Tag Archives: weird Westerns



Format: DVD

Release date: 26 September 2005

Distributor: Filmgalerie 451

Director: Roland Klick

Writer: Roland Klick

Cast: Mario Adorf, Marquard Bohm, Anthony Dawson, Mascha Elm Rabben, Sigurd Fitzek, Betty Segal

West Germany 1970

85 mins

A young man named Kid, in a dusty two-piece suit and with a bullet wound in his arm, walks across an astoundingly stark and shimmering desert carrying a metal suitcase and a machine gun. After collapsing from exhaustion, his body is eventually discovered by Mr. Dump who opens the suitcase to find a vinyl 45-inch single and a pile of stolen money. His initial plan is to take the money and run, until Kid gains consciousness and forces Mr. Dump at gunpoint to take him with him and remove the bullet from his arm.

Mr. Dump reluctantly drives them back to his refuge, a desolate and squalid mining town whose only other occupants are Mr. Dump’s deranged and psychotic wife and their mute, feral daughter. Refusing to remove the bullet from Kid’s arm, a power struggle between the two men ensues as Mr. Dump desperately tries to exploit the situation for his own means. That is until the mysterious Mr. Sunshine arrives to split the cash and settle old scores. As night turns into day, the situation increasingly escalates towards unhinged paranoia and extreme violence, with any chance of hope obscured by blood, dust and the intrusion of bleak reality.

Although Roland Klick’s Deadlock (1970) may have taken its cue from Spaghetti Westerns and classic American crime movies, it’s also fair to say – like the best cult movies of the 1970s – that it takes place within a universe of its own making. Much like Kaneto Shindō’s Onibaba (1964), its small cast of tormented and tormenting characters never leave the confines of their isolated location, with very little indication of an outside world. It’s almost as if a group of classic archetypes have broken free from their own movies and found themselves lost within the last film at the edge of the earth.

Klick uses the sparse surroundings of Israel’s Negev desert to great effect, creating a crumbling portrait of arid decay and brutal, unforgiving desperation. His inventive framing and overtly stylistic compositions give the film a dreamlike quality – with the occasional moment of controlled psychedelic surrealism – without bubbling over into nonsensical self-indulgence. Add to this the superb film score by Krautrock legends Can and you’ve got yourself an incredibly unique and unforgettable piece of German cinema. In fact, the way in which Klick lets the Can track ‘Tango Whiskey Man’ slowly imbed itself into the narrative (it’s the single hidden in the suitcase with the money) is one of the clever touches that gives the film a certain charm.

Despite Klick’s ambitious experimentalism, he never gets sidetracked and thankfully refuses to neglect certain genre expectations, with a plot and place that’s as firm and gritty as the landscape on which it takes place. A thrilling, entertaining and distinctive example of B-movie pragmatism delivered with artistic scope.

Robert Makin

Watch the trailer:

The Legend of Kaspar Hauser

Davide Manuli’s The Legend of Kaspar Hauser (La leggenda di Kaspar Hauser, 2012) is a re-imagining of the story of the 19th-century man who appeared from nowhere claiming to have had no previous contact with society as a techno Western starring Vincent Gallo and featuring music by Vitalic. It screened on 6 July 2012 at Hackney Picturehouse as part of the East End Film Festival.

For more information on Claude Trollope-Curson, go to the Gronk Comics website.



Format: DVD + 3D Blu-ray

Release date: 5 September 2011

Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Director: Scott Stewart

Writer: Cory Goodman

Based on the graphic novels by: Min-Woo Hyung

Cast: Paul Bettany, Karl Urban, Maggie Q, Brad Dourif, Stephen Moyer, Christopher Plummer

USA 2011

87 mins

I’ve always been a fan of the weird West genre, which is to say Westerns that have an element of horror or science fiction added to them, such as The Valley of Gwangi (1969) or Back to the Future part III (1990). The most common element added to Westerns to tip them into the fantasy genre is vampire mythology, as seen in Curse of the Undead (1959), Billy the Kid vs Dracula (1966), Near Dark (1987), Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat (1991), the From Dusk till Dawn trilogy (1996-2000) and others. However, I never thought I’d be able to describe a film as ‘a post-apocalyptic, cyberpunk, vampire Western’ until I saw Priest.

Surprisingly, the film manages to juggle all these disparate elements well and even fits in an animated sequence that tells the history of the Priest world before the events of the film. The cyberpunk cityscape that bookends the narrative is beautifully rendered, an even more dehumanising and desolate neon-lit conurbation than Blade Runner‘s, with the addition of a religious totalitarian regime that requires the inhabitants to visit street corner confessionals every day to admit their sins to a CGI confessor. This is the result of a thousand-year war between a religious warrior caste - the Priests - and the vampires, who have been present in every major conflict in human history from the Crusades to the World Wars and the inevitable nuclear conflagration that has scorched the Earth before the start of the narrative.

Vampires here are shown to be subhuman mindless beasts with brainwashed familiars that guard their crypts during the day. The only traditional vampire in the film - i.e. a superhuman with fangs - is played by Karl Urban in sou’wester and, as often is the case in modern horror, the villain is more charismatic than the taciturn lead played by Paul Bettany.

Adapted from a Korean manhwa that ran in 16 volumes from 1998 to 2007, the film adds the futuristic setting to the existing vampire Western genre of the comic. The result most closely resembles the American comic book Grendel by Matt Wagner, which also combined cyberpunk, vampires and a religious warrior caste in its latter instalments between 1988 and 1993. The casting of Urban also announces his forthcoming role as the lead in the new (Judge) Dredd movie, which also has Western, post-apocalyptic and cyberpunk elements based on British comics with those themes.

Moving at a brisk pace, the narrative follows Bettany’s excommunicated warrior as he travels into the desert to kill the vampires who have attacked his brother’s family, shunned by the church for defying their belief that the creatures have all been defeated. This is a traditional Western trope - exchange vampires for Sioux in other examples - but the first of many narrative inconsistencies that undermine the film’s achievements in the areas of special effects and world-building. Surely it would make more sense for the church to exaggerate the vampire problem outside the walled cities, to keep the populace afraid and faithful, rather than deny their continued existence.

Bettany travels on in his quest and encounters a varied cast of familiar actors, some reassuring in their presence - Brad Dourif, for example, a horror and Western regular - others who have been cast to give some gravitas to the proceedings, such as Christopher Plummer as a church elder. Stephen Moyer, lead vampire in True Blood, has a cameo as Bettany’s human brother (if this film had been set in the 19th century like the comic, it could almost be his TV character’s origin story) and Maggie Q reprises her reoccurring kung fu role from American techno-thrillers such as Mission Impossible III (2006) and Die Hard 4.0 (2007).

Although it is exciting, innovative and visually stunning - enough elements to recommend it - Priest is flawed in several other areas: absurd fight sequences defy the laws of gravity, even allowing for the priests’ superhuman abilities; the script, based on several issues of the comic, is overly episodic; and the open ending announces a sequel that presumably will never come, based on the film’s bad reviews and meagre profit at the box office. Overall, it is well worth a watch for fans of science fiction, vampires and weird Westerns, but it will frustrate fans and critics used to more mainstream fare.

Alex Fitch