Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Kid Vengeance (1977)

          Go figure that B-movie tough guy Lee Van Cleef made not one but two cheap European Westerns costarring ’70s teen idol Leif Garrett. And while Garrett was merely a supporting player in God’s Gun (1976), he’s more or less the protagonist of Kid Vengeance—despite billing suggesting that either Van Cleef or blaxploitation badass Jim Brown plays the main character. Confusion about who’s more important to the storyline notwithstanding, Kid Vengeance is on the low end of passable, but at least that means it ‘s a hell of a lot better than the abysmal God’s Gun. Among other noteworthy differences, Kid Vengeance has a plot that makes sense. At the beginning the violent story, honest prospector Isaac (Brown) trades gold for cash, thereby catching the attention of thugs including McClain (Van Cleef), who leads a posse of savage men. After his first skirmish with would-be robbers, Isaac flees into the sun-baked wilderness and encounters the salt-of-the-earth Thurston clan, including Ma and Pa plus two kids. The kids are nubile Lisa (Glynis O’Connor) and wide-eyed Tom (Garrett). Once Isaac leaves them, the Thurstons get menaced by McClain’s gang; the thugs kill Pa, rape Ma, and kidnap Lisa for sale to slavers. Tom witnesses all of this and begins picking off the baddies with his bow and arrow. Eventually, Tom hooks up with Isaac, and the two join forces.
          The first half of the picture is sluggish, even with lots of bloodshed, partially because of lax storytelling and partially because Garrett’s an ineffectual screen presence as he lurks in high rock formations and watches bad things happen. Meanwhile, Brown is mostly kept offscreen for a good 40 minutes. On the brighter side, Van Cleef renders one of his signature phoned-in performances, but he plays evil so enjoyably that his lack of commitment doesn’t really matter. As for the other key players, O’Connor brings her customary sincerity and costar Matt Clark gives good varmint, as usual. (It’s a mystery why the producers bothered hiring John Marley, who plays McClain’s second-in-command, since his voice was replaced in dubbing to make him sound Mexican.) Kid Vengeance—which is also known by the titles Vendetta and Vengeance—isn’t the worst film of its kind, but no one will ever mistake it for a quality picture. And even though Kid Vengeance is occasionally described as a sequel to a previous Brown-Van Cleef flick, Take a Hard Ride (1975), the films are unrelated.

Kid Vengeance: FUNKY

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