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Original Title: Land Raiders
Ruthless Vince Carden dominates the Arizona-territory town of Forge River and buys the scalps of murdered Indians. He has driven his brother Paul from his home, and this leads to the total disillusionment of his wife Martha. Haunted by the mysterious death of a girl he had loved, Paul ends his wandering and joins a wagon train heading for Forge River; with the train is Kate Mayfield, who is returning home after years of school in the East. Paul and Kate are the sole survivors when Apaches attack the train, in reprisal for a slaughter staged by Vince's men. Vince uses the Indian attack on the train as an excuse to lead the raid on a defenseless Apache village, which sparks a massive assault on Forge River.
An outlaw committing a string of robberies and murders manages to blame the crimes on Apaches, bringing about an Indian war.
Released in 1969 and directed by Nathan Juran, "Land Raiders" is an American Western curiously shot in Europe starring Telly Savalas and George Maharis as estranged brothers in Arizona circa 1875. The former is greedy and stirs up hostilities with the Natives in order to drive out settlers so he can scarf up their land cheap. Meanwhile, the latter returns to the family ranch after a long absence smelling corruption. Guy Rolfe appears as the major of a local fort while Phil Brown is on hand as the local sheriff.
This is a well-made Western by the proved director of 1958's "The 7th Voyage of Sinbad" and 1962's "Jack the Giant Killer." If you didn't know better you'd think it was shot in Arizona, where the story takes place. The score is by Ennio Morricone's orchestrator Bruno Nicolai and it's decent. The cast is great with Savalas chewing the scenery as the charismatic brother on a power trip contrasted by handsome Maharis as the troubled, but noble sibling.
The movie does well in the female department with four – count 'em four – beautiful women in various roles: Janet Landgard plays the Sheriff's daughter, Arlene Dahl the corrupt brother's wife, Jocelyn Lane the noble brother's old flame and Marcella Saint-Amant a saloon senorita. Moreover, the film checks all the boxes of Western staples, like a saloon brawl, an Indian attack on a wagon train, cavalry & fort sequences, a stampede, shootouts and various romances. Furthermore, the plot is more interesting than the conventional revenge or greed motifs of Spaghetti oaters, which sort of gives away that it's an American production.
Unfortunately, the set-up of the first half is more promising than the somewhat comic booky execution of the second half; and the Natives are all obviously dark-skinned Caucasians from the Mediterranean (just guessing). It's also marred by the (obvious) use of stock footage in at least one of the action sequences. Nevertheless, "Land Raiders" delivers the goods as an action-packed American-trying-to-be-European Western with dramatic punch. I don't get why it's so obscure as it's just as good, if not better, than more well-known Westerns of the same period.
The movie runs 101 minutes and was shot in Spain and Hungary.
GRADE: Borderline B/B- (6.5/10 Stars)
Wealthy Spanish landowner Telly Savalas pays mercenaries to kill Apaches and then benefits when their reprisal killings against whites create cheap vacant properties for him to add to his empire. Meanwhile, his younger brother comes home and opposes him, opening up old wounds involving Telly's past misdeeds.
An American film shot in Europe (Spain?), Land Raiders is an obvious attempt to imitate the look and style of the Italian westerns popular at the time. Still, it's a pretty good movie with hard-boiled characters, splashes of blood, and a little bit of nudity thrown in, not to mention the score by Ennio Morricone's frequent arranger Bruno Nicolai.
Telly Savalas is smooth and sinister, appearing to have a lot of fun, while George Maharis gives a likable, noble performance as his brother.
Impressive looking stock footage pads out the action sequences nicely, but it's too easily distinguishable from the bulk of the film.
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