piece involving a jailbreak, where here we are treated to top stunt work as dynamite and a Gatling Gun join the usual bullets and blood carnage. Cards are a big feature, as are crosses - cum - crucifixes, the latter providing some striking (and scary) imagery. While all the time Ferrio's varied musical score hits all the right Pasta Western notes. Hell! even the irritating theme song is hauntingly chaotic and thus fitting once the pic reaches its denouement. With the mostly American cast turning in good perfs, and Morrow proving deft at genre compliance, this is very much an under valued pic and worthy of either seeking out for a first time view or for reevaluation purpose. 7.5/10

Dino de Laurentiis Cinematografica by Vic Morrow, Giorgio Gentili, Frank Kowalski, Massimo D'Avak.
Stars: James Garner, Dennis Weaver, Claude Akins, John Marley.

Genres: Western

Keywords: spaghetti western


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