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Bandera Bandits (1972): A Capsule Review

The little-seen Bandera Bandits has quite a reputation amongst Spaghetti Western aficionados, but in truth it’s a lesser entry in the genre that seems to revel in the crudeness of its lead character, a grungy thief called Jed (Tony Miljan), who looks like Che Guevera and whose sole moral ‘virtue’ seems to be that he doesn’t rape virgins.   He does, however, drink cow’s milk direct from the teat, which marks him out as something of a character.   Jed is hunted down by obsessed lawman Sheriff Franciscus (Telly Savalas), who has numerous opportunities to take out his quarry but seems to be intent on taking out his man only when they are on equal terms, which means he squanders at least two cast-iron opportunities when he has Jed at his mercy.

Susan George is Sonny, the tomboy virgin who insists on tagging along with Jed.  They eventually become the old West’s answer to Bonny and Clyde, holding up wealthy stagecoach passengers and distributing the wealth amongst the residents of Jed’s home village.   They make an unlikely and unlikeable couple, constantly screaming at one another, swearing their devotion one minute then taking pot shots at each other the next.   But it’s a volatile relationship that lacks depth because Jed and Sonny are one-dimensional caricatures with no redeeming features.

The story is certainly unique, and there are some neat ideas in the mix, but they’re presented on the screen in such a dull, lacklustre fashion that any originality the movie might possess is lost in the delivery.   Savalas’s character is by far the most interesting but, like all the key characters, he follows no discernible arc, learning nothing from his misadventures.   The dubbing, as with almost all Spaghetti Westerns, is truly horrible, full of unconvincing grunts and exclamations by actors who remain anonymous for a reason.   Avoid Bandera Bandits unless you’re a diehard Spaghetti Western completist.

(Reviewed 13th June 2013)


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