savage guns, western

Louis Waldon died in Los Angeles at 78 this week. One of the few ‘superstars’ of Andy Warhol films to actually have studied acting, he was most well known for appearing in a spurt of notorious late-’60s Warhol films: Flesh (1968), Lonesome Cowboys (1968), San Diego Surf (1968 — halted when Warhol was shot by Valerie Solanis) and the banned Blue Movie (1969 – Warhol’s last picture with his direct involvement in its making)My main memory of Waldon was through a screening of the Western space-camp parody Lonesome Cowboys at Berkeley’s now-dormant UC Theatre back in the late ’80s. In the film, he seemed to be the only one to at least approximate a ‘cowboy’ (or at least a biker) attitude (apart from mere ‘look’), which made his homo-erotic scenes all the more memorable (and an obvious pre-cursor to Brokeback Mountain nearly 40 years later).

In Waldron’s honor, I recommend another film to view that gives Cowboys a run for it’s money in the Western camp-out sweepstakes (albeit not nearly as hipster self-aware). Savage Guns a.k.a. His Name Was Sam Walbash, But They Call Him Amen (1971) was shot by the late Sardinian director Demofilo Fidani, who often went by the Anglicized screen name Miles Deem, as he does here. His actors and crew get similar treatment, resulting in a seemingly ‘Factory’-approved supporting cast and crew: ‘Dean Stratford’ (Dino Strano), ‘Dennis Colt’ (Benito Pacifico), ‘Custer Gail’ (Amerigo Castrighella) and ‘Simone Blondell’ (Simonetta Vitelli, ‘Deem’s’ daughter). Savage’s title character is listed as Robert Wood (Robert WoodsBattle of the Bulge, Seven Guns For the McGregors), which is ironic considering director Fidani has been dubbed (by some) as the ‘Ed Wood Jr.’ of spaghetti westerns. Here that amateurishness only works in his favor, as it does in Warhol’s Cowboys — its vague attempts to seem ‘authentic’ only serve to make it seem more present. Strano’s portrayal of swaggering gang leader Donovan, is reminiscent of Waldon’s Mickey, besides being a possible inspiration for Will Farrell’s Pedro in Casa de Mi Padre (2012), and his interaction with his gang also has a little more than ‘brotherly’ love. Other highlights, among many, include Lallo Gori’s wonderful soundtrack, which combine’s homages to Ennio Morricone’s score for that same year’s Sergio Leone film Duck, You Sucker with more funky orchestral jazz worthy of NFL Films, and even some reverbed dub-toasting elements. Also not to be missed is the saloon performance of Piera Bruni (the film’s editor, among numerous other Italian films including Pam Grier’s The Arena (1974) over her career – this was her sole onscreen appearance). Bruni’s over-the-top, seemingly improvised vamp, while no Joe D’Alessandro and Taylor Mead dancing to ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ in Lonesome Cowboys, is nevertheless more than worthy–and perhaps Madeline Kahn took a glance for her more-measured revue in Blazing Saddles (1973).

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Classic Western cinema is available 24/7 on The Western Channel via FilmOn:

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