Lee, Van Cleef gets around. One of his Italian-made Westerns "Sabata," arrived here earlier this week. Add to it now a Colorado-made Western at the Victoria Theater, starring—you guessed it.
The newer picture, titled "Barquero," has carefully held to the format of those popular horse operas from abroad: stark color, clanging music, perpetual gunfire, stacks of corpses and a plot heavily punctuated with murderous glares, growls and squints.
Rather surprisingly, the second half of the film gets an interesting foothold on reality. There are, so help us, a few quiet stretches, along with a spate of good acting. And one or two characterizations take on persuasion and bite.
The picture opens in utter confusion as a band of mercenaries swoops down on a little river-landing outpost. When the smoke clears, the village survivors are crouched on one side of the river, led by a tough barge operator, Mr. Van Cleef. Across the water the bad guys bide their time. For some reason they want the boat for a getaway instead of legging it back over the hills.
The very modesty of the setting comes across picturesquely during the tense cat-and-mouse wait, under Gordon Douglas's direction. Four of the players are quite good, with the star leading in a burly, convincing role. Mariette Hartley has two interesting scenes as an earthbound wife. Good, too, are Warren Oates as the chief culprit who becomes unhinged and Kerwin Mathews as his level-eyed partner. And Forrest Tucker, as the Edgar Buchanan of the piece, does well by the few amusing lines.
Considering the format, it could have been much, much worse.
BARQUERO, directed by Gordon Douglas; screen play by George Schenck and William Marks; music by Dominic Frontiere; photography by Jerry Finnerman; produced by Hal Klein; presented by United Artists. At the Victoria Theater, Broadway and 46th Street. Running time: 104 minutes. (The Motion Picture Association of America's Production Code and Rating Administration classifies the film: "GP—all ages admitted, parental guidance suggested.")
Travis . . . . . Lee Van Cleef
Remy . . . . . Warren Oates
Mountain Phil . . . . . Forrest Tucker
Marquette . . . . . Kerwin Mathews
Anna . . . . . Mariette Hartlsy
Nola . . . . . Marie Gomez
Sawyer . . . . . Armando Silvestre