Exploitation Retrospect | The Journal of Junk Culture and Fringe Media
Black Killer (1971)
Buy at European Trash Cinema | Review by Dan Taylor

After spending a couple days with CHURCHILL'S LEOPARDS and applying SALT IN THE WOUND I've left Klaus behind enemy lines and arrived in the Old West. It's Tombstone, Arizona and the town is under the thumb of the wild and ruthless bunch known as the O'Hara brothers. (Certainly the swarthiest looking guys named O'Hara I've ever seen.)

Lawmen don't have a long shelf life in Tombstone, and the O'Haras dispatch the new sheriff in short order by blowing up his office, shooting him repeatedly, stringing him up in the center of town, and sticking the wanted poster of Pedro O'Hara to his chest with a variety of knives. (Seems the brothers were dismayed by the paltry $10,000 reward.)

Into this dangerous territory rides James Webb (Kinski), a soft-spoken, long-haired lawyer whose hefty law tomes contain much more than case studies. The lawyer has hollowed out the pages and inserted a gun that he can shoot with the aid of a string he's attached to the trigger. Apparently aiming is far more overrated than I was led to believe as Webb repeatedly takes out bad guys with a single shot while holding the book around waist level!

Also arriving in town around the same time is Burt Collins (Fred Robsahm), though he's referred to as both Bud and Burt throughout the film. Seems Bud/Burt is a former town resident but hasn't been back in a while. His brother Peter (Jerry Collins) still lives in the area, but has given up the family land to go live with his "Indian" galpal Sarah (Marina Malfatti), whose skills with a bow and arrow will come in handy later on. Not to mention her fabulously nice ass.

Naturally, gunslinging, card-cheating, rough-bearded Bud/Burt is the perfect candidate for the newly opened position of sheriff and he takes on the job thanks to the hefty reward being offered for the capture (or death) of Pedro O'Hara.

This sets up the flick's core story, with the O'Hara boys plotting to kill Bud/Burt and vice versa. Kinski, in another solid supporting turn, spends most of his time peering through curtains, opening/closing windows and keeping tabs on Judge Wilson (Dante Maggio), who is up to some kind of underhanded land deals involving the O'Haras.

If you've seen more than a handful of spaghetti westerns you can pretty much connect all the dots in BLACK KILLER's plotline. There's the assault on the two brothers and the Indian chick, the drunken party/brawl, and the unexpected return of someone "left for dead", all leading up to the finale.

What keeps BLACK KILLER from falling into the trap of being too predictable is the sub-plot involving Webb, Wilson and the land deals. Webb's motivations are muddled throughout. At times he seems like he's helping Collins clean up the town and regain the family land, at other times not so much. In fact, his actual motives don't become "clear" until the final moments of the film and even then I went "Huh?".

But BLACK KILLER is certainly entertaining enough and Klaus – looking like he stopped in on his way home from the SLAUGHTER HOTEL set – is always a treat to watch, especially when he's shooting his gun/book or sneaking around keeping the audience guessing about just what the hell he's up to.

BLACK KILLER falls firmly in the middle of Klaus's spaghetti western output for this hombre. Not as great as THE GREAT SILENCE but certainly not as meandering and unmemorable as HIS NAME WAS KING.

 


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