Our tale begins in the aptly named Cheese Valley, where our lovable hero Dart Junior has just been appointed a Texas Ranger, and is setting out into the wild west in search of glory and honor. Through sheer happenstance he stumbles onto a plot that a sleazy banker has cooked up that involves smuggling gold over the Mexican border to an evil dictator named Ortega by way of an innocent looking doctor named Alice. Since he’s looking for the glory, Dart Junior sees this as a prime opportunity, but realizes he’ll need some help. He remembers his father telling him about three legendary, but retired rangers that could definitely be up for the job. While Dart Junior makes a mess of things, he does manage to enlist the trio of rangers for the job, and after taking Alice’s bodyguards out of the picture she takes them on as protection. It doesn’t take long for the three to realize that the stage coach is leaving tracks far too deep to just be carrying all of them and some medicine; there must be gold hidden away somewhere inside! What follows is a struggle for the gold that’s far more hilarious than your average Italo-Western.
While it looks like a spaghetti western (and sounds like one, thanks to the deadpan English dubbing), The Three Musketeers of the West is an experience unlike most others you’ll find in the genre. Gone is the unforgiving violence and bleak outlooks and in its place resides Three Stooges-esque wackiness and a gold rush that’s everything but serious. Sure, there’s a smattering of comedy in a lot of these types of films, but it usually comes from a bumbling sidekick or idiotic villains. The Three Musketeers of the West is played for laughs from beginning to end though, a spoof at its core that actually works rather well thanks to Bruno Corbucci’s experience and understanding of the more serious areas of the genre (he helped write his brother’s most influential works, The Great Silence and Django). This obviously isn’t going to be your cup of tea if you can’t have a laugh at the expense of a genre you love, but if you have tongue firmly planted in cheek, there’s some fun to be had.
Amongst the fun is a lot of great sight gags that fans of cartoonish violence should eat right up. Guys get bonked on the head with everything under the sun, a massive cheese pie fight opens the film, and Dart Junior carries a brick-loaded bible for protection. The episodic nature of the film also does a great job of keeping The Three Musketeers of the West feeling fresh. I for one generally like a streamlined story, but the locales and situations the crew falls into throughout the film here are so varied that it definitely keeps things interesting and moving at a brisk pace. Dart and his band of inept yet canny men cross paths with the Mexican border patrol, a group of feral men that stink to high heaven and are averse to bathing (to get information out of them, all you need to do is threaten contact with water!), a troupe of German circus performers, and a posse of criminal Kung-Fu masters who they have to engage in some wacky combat. All of these elements add up to give the flick a flavor that really is all it’s own.
Fans of Italian cinema will find a lot of familiar faces throughout The Three Musketeers of the West, the biggest of which has to be George Eastman, the jack of all trades that starred in nearly every Django sequel (playing multiple roles, including Django himself), Bava’s Rabid Dogs, and portrayed the gut-munching Nikos from Anthropophagous, and also wrote everything from the classic spaghetti Keoma to the bottom of the barrel-scraping Porno Holocaust. Other genre staples include Giancarlo Prete (under the name Timothy Brent here) of Street Law and The New Barbarians, Karin Schubert of Ubalda, All Naked and Warm and Companeros, and Eduardo Fajardo of Ricco and the Mean Machine and Lisa and the Devil. Heck, even the scenery and sets will give a sense of déjà vu; while I can’t confirm it, the train route where the end of the film takes place looks mighty similar to the area where Enzo G. Castellari’s Inglorious Bastards had its explosive finale. If anyone can confirm, I’d love to know if it’s indeed the same area.
Even though it’s nowhere near as good a western spoof as something like Blazing Saddles, or even as good as The Three Stooges in which it emulates, The Three Musketeers of the West is a goofy, entertaining diversion that serves as a nice example of the lighter side of spaghetti westerns. Fans of the genre will definitely want to give this one a look when they want to take a break from the violence and bloodshed they’re accustomed to.
Dorado Films may sound like a new name on the DVD block, but they’ve actually had a handful of releases in the last few years, and have returned in hopes of keeping up a more a regular release schedule. The Three Musketeers of the West is their first release in over a year, and while it may seem to be an odd choice, it at least differentiates itself from other similar fare sitting on the shelf. The back of the case says the film is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, but in reality it’s something more like 2.00:1 anamorphic widescreen. Even then, it doesn’t look right, as faces are a little stretched, and it appears the true aspect ratio is probably 2.35:1. Even though it does look a bit off, the quality is quite good. At times colors look washed out and there is some noticeable print damage, but the encode is of a high quality and this is probably the best the film will ever look. Audio is available in English, Italian, and Spanish Dolby Digital mono, although no English subs are available for the Italian or Spanish tracks. The film has clearly been overdubbed, but most of the actors are speaking English so it’s not a bad compromise. The quality of the track is acceptable, although the louder scenes can be pretty shrill at times.
On-disc extras include an alternate bath scene, which is pretty hilarious. In the film, the scene in question has Alice rising out of the bathtub suitably nude. In the alternate scene, which I’m guessing was shot to achieve a lesser rating in some markets (sort of like how a lot of BCI’s Spanish gothic horror releases include alternate clothed scenes as extras), she actually rises out of the tub wearing in full lingerie! Also included is a trailer for this as well as three other spaghetti westerns that I would suspect may be on Dorado Films’ future slate. A nice insert rounds out the extras which features a short essay by Lee Broughton from the Westerns All’Italiana fanzine. Also, the case is clear and displays original poster art and chapter stops on the reverse side of the cover. All in all, this is a classy release from Dorado Films, and hopefully their future releases will be coming on a more regular basis.
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