Blu-ray Review: Navajo Joe

Nava8STUDIO: Kino Lorber | DIRECTOR: Sergio Corbucci | CAST: Burt Reynolds, Aldo Sambrell, Fernando Rey, Nicoletta Machiavelli
RELEASE DATE: 8/18/15 | PRICE: DVD $19.95, Blu-ray $29.95
BONUSES: commentary track, trailer
SPECS: NR | 93 min. | Western | 2.35:1 widescreen | stereo

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  | Audio  | Video  | Overall

The 1966 Spaghetti Western Navajo Joe is filled with cast and crew members worth mentioning, more so than many of the hundreds of others that were made in the Sixties and Seventies.

It stars a young Burt Reynolds (following the lead of Clint Eastwood, who rose to international stardom with Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars in 1964) as a wiry Indian seeking vengeance from a band of sweaty outlaws who wiped out his entire village. Joe shoots, strangles and knifes the outlaws as they take over the dusty town of Esperanza and engineer a bank train hijacking. Joe gets captured at the scene and must endure a bloody beat-down (a requirement for the genre’s antiheroes) before breaking free and helping himself to the sweet taste of revenge.

Burt Reynolds is Navajo Joe

Burt Reynolds is Navajo Joe

As for the talent involved in this better-than-most Spaghetti entry, after Reynolds’ star turn we can start with director Corbucci, who’s considered to be one of the finest Spaghetti directors, with such films as the original Django and the snowbound The Great Silence to his credit. Worth noting in the cast are genre veteran Aldo Sambrell (who appeared in Leone’s Dollars trilogy) as the baddest of bad guys, the great Spanish actor Fernando Rey (The French Connection) as an ill-fated priest and, as Joe’s nominal “love interest” Nicoletta Machiavelli, a direct descendant of Italy’s Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli, the father of modern political science. Also notable is co-writer Fernando di Leo (Shoot First, Die Later), who’s best known for his poliziotteschi, a subgenre of Italian crime and action films that emerged in the late Sixties and Seventies.

Most importantly, the film is scored by the legendary Ennio Morricone, here providing musical cues and themes that Quentin Tarantino went on to use in his Kill Bill double-shot. QT is a big fan of Joe, describing it in The New York Times as “one of the great revenge movies of all time,” which may be overstating it a bit, though Joe’s climactic act of vengeance does go down well.

It’s Morricone’s score and career that plays the greatest part of the Blu-ray’s commentary track by Gary Palmucci, Kino’s Senior VP of Theatrical Programming. Giving only a quick nod to director Corbucci and star Reynolds, Palmucci offers a respectful shout-out to Kino International’s late founder Don Krim and then offers a good deal of insight into Morricone, who’s billed here as “Leo Nichols.”

“Morricone’s work is a skeleton key to over a half-century of international cinema and television,” says Palmucci at one point, adding that the composer has “over 500 credits at age 86.”

And that doesn’t even count his soundtrack for Tarantino’s upcoming The Hateful Eight.


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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.