During the American Civil War, this man (Richard Roundtree) has deserted from the Union Army after a controversy involving him having an affair with an officer's wife put a price on his head, though the fact that he has now murdered the man he cuckolded has not helped matters one bit, and neither does the matter of him being black and the wife being white. He wanders the desert scavenging food when he can, even grabbing it from the mouths of stray dogs, when he happens to stumble across an Indian (Roy Thinnes) who is out here alone...
That's right, blue eyed Roy Thinnes was playing an Indian, and not even one of those so-called "half-breeds" Westerns were so fond of featuring around this time. But it got stranger, for Charley One-Eye was that rare thing, a British Western: when the most famous of those was Carry On Cowboy, you'd be aware this was not a genre the British Isles were entirely comfortable with, no matter how popular they had been there down the decades. Must have been something to do with the climate and the landscape that the most the United Kingdom could do to create a desert setting was to drive the cast to the nearest beach and hope for the best.
There was an alternative option available to British producers and that was the one also available to the rest of Europe, which was to toddle off to Spain and film in the deserts there, which was precisely what the makers of this did. Yet even stranger than that was the executive producer behind this was none other than international gadabout and celebrity interviewer David Frost, for whose Paradine Productions this was created. Now, given the incendiary message about the white man needing to be overthrown by the downtrodden black and American Indian, you have to wonder what was going on in Frostie's head when he commissioned this little item.
Certainly he had been involved with political entertainments before, but according to this he was itching to join the Black Panthers. Roundtree and Thinnes to their credit offered up some surprisingly decent performances, the latter especially losing himself under this makeup and costume for the barely intelligible Indian - no one in this story received a name, incidentally, apparently to render their experience all the more universal in the screenplay penned by Keith Leonard (whose only other major credit was to invent sugary sitcom Me and My Girl for primetime ITV). While director Don Chaffey maintained a hardnosed, gritty and edgy appearance in the dust and blazing sunshine, the cast set about living up to it.
At first the black man orders the crippled Indian about, demanding he make food for him, give him water, and so on, though they see eye to eye when they twig that they share an antagonist, which is the racist, ruling white man. Roundtree relished the dialogue about looking forward to killing as many whites as he could (it seems to be the main reason he was in the army) while Thinnes becomes preoccupied with the chickens they find belonging to a dead traveller. Actually, to say no one got a name here is wrong, as the title belonged to one of those chickens, though quite the symbolism of that was even harder to fathom than what we were meant to take away from this other than David Frost encouraging us to kill whitey. Representing all that is racist and vile about Caucasians, bounty hunter Nigel Davenport showed up to be beastly to the other two, and it was true you get very uncomfortable when he is onscreen, deliberately so, though the parable as a whole was bemusing at best. Funky music by John Cameron.
British director best known for directing fantasy favourites Jason and the Argonauts and One Million Years B.C, both of which featured groundbreaking Ray Harryhausen effects. Chaffey also directed Hammer’s Viking Queen, but much of his work was in television, both in the UK (The Prisoner, Man In a Suitcase) and, later, the US (Charlie’s Angels, CHiPs, Airwolf). Also made kids’ favourites Greyfriars Bobby and Pete's Dragon for Disney.