On May 24, 1952, the "Commander-in-Chief" of the "United Planets Space Patrol, Buzz Cory", played by Ed Kemmer, was faced with the "Threat of the Thormanoids". When human looking alien's, bent upon galactic domination, infiltrated the "Space Patrol".
Above, on the left, is Keith Larson as "Captain Sackett", of the "Space Patrol", but on the right, in his first on-screen appearance, is Lee Van Cleef, as the "Thormanoid, Loren".
Van Cleef would appear in three more roles on one of the first television Science Fiction programs and the inspiration, according to Gene Roddenberry, of "Star Trek". My article about that live television program and others from my youth, "Boldly Going Before Kirk and Spock: 1950's TV Science Fiction", is ready for blast-off at:
Clarence Leroy "Lee" Van Cleef, Jr., was born on January 9, 1925, in Somerville, New Jersey. This is not a biography of the actor or a complete look at all his motion picture and television work, but an overview of his career.
"Marshall Will Kane", played by Gary Cooper, has just married "Quaker Amy Fowler", played by Grace Kelly, and prepares to leave the small New Mexico town of "Hadleyville" and retire.
Above left to right in the front row, Lon Chaney, Thomas Mitchell, Henry "Harry" Morgan, Eve McVeagh, Otto Kruger, Grace Kelly and Gary Cooper.
The townspeople begin to say their final goodbyes to the happy couple, but the "Train Station Manager", played by Ted Stanhope, interrupts with the news that "Frank Miller", played by Ian MacDonald, was released from prison and is due in on the next train at, "HIGH NOON". He adds that "Miller's Gang" rode into town and are assembled at the train station awaiting his return to get even with "Will Kane".
Above left to right, are Robert Wilke as "Jim Pierce", Lee Van Cleef as "Jack Colby", and Sheb Wooley as "Ben Miller".
Wooley was known to fans of televisions, "Rawhide", for portraying "Pete Nolan", and the singer/composer of the comic "The Purple People Eater". My article, "High Noon', 'The Purple People Eater' and 'Rawhide': A Short But Fond Memory of Sheb Wooley", will be found at:
The screenplay for Lee Van Cleef's first Western, that premiered on May 1, 1952, in London, England, was by Carl Foreman. Foreman a one-time member of the Communist Party would not reveal names, during the "Second Red Scare", to the "House Committee on Un-American Activities". As a result, the United States Motion Picture Industry, "Blacklisted", Foreman and he left the country for England. He would write the screenplay, without initial on-screen credit in the United States, for 1957's, "The Bridge on the River Kwai", and would produce and write the screenplay for, 1961's, "The Guns of Navarone".
The Director of "High Noon" was Fred Zinneman, in 1953, he directed, "From Here to Eternity", and, two years later, the motion picture version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's, "Oklahoma", in "Todd-A-O".
The producer was Stanley Kramer. He made the live action "Dr. Seuss" musical motion picture, 1953's, "The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T", Marlon Brando's, 1953, "The Wild One", 1954's, "The Caine Mutiny", and, 1959's, apocalyptic, "On the Beach".
1952 was actually a good year for the new television and motion picture actor. Lee Van Cleef appeared in three other motion pictures; the Joseph Cotton, Shelley Winters and Scott Brady, "Untamed Frontier", the Rock Hudson and Julie Adams biography of gunfighter, "John Wesley Hardin", entitled, "The Lawless Breed", and the John Payne, Coleen Gray and Preston Foster, crime drama, "Kansas City Confidential". Along with episodes of the television Westerns, "The Lone Ranger", and, "The Range Rider". Plus, two episodes of the crime series, "Boston Blackie", and an episode of the modern day Western, "Sky King".
On June 13, 1953, actually in a movie tinted red to pass as a low-budgeted color feature, Lee Van Cleef had the distinction of killing Stop Motion Animator, Ray Harryhausen's, "The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms".
Opposite Van Cleef, who's character's name of, "Army Corporal Jason Stone", is never mentioned in the motion picture, was the movies star, Paul Christian, actually Swiss actor, Paul Hubschmid. Who was using an American sounding name for his role of, "Professor Tom Nesbitt".
