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  Kid Vengeance Van Cleef BeliefBuy this film here.
Year: 1977
Director: Joseph Manduke
Stars: Lee Van Cleef, Jim Brown, Leif Garrett, Glynnis O'Connor, John Marley, David Loden, Matt Clark, Dalia Penn, Timothy Scott, Richard Vanstone, Joseph Shiloach, David Menachem, Yakar Semach, Heinz Bernard, Margalit Ankory, Moti Baharav, Nahum Shalit
Genre: Western
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Tom Thurston (Leif Garrett) is out hunting with his father Matthew (David Loden) and he shoots a rabbit with his arrow, then as his father smashes their future meal's head in with a rock, a question arises in the young boy's mind: can they justify their killing? Dad patiently explains there's a big difference between killing an animal for food and murdering a person, and Tom thinks he understands, but still has misgivings about the practice of hunting. Meanwhile, in the nearest small town the gang of McClain (Lee Van Cleef) is causing low level trouble, but gold prospector Isaac (Jim Brown) is doing his best to ignore it as he goes to sell the nuggets he has found in his mine. However, a small fortune can attract ne'erdowells...

The best thing to happen to Lee Van Cleef's career was to be cast in a worldwide hit by Sergio Leone back in the nineteen-sixties. After that, the American actor was one of the faces of international Westerns, and one of the last stars to be associated almost exclusively with the genre before the popularity dwindled to cult status. And Kid Vengeance, also known simply as Vengeance, was his final effort as a Western star, as after this was a bunch of action movies, rarely on a substantial budget, for Van Cleef until his untimely demise. He would occasionally reprise his persona in television commercials, indeed one of the last things he ever did was an ad for a Dutch beer, shooting up a bar until he received the proper brand, but this was effectively his final word on the Western feature.

Therefore it would be nice to say this was an excellent swan song, yet while he had an opportunity to demonstrate what made him such a compelling presence, it was difficult to get past the fact that his adversary was a teenage Leif Garrett, the "Kid" of the title. Van Cleef versus Clint Eastwood, there was a movie, but Van Cleef versus the flaxen haired teen idol and erstwhile pop singer wasn't exactly a battle that echoed down in history, no matter that the plot would give Tom a very strong reason to combat McClain and his grotty gang. Which was when early on in the movie he witnesses from a hiding place his mother raped by McClain and father shot dead by the gang, the mother's demise following quickly afterwards, then sister Lisa (Glynnis O'Connor) is kidnapped.

This was a cash-in on the European Wild West efforts by Israeli exploitation legends Menahem Golam and Yoram Globus, around the time they took over Cannon films and were casting about to latch onto a success story, the rather past it style on display here obviously evidence they were not quite the finger on the pulse merchants they aspired to be, and also that a production line of action movies was in its nascent form before the onslaught of the following decade. You could observe Kid Vengeance was establishing a basic Cannon template, getting recognisable names to knock seven bells out of each other in the name of entertainment which was more or less how those action flicks would play out, so the producers were learning, though the falling away of Westerns did seem like a waste of a local desert, ideal for shootouts.

But aren't we forgetting Jim Brown? His screen career was heading towards television by the late seventies before he made a big screen return in nuts and bolts action efforts later in the eighties, which made this something of a swan song before that hiatus for him as well, and with Garrett getting the most to do Brown and Van Cleef shared about the same amount of screen time, not even getting to square off against each other for the finale since Garrett was the star the producers were banking on as a long lasting celebrity, so much for that. Tom tracks the gang, bumping them off one by one with such methods as rattlesnakes, scorpions, that bow and arrow and (somehow) a hanging, while McClain unexpectedly shows a softer side by treating Lisa with care, though why he all of a sudden decides to be nicer after what he did to her parents is a mystery. Eventually Tom and Isaac team up, the boy rescuing the prospector from being staked to the ground by the villains, though it's difficult to really believe a movie where such a slight kid wins against such odds. Music by Francesco De Masi.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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