That's the trailer I saw on a compilation disc and that's why I rented a DVD of the film now known as Blood Money. I should have been seeing a vigorously brutal story worthy of the hype, something that should have been an improvement on the only other spaghetti western-kung fu crossover I've seen, the merrily vicious and unconscionably entertaining Fighting Fists of Shanghai Joe. As far as production values are concerned, Blood Money, a collaboration between Carlo Ponti and Shaw Bros. with Antonio "Anthony M. Dawson" Margheriti directing, wins hands down. This is a beautifully shot film on a bigger budget than you might expect, with lush cinematography by Alejandro Ulloa and evocative landscapes filmed in both Spain (standing in for the U.S. as usual) and China. The music by Carlos Savina is more elegiac than badass, more Ortolani than Morricone, but very easy on the ear. The mighty men who star, Lee Van Cleef and Lo Lieh, are troupers who perform with enthusiasm....
That's a pun, not a typo, and it leads us to the problem with this promising package. It turns out to be a comedy, but I have no automatic problem with that. Shanghai Joe is pretty funny, too, whether it means to be or not. But the type of comedy The Stranger and the Gunfighter indulges in has little to do with its gunfighting or kung-fu elements. The original Italian title is La dove non batte il sole. My Microsoft Translator rather witlessly translates this as "Where does not beat the sun," but a more idiomatic attempt, "Where the sun don't shine," gets us nearer the bottom of the matter.
We're introduced to Dakota (Van Cleef) working his way through the defenses of a safe. At each obstacle he discovers a photograph of a woman, and with each discovery Margheriti cuts to a flashback presumably showing how the picture was taken. Each woman had a tryst with a short, bald Chinese merchant who seems to have a rear-end fetish. He examines each woman's tush with an appraiser's eye. All of this is unknown to Dakota as he prepares to blow the safe. The merchant appears to prevent the blast, but is killed by the explosion. Dakota is captured, tried and sentenced to death for the merchant's death.
The plot renders Blood Money a mildly bawdy comedy of manners -- or in Dakota's case, the lack thereof. The copy I watched seems to be 10 minutes short of the original length, which may explain why nothing more salacious than a butt is exposed here. The same comedy situations are repeated four times over, while Van Cleef is wasted playing a buffoon. You hold out hope for something better once some villains are introduced: an ex-con religious fanatic murderer (Julian Ugarte) who travels in a horse-drawn church and dresses like Rasputin of the West, and a big Indian brute clearly meant for a showdown with Ho. Add the inevitable Mexican bandits and you have a potentially formidable roster of enemies. But no one's heart really seems to be into the violence, even when a tortured Dakota gets hold of a Gatling gun, and the big fight between Lo Lieh and the Indian is lackluster. This is fatal. There's no point to making a spaghetti-kung fu crossover unless you go for broke with the action and violence. There's no point to watching such a film unless you expect a lot of action and violence. But somebody (Carlo Ponti, maybe) must have thought that the actresses' assets were equal in importance to shooting, kicking and killing. With all due respect to the rears of Femi Benussi, Erika Blanc, Patty Shepard and Karen Yeh, it just ain't so.
"I wish to look at ass of your wife." A redundantly shocking moment from The Stranger and the Gunfighter.
"The Deacon" (Julian Ugarte) brings the wrath of God wherever he goes, but no man makes a martyr of Lee Van Cleef -- though they can sure try.