Lee Van Cleef, with those evil looking eyes, was becoming a major Western villain on both the mediums of televisions, for example, two more episodes of "The Lone Ranger", two on "The Gene Autry Show", six on "The Adventures of Kit Carson", and "B" Westerns. Such as, "Jack Slade", "The Nebraskan", "Tumbleweed", and "The Yellow Tomahawk". Van Cleef even appeared, without credit, in the Debra Paget, Jeffrey Hunter and Michael Rennie, 1954, "Princess of the Nile", set in Egypt during 1289.
1956 was the year of the "Mongolian Western", Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, and Director Roger Corman.
Recognize anyone in the above photo? The obvious one is John Wayne portraying "Temujin", the future "Genghis Khan". To Wayne's right is Pedro Armendariz as "Jamuga", and to Wayne's far left, is William Conrad, radio's original, "Marshall Dillon", as "Kasar". While, directly behind Conrad is Lee Van Cleef as "Chepei". All three actors portray the brothers of John Wayne's "Temujin".
This "Mongolian Western" is Producer Howard Hughes', "The Conqueror", that had a London, England, premiere on February 2, 1956. The picture was co-produced and directed by actor Dick Powell, and co-starred, Susan Hayward as "Bortai".
Howard Hughes loved Westerns and had screenplay writer Oscar Millard write this one, but substituting "The Mongols" for the United States Cavalry, and, "The Tartars" for the fierce "Plains Indian Tribes".
I mentioned the "Red Scare" and "Black Listing", but for all of America's fears of the Soviet Union dropping Atom Bombs on American cities. Our scientists still did not understand, as the Japanese did after August 1945, the lingering effects of radiation.
A portion of "The Conqueror" was shot near St. George, Utah, which was located 137miles downwind of the Atomic Bomb Test Site in Nevada. During the World War 2 tests, the winds carried radiation from those atom bombs over St. George and its population of unknowing Americans. Additional, above ground tests took place in 1953, with the same wind results.
Of the cast and crew of 220:
91 developed some form of cancer during their lifetime. Statistically that equates to 41.36% of those who worked upon "The Conqueror". By 1980, 46 of the crew had died from cancer and Dr. Robert Pendelton, of the "University of Utah", was quoted in a November 10, 1980, issue of "People Magazine", as saying:
With these numbers, this case could qualify as an epidemic. The connection between fallout radiation and cancer in individual cases has been practically impossible to prove conclusively. But in a group this size you'd expect only 30-some cancers to develop. With 91 cancer cases, I think the tie-in to their exposure on the set of The Conqueror would hold up in a court of law.
Three of the 46 deaths Dr. Pendelton referenced were, director Dick Powell, actors John Wayne, Susan Hayward, and Agnes Moorehead, and would have been Pedro Armendariz, but he committed suicide instead of lingering with the disease.
There were an even larger percentage of deaths over time to cancer among the adults and their children of St. George, Utah. Also, the Native American Paiute extras, were never included in any of the figures.
Moving from a Mongolian Cowboy to a modern Western heavy, Lee Van Cleef was "Gus", in "Pardners", the final pairing of the team of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, before their very messy break-up and attacks on each other. The motion picture was released on June 25, 1956, in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Above, Lon Chaney, with a very steely-eyed Lee Van Cleef. Below, Jerry Lewis puts his finger on the pistol of the picture's maun bad-guy, Jeff Morrow. As Lon Chaney, Jack Elam and "B" Cowboy Bob Steele look on.
My article, "Jeff Morrow An Icon of 1950's Science Fiction", may be read at:
Lee Van Cleef now found himself with "Third Billing" in Director Roger Corman's, "It Conquered the World", released on July 15, 1956.
Above, the United Kingdom poster for the Science Fiction feature.
Peter Graves portrayed "Dr. Paul Nelson". Graves was 11-years away from becoming "Jim Phelps" on televisions "Mission Impossible". In 1952, he starred in the "Red Scare Science Fiction", "Red Planet Mars", the following year he was the Nazi Spy in the American POW Concentration Camp of Director Otto Preminger's "Stalag 17", starring William Holden. In 1954, he fought the fried-egg-eyed, "Killer from Space", keeping a straight face throughout the laughable science fiction. While, in 1955, Peter Graves was in another Preminger directed motion picture, "The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell", starring Gary Cooper.
