fredag 7 januari 2011

Mannaja (1977)

Uhm. Westerns. I dont own that many. I do like them but there has to be something special before I go as far as watching/buying any of them, like zombies or flesheating creatures that burrow under the ground, injecting you with a paralyzing poison and then let you be buried alive. Leone is always fine and stuff like Stagecoach is always entertaining. Il grande silenzio is another cool flick with the ending of a lifetime. Why then, you ask, why Mannaja? Well, because it was banned in Sweden on its release of course. I'm not really sure why though. There are some fair amounts of violence, yes, but nothing really that sadistic or gory. There is torture, but it's really mild, just a variation of the needlebit that Argento later used in the underrated Opera. Well, the Statens biografbyrå, the people who decided what we could see back then were never really consistent.

So, was it worth it? I guess so. Maurizio Merli plays Mannaja, a gunslinger with a mind set on vengeance and a gimmick of his own, axethrowing which he utilizes in a couple of the movies most violent scenes, as for example in the beginning where he chops of Donald O'Briens hand with a well aimed throw. He arrives in a small mining town controlled by the nasty McGowen and as always, gets into trouble pretty fast. McGowens right hand man Valler (played by John Steiner, the best actor in the movie) has some business with a bunch of thugs robbing McGowens silvertransports and, yes, Mannaja gets involved, gets beaten up, tortured and so forth.

Mannaja was shot by maestro Sergio Martino, a director known for making decent movies out of poor scripts. Here he presents a run down and filthy old west, full of mud and fog (which was there to disguise the fact that the outdoor sets were falling apart) which makes the whole situation feel more cold and nasty. Innocent people are executed in slow motion, all orchestrated by the nasty Valler who is an excellent villain, played to perfection by Steiner who seems to relish his role. But, what about the title character? Unfortunately we get the lamest main character I have seen in ages. Maurizio Merli is not a bad actor but he has the whitest teeth I have seen in a hobo bountyhunter. Seriously, there are several scenes in the movie where you miss out on what is happening on the screen because of thos shiny white pieces of jewelry. It doesnt help that the script keeps making him do the stupidest things this side of a Michael Bay movie, like going alone to deliver ransom for McGowens daughter, then hiding the silver and expecting to solve the situation himself, one man against ten? I would have been more satisfied with the outcome of that situation if they had shot him in the forehead and ended the movie right there.

But, this is a Martino movie which means that it moves at a good enough pace, and the action sequences, how stupid they may be written, are well directed and exciting. All of this would probably have been for nothing if the movie hadnt been blessed with the wonderful score by the De Angelis brothers, some sort of haunting folkmusic stuff with lyrics about what is happening on the screen, with excellent vocals. Heck, Donald O'Briens character even gets his own song. Fun stuff.

So, it's not the most perfect western movie of all time, but it's worth watching. mostly for John Steiners great performance and the excellent music. Martinos environments makes you feel cold and dirty and the story is sufficiently brutal. It could have been a classic if it hadnt been for that lame hero. A decent watch.

Fuck, I never though I would write this much, I was just planning for a few sentences. Be back next week when I massacre Hammers The Mummy.

Look at those goddamn teeth!

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