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China 9, Liberty 37 (1978)
The deadliest crossroad.
Director: Monte Hellman

Gunslinger Clayton Drumm is about to be hanged when he is given a chance to live if he will agree to murder Matthew (Oates), a miner who has steadfastly refused to sell his land to the railroad company. Matthew’s refusal is a major obstacle to the railroad’s plans for expansion.

China 9, Liberty 37 (1978)

Whoring and Teaching

And so we have it: arguably the last spaghetti western. Wonderfully photographed. Well acted.

This time around what we get is an erotic western. Our hard boiled hero is a gunslinger as usual but good hearted enough to not kill his mark simply because he likes him. That is though we know this target did some terrible things for the normal villain, the railroad, who now wants him killed.

The story is a simple love triangle with the target’s wife. Jenny Agutter plays the innocent driven by lonely passion well. If you see a good print, she is able to carry this.

The two men, the railroad, and their goons are merely noir characters, there to be manipulated by forces well beyond their control. Noir, for me is the technique of god-like manipulation of characters — usually to their great detriment — by coincidences contrived for us as viewers.

By this measure, we as viewer-gods share a space with Jenny’s character, Catherine. We also briefly share a space with a cameo by filmmaker Peckinpah as an unwelcome narrator. Jenny Agutter has served this role before, in ‘Walkabout’ and is excellent in it. The eroticism is humanised much more maturely than we can expect from an Italian filmmaker — so this is a bit of a surprise.

Posted in 2022

Ted’s Evaluation — 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.


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