Movie Review: Blindman (Pain Box)

Posted: July 19, 2010 in Movie Review, Reviews
Tags: , , , , , , , ,


Blindman (1971 Dir. Ferdinando Baldi)

Hey, did you know Ringo Starr was in a Spaghetti Western? No? Me either! What do you want to bet that it’s crap? No, I won’t even give odds. Now, I think I have a cut version of this movie, because IMDB claims 105 minutes but the movie on this disc clocks in at 84 minutes. The scant information I can find on the internet claims that the original contained violence towards women that approached misogynistic levels and then went over that line by about ten miles. The back of the box only promises Zatoichi like blind dude action, I didn’t know it would include moral outrage free with purchase. Yeah, I’m starting to write the review before I’ve seen the movie again. I think it’s more exciting this way. Before we go much further, go look up a neat little cocktail called a Spaghetti Western, then make three. Two for you, one for me. If it gets hairy at the end, you can drink mine too.

Dude? For reals? That is one hell of a farmer’s tan you’ve got there.

I’m not going to defend this movie, but I’ll try to put it in context. I’ve postulated before, that the Spaghetti Western is like Film Noir. If you’re link phobic, I’ll summarize. Film Noir took a genre that was growing stale, the crime picture, and injected new life into it by adding what at the time was controversial subject matter. The Spaghetti Westerns were much the same, taking the worn out Western for a ride and injecting much needed life into it. There were more graphic levels of violence than people had seen before, there was a certain amount of nudity and there was the sort of treatment of women that you just don’t get anymore… with good reason. Unless you’re some kind of dickhead trying to make some kind of horror throw back as an excuse to declare your misogyny and lack of understanding of the fairer sex, there is no statement to be made by the mistreatment of women in movies anymore. It just comes off as childish and stupid now, it’s not even shocking enough to be considered offensive anymore. However, back in the day, treating women badly was seen as edgy and cool. That’s where this movie comes in.

White contacts always mean blindness… for some reason.

The opening credits seem to actually be in Italian, which is sort of odd. I say seem because I don’t speak Italian and I can’t say for sure. It’s sort of odd because normally there would be a clean slot for whatever company that bought these things to put in credits from their region. I wonder if they dubbed it into English instead of dubbing it into Italian. One thing I know, it was dubbed. See, all Italian movies of this period were dubbed. I’m pretty sure they’ve fixed it by now, but at the time, they would only record a guide track and dub the dialogue in later. ADR sort of kills the acting though, because instead of the actor saying his lines on the day and in the moment, they’d say them months later in a booth. So now you know why all Spaghetti Westerns have that strange dubbing going on and you can never find one with the original, non-dubbed language track intact. There is no such track. Besides, even if you had the guide track to listen to, you’d be confused as hell. The Americans spoke English, the Italian actors spoke Italian, the German actors spoke German and the French actors spoke Cantonese because they were French and felt they could more or less please themselves.

Who put a bayonet on a Winchester repeater? Seriously! What the hell!

I guess I’d better stop stalling and start talking about the movie, huh? We start with a guy riding into town and asking another guy for directions to the local church. Dude is clearly blind, but has that sort of super-sense that Daredevil and Zatoichi posses that allows them to see far better than any sighted man can. He proves this by shooting a bell in the church tower. Also, strangely, he has a bayonet on his rifle for some reason. I only mention it because it’s so odd to see a bayonet on any gun in any western. Anyway, the blind man, who people just seem to call Blindman so far has come for his 50 women. Not gonna make the first joke that leapt to my mind about Islamic men demanding their virgins, because it’s too obvious. Anyway, the guy claims they don’t have the 50 women and that someone took the 50 women to Mexico. I can just tell already that this is going to be a feminist thesis on rightful place of women in society. It’s already dealing with the subject so intelligently and sensitively. The blind dude, instead of taking crap, decides to wire the cabin up with dynamite and blows it up instead of dealing with them. Then the music starts and it REALLY wants to be an Ennio Morricone score but just isn’t. By the way, I just checked, he’s never actually called anything. He’s just the Blindman. I should point out, a lot of these movies have unnamed protagonists. Even when they have things they’re called, they don’t have actual names as we understand them. So I’m going to call him Blindy, because screw being culturally sensitive.

The name on the grave was Arch Stanton… or something.

