There is a gang of bandits in the area, and they have been making their money from killing and scalping the Indians, an activity which is now illegal in many districts. After another such raid, they head for the nearest town but their leader, Duncan (Aldo Sambrell), spots a lone figure on horseback high on a ridge overlooking the valley they are riding through. He is familiar to the gang, for he is a native (Burt Reynolds) who has been tracking them these past few days, and Duncan's brother Jeffrey (Lucio Rosita) takes a couple of shots at him - but they will need far more cunning to defeat Navajo Joe...
Legend has it that Reynolds thought he was off to Europe to star in a western directed by Sergio Leone, hoping he would do for his career what the great Italian director did for Clint Eastwood. But whoops! He got the wrong Sergio as it was Sergio Corbucci who was at the helm of this one, although many fans would not have a problem with another western from the man who brought us Django. As it was, Navajo Joe was not the most memorable works from either of these men, though that is not to say there was no entertainment to be caught here.
Joe has a real grudge against Duncan, and although he does not voice it until the film is almost over, it's not difficult to work out. As the bad guy manages to shake off the Indian, he and his boys end up at the town where their names are up on the walls - on "Wanted" posters, so they decide that instead of lying low they will shoot the place up. On entering the saloon and killing the sheriff, Duncan has a meeting with a doctor from another town who has a proposition for him: there will be a train laden with cash arriving tomorrow, and he recommends a robbery.
For some reason the doctor (Pierre Cressoy) has his face obscured for the whole of this exchange, because it's obvious who he is in the next scene he appears in undisguised. He is recognised by one of the saloon girls; unluckily for her, she is under his knife after being shot and, oh dear, she doesn't make it. Quelle surprise. Fortunately for these other townsfolk, they have Joe to protect them if only they would accept him, so there is the predictable anti-racist subtext to the story. A heavy-on-the-bronzer Reynolds is his usual confident self, just one facial twitch away from a smirk if not a giggle, and you can tell he's on his way to bigger things.
Another point of interest is that while Duncan and his ne'erdowells set about slaughtering as many people as possible, in an oddly similar manner Joe sets about slaughtering them in return. So it's OK to be a mass murderer if it's the bad guys you're bumping off, but he has to be one of the most bloodthirsty heroes of his era, even if the violence is not dwelled upon. Like an Eastwood hero, Joe must go through pain to reach the other side of victory, and he predictably is captured and tortured, but he has a way of inspiring the formerly weak townsfolk into action that sees him rescued and able to survive for the showdown with Duncan and his magically shrinking band of baddies at the climax. But does he survive after that? I guess...we'll never know... Music by Ennio Morricone, which helpfully repeats the name of the film over and over in case you catch this halfway through on television and are not sure what it is.