It was only 1971, but a lot had changed in the entertainment world since the ’60s ended. First, and perhaps most importantly, The Beatles had disbanded. Secondly, the phenomenon of the Spaghetti Western was on the decline; the cruel victim of oversaturation and repetition on the behalf of the very countrymen who accidentally created the subgenre. One ex-Beatle in particular, Ringo Starr, attempted to launch a solo career in music, but was not experiencing much success [insert joke about Starr’s drumming abilities here]. Across the Channel, American-born filmmaker Tony Anthony ‒ no “stranger” to the Euro western field, having created and starred in The Stranger series a few years before ‒ was plotting his next movie with associates Allen Klein and Paul Swimmer, both of whom had worked with The Beatles.
I’m sure you can guess where this is going. Yes, this movie co-stars Ringo. Just accept it.
As the origins of the Spaghetti Western had been born out of the Japanese samurai film (Sergio Leone’s game-changing A Fistful of Dollars was inspired by Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo ‒ itself influenced by Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest), it was only fitting Anthony’s next film, Blindman, take an aural cue from another classic motion picture from the Land of the Rising Sun, The Tale of Zatoichi. Said cue can only be aural, though, as ‒ much like Shintaro Katsu’s immortal swordsman of the Eastern film legacy ‒ Anthony’s anonymous anti-hero (who looks like Gary Oldman as Charles Bronson about to become The Incredible Hulk) must rely on his other four senses to survive. And in this particularly violent stretch of land, he’s going to need to keep those remaining sensory faculties at their peak.
Wandering into town on the back of his trusty (and highly-intelligent) steed, Blindman promptly introduces us to his two additional, well-developed senses ‒ that of timing and wit [yeah, just go ahead and insert another Ringo joke of your own here] ‒ which is executes as he explodes the north face of a building in order to avenge himself against someone who wronged him. But it turns out Blindman‘s quest for blood ‒ even if he has no idea what it looks like ‒ is not without merit. Initially hired by a small community of miners to bring them the 50 mail-order brides they had paid handsomely for, our unlikely gunman was instead double-crossed by some shady partners, who has sold the fleet of females to a prominent lowlife outlaw, Domingo (Lloyd Battista, a regular collaborator with Tony Anthony).
This, of course, means there will be blood. And nudity, too, since there are 50 Euro actresses on-hand to exploit here!
Co-starring in this interesting low-budget concoction is the aforementioned Ringo Starr, who plays the kid brother of our main villain. While his character certainly isn’t the type of fellow you would want to invite over for dinner, Ringo’s lightweight heavy is perhaps the most innocent of the entire story’s male cast. That’s not saying much, really, since he is a killer who also kidnaps and rapes a Swedish import Agneta Eckemyr, who plays a young local lass which Starr’s character ‒ named Candy, amusingly enough ‒ shares a one-sided obsession with. He also looks pretty puzzled and clueless most of the time, but that’s just because poor Ringo really was puzzled and clueless at this particular point in his life: his tenure as a Beatle was over, and it was looking like he’d just be narrating animation from there.
Or maybe someone had just told him the song he recorded for the release of Blindman was rejected; only the few people who purchased his single “Back Off Boogaloo” and bothered to flip it over to the B-Side would hear it. And those who did didn’t like it. Or get it, since Blindman rarely saw the light of day (sorry, had to) in the United States of America. Briefly released stateside by 20th Century Fox in the beginning of 1972, the strange little film disappeared soon after. Audiences had already grown weary of the foreign-made western formula, as had other English-speaking countries (the film had to wait another year before being released in the UK, to wit most of the violence was edited out) and not even the promise of seeing a recently unemployed and disillusioned Ringo Starr wasn’t luring ’em in.
I suppose it was a good thing they didn’t bother trying to promote Ringo’s eponymous song in conjunction with the feature film itself, then.
Also appearing in this fun (if slightly more than uneven) entry into the annals of European westerns are Magda Konopka, Raf Baldassarre (who was also in Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars), Marisa Solinas, and ‒ in uncredited cameos ‒ Allen Klein and ex-Beatles assistant Mal Evans as the men who get blasted out of existence by Blindman at the beginning of the film. Krista Nell, Malisa Longo, Solvi Stubing, Shirley Corrigan, and Melù Valente are among the credited brides who actually popped up in a few more films. Fernando Baldi, who would continue to direct Tony Anthony in many of the latter’s later productions, helms this entertaining curiosity, which benefits greatly from a very Euro western soundtrack by Italy’s B-Movie equivalent to Ennio Morricone, Stelvio Cipriani.
After years of further obscurity, Fernando Baldi’s Blindman has finally received an official home video release in the USA courtesy the moving picture department of ABKCO Records. Sourced from the original 35mm negative and digitally remastered especially for the occasion, this seldom-seen Blindman (bwah-ha-ha-ha, I made another funny!) makes its long-overdue DVD debut in North America. The title has already been released in France, Germany, Brazil, Italy, Japan, and Spain, but the runtimes of those versions tend to vary: this US ABKCO issue clocks in at 105 minutes, making it the longest (available) cut of the film. The film is presented in an above average widescreen 2.35:1 transfer with English a 5.1 audio option, and the original international theatrical trailer as the disc’s sole extra.
Ultimately, this late entry to the realm of Spaghetti Westerns is for the truly curious. Euro western completionists will no doubt want to seek it out, as will fans of Ringo Starr and/or The Beatles (I believe such folk are one and the same). But Starr’s attachment is really one of convenience and courtesy (or, “Starr power,” if you will), so don’t expect him to wow you anymore here than he did in Caveman. This is a Tony Anthony film first and foremost, and it is he who keeps the movie going, his nameless character cracking quips which range from spot-on to head-shakingly bad (like most of my jokes) all the way through. And while it would have been nice to check out Blindman on Blu-ray, this modestly-priced DVD is a fine substitution (and an HD digital download version is also available).