(1970, Mex, 128 min) Dir Jose Samson Tio. Cast Lee Huerta, Franco Nero, Esmeralda.
With the flowering of the Spaghetti Western international variations sprouted up around the world like the sauerkraut Western out of Germany and, from Mexico, the politicised Zapata Western. The wannabe king of this genre, it’s aspirant Sergio Leone, was the expert self-publicist Jose Samson Tio and what was to be his Once Upon a Time in the West was Dinamita Joe. Local hero Lee Huerta (a singer songwriter in his only film role) is simple sheep farmer Joe in Northern Mexico in the 1880’s who takes in the half dead mercenary Jean-Luc (Nero) when he turns up on his farm. Jean-Luc, it turns out, is a French mercenary and before you can say “violent posse” all of Joe’s sheep are dead and his house is a smoking ruin. It’s only a matter of time before Tay gets himself politicised, becoming the legendary dynamite slinging revolutionary Dynamite Joe. It can’t last of course – by the end of the film he’s a bullet riddled martyr to the cause of an independent Mexico, his corpse slung over the cannon that he defended to the death. It’s epic stuff and Tio has his idols eye for a character, a sense of place and a bard-storming set piece.