Spaghetti Westerns kept Lee Van Cleef busy during the decade between his breakout performance in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (1966) and the decline of the genre in the mid-’70s, by which point he had cranked out more than a dozen Italian-made oaters. Given this assembly-line pace, it’s unsurprising most of the flicks are awful. For instance, it’s hard to muster enthusiasm for Bad Man’s River, which has some nicely staged action but is otherwise bland and directionless. (The movie also features godawful music, like the title song whose unflattering lyrics refer to Van Cleef’s “close-set beady eyes.”) Van Cleef plays a crook named Roy King, whose new bride, Alicia (Gina Lollobrigida), commits him to an insane asylum in order to steal his money. Thanks to the machinations of a laborious plot, Roy ends up in business with a revolutionary named Montero (James Mason), who happens to be Alicia’s new husband; it seems Montero is planning an elaborate scheme involving guns and money, so Alicia, who apparently expects Roy to forget their past, asks her ex-husband to ensure Montero doesn’t swindle her out of the loot she’s been promised. Or whatever. Featuring a numbing combination of clichéd characters, confusing plotting, and whiplash tonal shifts, Bad Man’s River seems like a different movie in nearly every scene. (During one sequence, the movie’s old-timey background music is supplanted by an acid-rock tune complete with Jethro Tull-style flute solos.) If the movie possessed any artistry, it might feel like the work of a mad cinematic genius, but Bad Man’s River is just chaotic junk. For instance, Mason, the venerable British actor who spent far too much of his career slumming in easy-paycheck B-movies, can’t be bothered to muster a Spanish accent for his Mexican-born character. Bad Man’s River is just plain bad.
Bad Man’s River: LAME