So after that first bit of nonsense, we get a travel montage where Blindy uses a leather map with places burned in and having people point for his horse to see what direction it should ride as he heads toward Mexico. Then he enters a town holding the horse by the tail and letting it lead him along. Then he goes to a hotel and orders a young whore because old ones cost more, price of experience you understand. I’m only eight and a half minutes in and I’m already beginning to wish I’d decided to review Porno Holocaust instead. Of course, I would have had to buy Porno Holocaust first, and that’s a step I’m not willing to take. You wait until I’m thirty-five minutes in, I might have changed my mind by then. The whore comes in and suddenly we jump to a scene of Blindy talking to a blacksmith. I’m sort of guessing that a scene of horrible sexism was cut out there, the scene just ends too abruptly.

Oh Lord! Deliver me from this movie!

Then, as the two talk, our other lead enters the movie. Horary! Ringo has arrived, with a full beard and everything. I think Ringo is supposed to be a Mexican bandit, but he’s clearly Ringo Starr and he seems to have done his down dubbing. Anyway, they kidnap some blonde chick and Ringo rides away. And you know what? We’re fifteen minutes in and no one has been shot yet. Some of Ringo’s thugs try to threaten Blindy, but it doesn’t seem to go very well and he’s not very threatened. Instead, he finally fulfills the reason we’re here and shoots all four of them. He does this of course in the classic mode of all blind men, by having perfect crack shots every time. It’s not very satisfying though, because it flashes by so fast that I can hardly tell what’s going on besides the fact that Blindy is shooting a rifle. Then we come to what I assume is the 50 women, who are being bathed in some kind of dungeon by having buckets of water sloshed all over them. If you think this means I’m getting to see boobies, you are wrong my friend. While you get one or two flashes of naked breast, mostly it seems they’ve cut away to keep this as close to PG as possible. Which begs the question of why. Seriously, why bother? You’re never going to make this sort of thing a family movie. There are too many flashes of boob for it to be acceptable for Saturday afternoons on Channel 20, and it hops around too much when you try to cut them out.

Really, we’re going with Ringo Starr as a Mexican Bandit?

Anyway… it transpires that the women were taken to be whores for the Mexican military, instead of being mail order brides for miners like their original contracts stated. Soooo, we’ve got the old “women as currency” thing going on. Blindy wants the 50 women so he can sell them into marital slavery, the Mexicans want them for sexual slavery, he military seems to think sex and rape are roughly the same thing, and Ringo Starr is in this movie. Might I suggest that if you intend to watch this movie, you stop now, got make yourself a Spaghetti Western (that’s a cocktail) and gulp it as you watch? It will help, if you drink four or five of them before you start and then keep a couple on hand as the movie goes along. When Blindy shows up and demands to be given his 50 women, he is mocked and laughed at before he gets beaten up by the brother of Ringo Starr’s character.

One girl, wrapped in black cloth.

Speaking of Ringo Starr, he shows back up at the town where his men were killed. Now, I’m not always a stickler for cleanliness. I’ll sometimes go two days without dusting every surface in the entire house, but even I must complain about the men still being left out where they fell. Corpses carry disease man, don’t you think you might want to clean those up? Well, whatever, not much of a point is raised about it because Ringo is only in town long enough to be taken hostage by Blindy. Then we go back to the bandits, who have decided to kill the army with Gatlin guns rather than let them have the 50 women, which I can’t help but feel is starting a fight with the wrong people. Do you really want to get into a shooting match with the army? I’m sure this is supposed to show that they’re Bad Guys but really. They don’t kill the general, because he’s worth more alive. Place your bets now as to whether or not that’ll bite them in the ass by the end of the movie. I bet it does.

Even the father was shocked by the unholy badness of this movie.

Another sudden shift is brought about when suddenly Ringo’s brother turns up with the 50 women, that Blindy wants returned to him. The women are robed and all wearing head covers, so I must assume that Blindy is being played for a fool. Are women that hard to get a hold of? Even in Mexico? Why take this must trouble to keep 50 women? Granted, they’re all supposed to be pretty women and all that, but still. Why have such a stupid, sexist premise in the first place? This might have had some sort of shock value back in ’71, but now it’s just sort of dumb. Anyway, Blindy finds that he’s been double-crossed and the bad guys feed him a meal. I mention this because we spend like two minutes watching him eat before it’s revealed the baddies put a snake in his food. Looks like a garter snake to me, but maybe it’s the one place where his super ninja blind man senses fail him. It doesn’t matter the problem is dealt with by Ringo, who shoots it so that Blindy will tell him where the pretty girl he kidnapped earlier has been hidden. Once again, women as currency.

