“Hannie Caulder with less cleavage. And no Christopher Lee.”
The Asylum studio are infamous for producing ‘mockbusters’ – straight to DVD look-alikes of big-budget movies, designed to benefit from their publicity budgets. These have included their own versions of Sherlock Holmes and War of the Worlds, but they do make their own original works, including cheesy delights such as Mega Python vs. Gatoroid, starring 80’s popsters Tiffany and Debbie Gibson. They come in for a lot of flak as a result – some justified, some not, for this is neither mockbuster nor cheesy, and is surprisingly solid, if you want a straightforward Western tale of revenge. Selina Stevens (Mears) has to watch as her husband and two young sons are killed by Lee Horn (Mead) and his gang; she is brutally raped and left for dead, beginning a decline into alcoholic despair. Having reached bottom, she meets bounty-hunter Frank Allison (Van Dyke), and asks him to teach her how to shoot – conveniently, just as Horn’s crew start to make their way back to town. The townsfolk’s repeated affirmations that they feel safer with Frank around, might have been a bit premature.
Ok, ‘original’ might be a bit of a stretch, as the storyline is more than a bit reminiscent of Hannie Caulder [which I must get round to reviewing at some point], though sensibly reins back the glamour Raquel Welch provided there. On its own merits, however, this is based on a solid trio of central performances, with Mead particularly memorable as the black-hearted thug – in an interesting twist, it’s revenge which also triggers his initial assault on Stevens’ family. Selina’s transition to a gunslinger is nicely handled; she doesn’t exactly become a sharpshooter – but when opportunity presents itself, can shoot a fairly stationary target at shortish range, which is credible. Against this its low-budget nature is highly-obvious, with the “town” inhabited by about 12 people, and the action in general could have been spliced in from any randomly-selected 1950’s oater.
This remains a decent tale, satisfactorily told, with interesting characters, good performances and more than a local resonance, given its placedropping of Arizona names. And in case you’re wondering, no, there are not six guns in the movie, despite the title [depending on the count, there might be five or seven…] Still, you’d be hard-pressed to argue that this doesn’t fall in the upper echelon of the studio’s movies: this kind of thing should escape from The Asylum more often.
Dir: Shane Van Dyke
Star: Sage Mears, Barry Van Dyke, Geoff Meed, Greg Evigan