“I want my fifty women.”
The Spaghetti Western reigned from about 1964 until sometimes into the mid-1970s. While there had been, westerns filmed in Europe before and after that time, Sergio Leone’s Per un pugno di dollari/Por un puñado de dólares/Für eine Handvoll Dollar, best known as A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (released in Italy in September 12,1964, released in the U.S by United Artists) was the first international success of the Euro Western. Many of these films were produced multi-nationally via German, Yugoslavian, Spain, the U.S., even Israel, along with Italian producers.
Usually in the Spaghetti Western, the definition of bad guys and the good guys, unlike the classic American films, became blurred. The level of violence also escalated. As the westerns went along, they also developed interesting eccentricities and characterizations. Also, a dark sense of humor permeated a lot of them. DJANGO (1966 Euro International) and the coffin exemplified these.
However, by the 1970s, Kung Fu films became the rage, and the westerns slowly rode off into the cinematic sunset. Before they did, they left us with BLINDMAN (ABKCO FILMS, released in 1971 in Italy,1972 U.S. via 20th Century Fox).
BLINDMAN was a bit more violent than many of the westerns and had a great deal more nudity. The original American release was pared down to 84 minutes in some areas. I saw it upon its original release, due to the casting of Ringo Star as a Mexican Bandito(!)and seeing this new release from ABKCO, I do not recall the film being as explicit .
Many of the Spaghetti Westerns had inspirations in other films, and BLINDMAN seems inspired by WESTWARD THE WOMEN(MGM,1951). In WESTWARD, Robert Taylor (WATERLOO BRIDGE, MGM 1940) is consigned to deliver 140 (not 200 as the poster declares) mail order brides to California. Indian attacks, renegades, even natural disasters, dwindle the numbers. The film was a huge hit when it came out, though it is not well remembered today.
Tony Anthony an American born actor who had a good career in Italian Westerns, and later help bring about the 3D revival with his film COMIN’ AT YA (U.S. release Filmways ,1981), stars as the title character and who also wrote the screenplay for BLINDMAN, however, seemed to have been at least partially inspired by it. For good measure, he mixed into the blend a bit of the legend of the blind masseuse/ swordsman, Zatoichi. First filmed in 1962 as THE TALE OF ZATOICHI ( Dalei Studios ),the long running series had already had 22 entries by the time BLINDMAN was into production.
The Blindman (he seems to have no other name), it seems, was contracted to bring fifty women to some miners in Texas. However, his partners double cross him and bring the women to Mexico. Blindman thus needs to hunt down his associates, who often end up dead, as he tries to regain his female consignment and honor his contract.
Blindman sets up the film by establishing that he is indeed blind ,but no less deadly, when he blows up a character named Skunk(an unbilled Renato Romano, DEATH LAID AN EGG / La morteha fatto l’uovo,Italy 1968) and an unnamed compatriot and woman companion after Skunk lets Blindman know his cargo is now in Mexico with Domingo(American born Lloyd Batista,who had appeared in Tony Anthony ‘s THE STRANGER/Lo straniero di silenzio,Italy 1968 ),his brother Candy(Ringo Starr* )and their sister called Sweet Mama(Magda Konopka,WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH,WB 1970) and their gang.
The bandits shower down the kidnapped women while Sweet Mama and Dominic discuss if Candy might want one of the captives. However, Candy is sweet (sorry about pun) on Pilar (Agneta Eckemyr, later to appear in ISLAND AT THE TOP OF THE WORLD (Disney, Dec 20,1974)). The women are being offered to a General (Raf Baldassare, who appeared in Mario Bava’s ERIK THE CONQUEROR/Gli Invasari, Italy 1961) and his drunken battalion.
However, even more double crosses happen and El General is captured for ransom. More betrayals occur and more characters end up dead (including Ringo!), and The Blindman is at times caught and tortured.
The actors seem to be having a good time in their various roles. The women, however, to be blunt, are for the most part, sex objects, and spend a great deal of time being naked and pawed by the various cast members. Konopka, hints at a sick sadistic pleasure of watching this, and that she is closer to her brother Dominic that would be considered acceptable.
The at times surreal western was directed by Ferdinando Baldi was a very busy in the 1960s through 1980s, jumping genres but most comfortable in the oater genre. He later would direct the two 3-D films that Anthony would write and star in. The film was lensed in Almeria, Spain, a desert like stretch that was used in numerous westerns as well as films like LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (Columbia ,1962) and HOW I WON THE WAR (U.A. ,1967). In fact, Ringo had visited John Lennon on location there while Lennon was filming HOW I WON…
Music by Stelvio Cipriati, who had scored THE STRANGER RETURNS (Italy,1967) and is still scoring films today, does a Ennio Morricone -like score with a lot of jangly sounds and odd vocals. Ringo did not contribute to the soundtrack, though on the flipside of his song single “Back Off Boogaloo”, he wrote and performs a song called ‘Blindman” that sounds inspired by Cipriati’s score https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5EXfCMyibw
Allen Klein, the head of ABKCO Films, was the former manager whom Paul McCartney blames for his exit from The Beatles. Ringo obviously had no ill will to Klein, and took the supporting role. Being the most famous name in the film, his prominence in ads and trailers was expanded. Ringo acquits himself quite well in the atypical bad guy role. (See trailer : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5454Qe6uoaM )
Ringo & Klein(holding gun) clowning on set.
The DVD transfer shows off cinematographer Riccardo Pallottini (CASTLE OF BLOOD/ Danza macabra, Italy,1964) sharp images, thanks to a HD transfer from an original 35mm negative. The film is also available as a digital download, though no word of any planned BLU RAY release (if they do ,perhaps a commentary by Anthony, or even Ringo?). Sound quality is a 5.1 transfer with no noticeable pops or hiss. The only extra on the DVD is a trailer.
BLINDMAN was one of those films that had been available on the gray market in variable quality prints. In fact, SCARLET reader John Crummett informed us when BLINDMAN was first announced for DVD that some time ago he had attended a screening of GET MEAN**(Italy ,1975, U.S. release through Cinemation) at the Silent Movie Theatre in Hollywood and director Tony Anthony himself doubted there would ever be an ever be an official release due to all the bootlegs. ( You can see how bad a typical bootleg looked here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l95IUUNnpjg )
I am glad that Tony Anthony was wrong about that, and that the film is finally available in a good quality print. One small note about the ABKCO website- they really don’t sell their DVDs very well, concentrating more on their musical releases. The most important thing, though, is you can finally get BLINDMAN in a high-quality release.
Recommended for Italian Western Fans, as well as Beatles completists.
–Kevin G Shinnick
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