MANNAJA, A MAN CALLED BLADE 1977
Maurizio Merli, Phillipe Leroy, John Steiner, Donal O'brien
A bounty hunter arrives in the mud caked town of Suttonville and offers his services to rich businessman McGowan who runs the silver mine. After several uneasy encounters with McGowan and his brutal henchman, Voller, it is discovered that Blade has a hidden vendetta to settle with the town dictator and his cohorts.
MANNAJA from 1977 is serviceable but is let down by an ending that feels a bit rushed. CALIFORNIA, starring Guiliano Gemma from the same year has the same gloomy doom laden atmosphere and sense of dread but is a much better picture. MANNAJA is good also but mostly because of its evil and despicable villain. There are also some decent characterizations along the way and a couple of good action scenes but it just doesn't seem like enough. The ending was the biggest letdown for me as I was expecting more. Still, for the price, it's worth picking up for the gothic horror style setting which recalls such films as GREAT SILENCE (1968), DJANGO (1966) and the horror pictures of Mario Bava. Several scenes of violence and gore grab your attention and Maurizio Merli who was famous for his Italian crime films, makes a good western anti-hero in his one stab at the genre.
Interestingly, here is a review from an Italian viewer from SLWB and his thoughts on Merli and the film...
"This is the first Maurizio Merli movie I ever watched. Ever since he first came up to public notoriety I wondered why he was considered (by some) a very good actor. He doesn't know where to start playing, has not a "presence" or face memorable, has a diminutive figure. He was a poor man's Franco Nero, without any of his (small) charisma and handsomeness. The movie starts great, with that first manhunting scene and the card game. After that I was let down by watching the same landscapes used in Fidani, Batzella and co. movies. The opening scene made me hope for more imaginative result. It goes through the motions, with that cave's darkness shooting (well, hatcheting) and there is nothing more.
The score. Well, the De Angelis bros had more chutzpah than inventiveness. I don't think (sorry, Banjo!) that those mediocre folksy songs marry well with the images. Still they are so ugly that, at least, they keep you awake. (for the amateurishness of the bros check the unmusical comment to the dancing scene: embarassing). So I give it 6\10".