Beverly Garland portrayed "Claire Anderson". Garland would become the first actress to have the leading role on a television series, portraying an undercover police officer, on 1957's, "Decoy". At the time of this motion picture, she was in her Roger Corman period, and was seen, or would be seen, in Corman's, 1956's, "Swamp Woman", 1956's, "Gunslinger", and 1958's original, "Not of This Earth".
Garland, Honor Blackman, Anne Francis and Barbara Stanwyck, are part of my article, "Four Actresses Challenging TV's Stereotyped Women's Roles", at:
Lee Van Cleef portrayed "Dr. Tom Anderson", Van Cleef had just been seen on the television anthology series, "Chevron Hall of Stars", in what was described as a "Comedy Drama Western", "Three Strikes and Out", first shown on July 6th. He would follow this Science Fiction with the Film-Noir, 1956's, "Accused of Murder".
Sally Fraser portrayed "Joan Nelson". Television actress Fraser, she had also been in an episode of "Space Patrol", is known for the Science Fiction movies she made in the 1950's. Besides this Roger Corman Science Fiction entry, there were three others, 1958's, "Giant from the Unknown", starring "Space Patrol's", Ed Kemmer, producer Bert I. Gordon's sequel to his 1957, "The Amazing Colossal Man", 1958's, "War of the Colossal Beast", and, 1958's, Bert I. Gordon's, "The Earth vs the Spider", also starring Ed Kemmer,
My article, "Growing Up on a Diet of 'Mr. B.I.G." BERT I. GORDON: Giants, Little People and Grasshoppers", can be read at:
Above, Sally Fraser, now under the alien's control, is about to send one of its flying mind control devices at Peter Graves.
"Dr. Tom Anderson" has made radio communication with an alien from the planet Venus. The alien convinces the embittered scientist to help him find a safe landing place and take over the minds of the people he needs to conqueror the earth. Even though the entire motion picture takes place in and around a small rural town.
Before, "Tom Anderson" comes to his senses, his best friend, "Paul Nelson's" wife, will be killed by "Paul". The local Sheriff, the members of "Anderson" and "Nelson's" space research lab will be under the invaders control. His own wife, "Claire", will confront the alien in a hot springs cave, it needs to live in, and also be killed.
The climax has a seemingly lost and comic Army patrol discovering the cave and fighting the alien. Finally, completely returned to his senses, "Dr. Tom Anderson", uses a blow torch and kills the invader, but is killed.
Five forgotten appearances, on five forgotten television programs, and Lee Van Cleef just missed having his name on the posters, with fifth billing, as cattle rustler, "Doug Sadler", in the equally forgotten "B" Western, "The Quiet Gun", starring Forrest Tucker, Mara Corday, Jim Davis, and Kathleen Crowley.
Above Forest Tucker and Lee Van Cleef, and, below, Lee Van Cleef and his partner in crime, saloon owner, "John Reilly", played by Tom Brown.
Skip another forgotten "B" Western and two television appearances and Lee Van Cleef was fifth billed, "Major Cham", in producer, director and writer, Sam Fuller's big budgeted, "China Gate", released on May 22, 1957, starring Gene Barry, Angie Dickinson and Nat "King" Cole.
A veteran of World War 2's, "The Big Red One", rogue director and writer, Sam Fuller, shocked the Pentagon with the first realistic war motion picture, 1951's, "The Steel Helmet", starring another second world war vet, Gene Evans. Fuller had implied that "Jesse James" and "Robert Ford" had a homosexual relationship in 1949's, "I Shot Jesse James", starring John Ireland, and was box office gold to independent movie companies. My article, "Samuel 'Sam' Fuller: The Ever Present Cigar and Six Movies: 'I Shot Jesses James', 1949, 'The Baron of Arizona', 1950, 'The Steel Helmet', 1951, 'Pick Up on South Street', 1951, 'Shock Corridor', 1963, and 'The Big Red One', 1980", will be found at:
Gene Barry portrayed "Sergeant Brock". Barry, the star of producer George Pal's, 1953, "War of the World", co-starring Ann Robinson, was appearing on television in guest spots and was three films away from the Science Fiction picture, 1957's, "The 27th Day". He would follow that film with 1958's, "Thunder Road", as the "Treasury Agent" after moonshiner Robert Mitchum. Along with the start of a four-year run as televisions. "Bat Masterson". In 1963, Gene Barry, started another four-year run on televisions, "Burke's Law".
