Beyond the Law (1968)

poster for Beyond the Law

Lee Van Cleef has undoubtedly been in some of the best and worst films of the Eurowestern genre. There's A-list films like The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and Day of Anger, and then there's the gawdawful Take a Hard Ride, or God's Gun. Although nowhere near as bad as some of those, Giorgio Stegani's 1968 Beyond the Law is not one of Van Cleef's better films. It's actually pretty lame.

Van Cleef stars as a con man/theif named Billy Joe Cudlip. Him and his buddies (one of which played by Lionel Stander, the bartender in Once Upon a Time in the West) mange to steal some money from a stagecoach that's being brought as payment to a miner's town by a company employee named Novack, irritatingly played by Antonio Sabato. Cudlip manages to con his way in to town, eventually riding along on the next payment shipment, and through a few turns of events, manages to become the sherrif of the mining town, all while trying to rob them. Things get even more complicated when the nasty Barton gang comes to town to steal the silver that was mined. Of course, Cudlip and his buddies end up saving the day.

Lee Van Cleef cracks a smile

There's a lot wrong with this movie. Sabato's character, Novak, is incredibly annoying, with his "just came from Europe" schtick, coupled by a goofy and ridiculously naive and ridiculously positive persona, make his screen time a chore to watch. Van Cleef actually breaks out of the steely-eyed persona we're accustomed to and does some pretty decent acting, but his character is so wishy-washy, he can't save it. The dialogue is pretty bad at times, simplistic and such, and there's this feeling of carelessness that pervades the film, such as Novak speaking of when he was "hunting in Czechoslovakia", a nation that didn't even exist until after 1918, a lady in the saloon singing a song with an obvious 1940's jazz melody, and this one here, a scene where Van Cleef is talking to a woman as they ride a wagon which seems to move a bit too smoothly. And then you notice the car or truck tracks behind them:

there are truck tracks behind the wagon.

Like I said, really sloppy. The score by Riz Ortolani is a bit on the lush side at times, and gets a bit over-the-top obvious with the doom-and-gloom theme every time the Barton badass character walks on the screen. What was really odd for me was the disconnect for me between the way the film looked/sounded and the way it was written/acted. This was the release from Wild East. It looked and sounded fantastic; good sound, rich clear colors and such. It had the look and feel of a high quality A-list film, and the cinematography was pretty good, too. But it most certainly wasn't an A-list film. Now, we're not talking Z-grade stuff here, but not really worth checking out, either. Just remember, it's an hour-and-a-half you won't get back.

The ominous Barton

Italian trailer:

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