Friday, April 4, 2014

Macho Callahan (1970)

This grim and misguided Western stars the perpetually cranky David Janssen as Macho Callahan, a reluctant Civil War soldier who escapes from a horrific Confederate prison, then seeks revenge on the man who tricked Macho into joining the Army. (Don’t ask why a character who wants to avoid the conflict of war would seek the conflict of a vengeance mission.) This peculiar story gets even more contrived when Macho pointlessly shoots a Confederate officer during a minor dispute, provoking the officer’s widow to put a price on Macho’s head. Later, Macho abducts, beats, and rapes the widow—which inexplicably leads her to fall in love with Macho. Rest assured, none of this makes any more sense while it unfolds onscreen than it does in synopsis form. From the standpoint of character logic, Macho Callahan is incomprehensible, and from the standpoint of gender politics, it’s reprehensible. As a result of these problems, the protagonist is revealed as a sadistic thug undeserving of viewers’ attention. Janssen, best known for his work on the tense ’60s series The Fugitive, spends so much time scowling that he seems constipated instead of anguished. Leading lady Jean Seberg can’t seem to decide whether she’s incarnating a tough military bride or a weak-willed victim. And the question of whether these two stars spark any chemistry is moot, since the dynamic between their characters is grotesque and unbelievable. Meanwhile, the actors who deliver vivid supporting performances—David Carradine (as the officer whom Macho shoots), Matt Clark (as a sadistic prison guard), and Lee J. Cobb (as Macho’s arch enemy)—all disappear too quickly from the story. So, aside from some intense action scenes (particularly the disgusting opening sequence in the Confederate prison, which cinematographer Gerry Fisher shoots evocatively), there’s little of note in Macho Callahan, unless an overabundance of brutality qualifies as noteworthy.

Macho Callahan: LAME

1 comment:

AndyHunt said...

I was given this movie amongst a collection of westerns by a friend of my fathers. They were all pirated vhs from way back. there were several gems, many mediocre efforts , and then there was this. What the hell inspired anyone involved to think this was a good idea. Violent nihilistic westerns work if they have at least some heart buried underneath(usually in the form of tragedy). This thing completely misses the mark. I think the blame lays squarely at the feet of director Bernard L. Kowalski. Usually a TV serial director, it seems that whenever he ventured into film he tried to emulate the latest trends, when really his strength was in safe, undemanding storytelling.