She tried for stoic, because it was all she had left.

Blindy escapes from the baddies with the general in tow, but the two split up after Blindy declines an offer of help from the general. Then Blindy gets some more dynamite from an old man who he tells to load up a wagon with it and wait for him. Ringo comes to the old min, looking for Blindy, who throws some of the dynamite around because… explosions are cool? It doesn’t seem to have much point except to cut Ringo off from the rest of the gang that Blindy couldn’t have known was coming. Then Blindy kills Ringo, but as we have no actual attachment to the character, we don’t care. I honestly don’t even know what his character’s name was before he got punk’d by a blind dude. Anyway, Blindy and kidnap victim #51 get away and he goes to get the other 50. He gets them, but before they can all get away, chaos ensues.

Um… yeah I got nothing for this one.

Ringo’s brother returns and because the misogyny wasn’t quite complete, we have good ol’ rape and murder fest on the sand. This is another of those scenes that so badly cut to pieces you almost can’t tell what the hell is supposed to be going on. Blindy blows up the bandit’s home, which is CLEARLY an old castle in Spain rather than an old Spanish fort in Mexico. He then comes across what’s left of his 50 women where they were slaughtered by the bandits, and you’ve got to think he’s pretty mad now as his chief form of currency has been taken from him. Or maybe not, maybe he doesn’t care about the women money at all and just hates Mexican bandits. It’s hard to say, because he hasn’t expressed much of an opinion about anything in this movie besides his desire to take 50 women to some miners. I know nothing about this guy whatsoever besides that he’s blind and he has a thing about these 50 women. He’s a cardboard cut out without any features at all. This isn’t like a normal action movie where we complain about shallow characters, this is a one-dimensional nothing of a character. The Man With No Name is a deep character with a rich and full back story by comparison.

Ah those Mexicans with their stereotypical missing teeth that have been painted black.

I suppose it doesn’t matter, we’ve only got twenty more minutes? Crap! I thought we were almost done! Shit! Okay, so, at the funeral, Ringo’s brother decides that Ringo is alive and that the priest should marry kidnap victim #51 to Ringo, but halfway though his ranting decides to rape her instead. In truly stunning break with precedent, Blindy shows up and a rape is interrupted for once in this movie. He blows up some explosives and Ringo’s bother chases into the night after him. This leaves room for Blindy to sneak into what’s left of the base and look for #51, who I guess he’s trying to save now. I’m not sure of his motivation, and I sort of suspect he doesn’t have one. At this point, all we have left is the fighting in the dark thing that you always get with these movies and of course he wins. At least, I think he wins, again, this movie was cut to shit and it’s hard to tell just what in the hell is going on sometimes.

You know what I’ve noticed? Spain has a lot of dead trees.

Ah, I can see we’ve decided to end the movie in the graveyard from the The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Good, good, I’m pleased frankly. I was worried for a second there that this movie might have had an original thought, but I can see it stayed true to form. Ringo’s brother and the rest of his band have followed Blindy and #51 to the graveyard you see. Just as Ringo’s brother is about to put a bullet in Blindy’s head, the army shows up and blows everybody away except Blindy and #51. Blindy gets to kill Ringo’s brother of course, but the Dues Ex Machina Brigade can still claim this victory as one of their finer moments, even if it was telegraphed nearly an hour in advance. Actually, it turns out all 50 women weren’t killed, the general rounded the survivors up for Blindy and I guess they ride off together. At least I think so. It’s hard to say. Very little in this movie so far has made a great deal of sense. I hate to be rough on a movie that is clearly suffering from a bad print and a horrible cut, but I have to take what I was given and review that. It’s pretty bad, and the use of women is deeply reprehensible. So what’s the verdict on this one? Well, we’re loosing points for a bad plot, gonna loose a couple of points for the horrible editing, serious points lost for not making Ringo Starr a more interesting character. However, this is all academic as we don’t count points, we go by how much better or worse it is than Graffiti Bridge.

I was after 50 women, and all I get is this one? LAME!

Official Score: -37 Degrees on the Graffiti Bridge Scale.

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