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  Captain Apache April Shower
Year: 1971
Director: Alexander Singer
Stars: Lee Van Cleef, Carroll Baker, Stuart Whitman, Elisa Montés, Charly Bravo, Percy Herbert, Charles Stalmaker, Tony Vogel, Faith Clift, D. Pollock, Dan van Husen, Hugh McDermott, George Margo, José Bódalo, Elsa Zabala
Genre: WesternBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Native American Captain Apache (Lee Van Cleef) is one of the few Indians in the Union Army, and he won't be allowed to forget it. Currently he is on a mission to find out who was behind the murder of a commissioner and see why the killing occured - was it to cover up a greater conspiracy? And what was the meaning of the commissioner's last words: "April Morning?" Apache is on the trail, and his first port of call is a small town where he can find O.J., the last man to see the victim alive. But first he has to bed local woman about town Maude (Carroll Baker) - a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do...

Captain Apache was a sort of spaghetti western in that it followed the conventions but wasn't a bona fide Italian production, no this was a Spanish-British presentation. This might explain the somewhat incongruous sight of British character actor Percy Herbert sharing the screen with seasoned western hardman Van Cleef as one of the heavies, but nevertheless it's the eccentricities like that that make the film quite digestable despite the poor reputation it suffers from the fans of the genre. It's not the finest, but there is amusement to be had here.

Van Cleef is the man in blackface (well, at least brownface) and with a black wig on to cover his now receded hairline, summing up the plot's righteous indignation about the Old West's treatment of the natives and proving a right on antidote to all those Hollywood westerns where the Indians were a faceless threat to be gunned down in their multitudes by the good guys during the typical grand finale. The fact that they couldn't find a proper American Indian to play Apache is indicative of the times this was made in: moving in the right direction, but not quite there yet.

However, what the film is most remembered for is giving its star a chance to sing. This is no musical, but Paint Your Wagon must surely have been behind the reason to allow Van Cleef to warble the opening and closing theme songs; well, he half-speaks them really, but lets rip on the choruses. Again, an incidental pleasure as you don't often get action stars performing their own title songs although I bet if Bruce Willis had been offered the opportunity to provide his own tunes for the Die Hard movies, he would have seized it with both hands.

Back at the plot, we have Captain Apache doggedly pursuing the meaning behind "April Morning" yet unfortunately every time he goes to follow up a lead, they end up getting shot. Every single time. This means repetition sets in early on, but bizarre episodes such as our hero having to strip down to his loincloth because the local Indians won't talk to him while he wears his uniform keep the hilarity alive. Then there's the theme of racism, which in this instance has everyone calling Apache by the name "Red Ass", just to show the kind of ignorami he has to put up with every day. Throw in an enforced drug-fuelled trip to help his investigations and a smoothie Stuart Whitman as a land-grabbing would-be governor to hinder them and you have your dubious entertainment sewn up - and that plotline does make sense if you pay attention. Music by Dolores Claman.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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