Tuesday, June 30, 2020


DAMNED PISTOLS OF DALLAS is one of those Euro-westerns that came rather early in the cycle (this was released only weeks after FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, so its makers had their film completed before they could even have seen DOLLARS) and had no discernible Sergio Leone influence. Thus, it was a Euro attempt at doing a 1950’s or early 60’s American B-western, without the elements one expects from the post-Leone, post-Sergio Corbucci Euro-westerns. There are no twanging echoed guitars, whistling, or trumpets blaring during the theme song----it sounds more like a sing-along you’d find in a dancehall floorshow in 1890’s Central City, Colorado, but a bit “off,” the way a song-poem record is a bit “off”. Of course, even without the music, ten seconds into this, you know it’s not American-made, the same way that you know within 10 seconds of hearing some French or German 60’s rock and roll single that the band is not from Iowa. However, since the film is dubbed in English, there are not European accents to give its origins away. It’s more the sets, the pacing, the overall ramshackle feel, the staging of the fights, the dialogue, the costumes, the grungy look to pretty much everything, and the strange mixture of more violence and brutality that you’d find in an American B-western of the 50’s and cartoonish elements that seem rooted in a Hanna-Barbera Quick Draw McGraw episode. Judge this film by either the standards of some late 50’s Audie Murphy or Rory Calhoun formula western at Universal, or judge it by the standards of some Django or Sartana film, and you’d find it wanting….a lot….but take it on its own terms (like, say, a 60’s record by the German band “The Lords”), and it will take you into its own unique world, with a kind of western play-acting based on film and pulp-novel clichés, but in the second half jumping the tracks a few times into unexpected territory, with twists and turns and a satisfying climax.

Imported American star FRED BEIR (see pic from this film, with cowboy hat) has always been a favorite of mine. Though he’s known primarily for television roles (a number of TV stars other than Clint Eastwood were used as leading players in European genre films, some before Eastwood….such as Don Megowan and Lang Jeffries…others like Beir and Ty Hardin, around the same time), Beir starred in two European films in the mid-60’s that I consider classics: the Eurospy romp MMM 83, whose soundtrack I have memorized, and the surreal ASSASSINATION, with Henry Silva. He also made a second western in Spain the same year with the same director and the same female co-star as DAMNED PISTOLS, TRES DOLLARES DE PLOMO. The actor then returned to the US to star in a western from Fox’s B-unit, FORT COURAGEOUS. Beir could be compared with a Doug McClure or a James Franciscus, and at certain angles I’m reminded of a shorter Lex Barker (who was 6’ 3”) in his non-Winnetou westerns (such as WHO KILLED JOHNNY R). Beir’s got sandy hair with a slight wave, he’s got a charm and warmth and self-deprecating quality that’s appealing, and he must have been a quick study and a reliable worker with all the TV guest shots (100+) he had over the years.

Some BTC readers may remember his colorful but brief (he’s the murder victim) appearance on the 70’s ELLERY QUEEN TV series with Jim Hutton, an episode called “The Adventure of the Hardhearted Huckster” where Beir played a workaholic tobacco company executive who mercilessly abuses his advertising agency people, playing them against each other, and making arbitrary decisions they are expected to click their heels and agree to. The supporting cast in that was amazing, with Carolyn Jones, Juliet Mills (whose character attempts suicide), Eddie Bracken, Herb Edelman as an ex-alcoholic “serious writer” who is on the wagon doing hack-work writing advertising copy, and Bob Crane at his funniest as a butt-kissing yes-man who does an about-face every 30 seconds, agreeing with whatever changes Beir dictates (see pic where Fred’s got a moustache). It’s the episode where the solution hinges on exactly when Beir’s character ate his lunch alone in his office.

The plot in DAMNED PISTOLS involves Beir, playing Clay Stone, son of a banker, returning to his home town, where his father was just murdered, having to pick up things after his father’s death and to find his father’s killer, but finding himself in the situation where he must free the killer who is about to be executed and return him to his criminal gang in order to free a hostage who will be murdered if the killer is hanged. Stone then has the law after him for breaking out a criminal, and when he returns the hostage to the town (something they are not at all appreciative of, being downright abusive to the lady who was just freed, laughing at her when she shows the welts from her torture!), he then must go back and re-capture the killer, taking on the entire gang. There is one shocking and unexpected scene about 2/3 through that will jolt even the most jaded viewer (no spoilers here!), even though the film has a “happy ending” to some extent. The version I saw ran about 90 minutes. It starts in high gear and works its way through a number of moods including humor (the shocking scene referred to above mirrors a humorous scene a few minutes before). Co-star Evi Mirandi will remind many of Brigitte Bardot, or more accurately, her sister Mijanou. It’s also interesting to see many Spanish western regulars, such as Angel
Alvarez, in roles against their usual type. I also think that Fred Beir is dubbing his own voice, which is always a plus and not that common when the imported leading man is not really a “star” whose voice would be recognized.

The print of this I viewed would, in record grading terms, be described as VG+ for the most part, except for a 10 minute sequence in the final third taken from a damaged video tape with Greek subtitles, which I’d label Fair quality. I understand that the film is available on one of those Mill Creek multi-pack cheapo DVD sets, although from the screen shots I’ve seen online, it looks like a different and inferior print was used by Mill Creek (mine has French credits and that one has Spanish credits, for instance). Spanish-speakers can find a copy of the film on You Tube, “Las Malditas Pistolas de Dallas”—the color on that version is a bit more washed out, but it’s better than nothing. Films like DAMNED DOLLARS OF DALLAS remind us how much variety there was among Eurowesterns, and I found it a pleasant way to kill 90 minutes while stuck in the house in virus-lockdown mode. Now I’m on the hunt to find Fred Beir’s other 1964 Spanish western, TRES DOLLARES DE PLOMO.


debbie downer said...


debbie downer said...

lol needs more cowbell and more bee farts lol