Angie Dickinson portrayed "Lucky Legs". Dickinson, the only female member of Frank Sinatra's, "Rat Pack", had been kicking around on television since 1954. She would continue on television until she appeared in the John Wayne, Dean Martin, and Ricky Nelson, 1959, "Rio Bravo", and was "Discovered", and except for a few films, returned to television.
Nat "King" Cole portrayed "Goldie", Singer, Jazz pianist, and actor, Cole is at the keyboard in the "El Rancho" sequence of his first motion picture, Orson Welles, 1941, "Citizen Kane", but don't blink or you'll miss him. By this picture, Nat "King' Cole, had appeared an additional 15 times on-screen On November 5, 1956, "The Nat 'King' Cole Show", premiered on NBC, but due to lack of sponsorship, ended on December 17, 1957. A he was quoted as saying at the time:
Madison Avenue was scared of the DARK!
Lee Van Cleef, as I said, portrayed "Major Cham".
Sam Fuller was never afraid to tackle taboo subjects and his story is set in 1954, at the end of the "First Indochina War". Ex-Korean War Soldiers, "Sergeant Brock", and, "Goldie", have joined the French Foreign legion, and are on a mission to locate a group of smugglers. The smugglers are led by "Brock's" "half-caste", Chinese-European, abandoned wife, "Lucky Legs". He left her, when their son was born with Chinese features, and he knew he couldn't take either back to the United States.
The mission is to use her romantic connection with Chinese Communist Leader, "Major Cham". As a means of getting the French commandoes to a Viet Minh ammunition dump and destroy it. As a bribe, the French will arrange for the five-years-old son of "Lucky Legs" to emigrate to America. In typical Fuller fashion, "Lucky Legs" is killed on the mission and "Brock" is faced with ending his racist views toward his son.
Lee Van Cleef, center below, lasted until Kirk Douglas makes his initial entry as "Doc Holiday", in director John Sturges', 1957, "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral". The feature film starred Douglas, Burt Lancaster and Rhonda Fleming.
Above, Van Cleef's "Ed Bailey" is reflected in the mirror.
My article, the includes the story of the real approximately 30 second gunfight:
"The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral' as Reinvented by Hollywood", can be read at:
Lee Van Cleef finished 1957 with six "B" Western motion pictures and three television Westerns. One of the three TV Westerns was the, 30-minute, minus commercials, "Thousand Dollar Gun", on the "General Electric Theatre", hosted by Ronald Reagan. The cast, besides Lee Van Cleef, included Western "B" actors, John Agar, Morris Ankrum, Chuck Connors, and George Montgomery.
On April 2, 1958, Lee Van Cleef had another rare break from Westerns and appeared with ninth billing in the motion picture version of author Irwin Shaw's World War 2 novel, "The Young Lions". The motion picture's main stars were, Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift and what seemed a strangely casting, Dean Martin. This would be the motion picture that restarted Dean's career as a dramatic actor.
After the top billed stars in the order mentioned above, were, fourth billed, Hope Lang, fifth billed, Barbara Rush, six billed, Swedish actress May Britt, two years away from marrying Sammy Devis, Jr., seventh billed, German actor, Maximillian Schnell, eighth billed German actress, Dora Doll, and finally ninth billed, Lee Van Cleef , portraying "U.S. Army 1st Sergeant Rickett".
Above, Lee Van Cleef speaks to Montgomery Clift, as "Jewish Army Private Noah Ackereman". Who faces religious racism from both the Germans and American soldiers. While, Dean Martin's, "Army Private Michael Whiteacre", prepares for trouble between both men. Below, Maximilian Schell, as "German Army Captain Hardenberg", instructs Marlon Brando, as "German Army Lieutenant Christian Diestl", on the orders that will lead the doubting, about the war, German officer to his death.
"The Bravados", released on June 25, 1958, has Rancher "Jim Douglas", played by Gregory Peck, ride into the town of Rio Arriba to view four outlaws in jail, "Alfonso Parral", played by Lee Van Cleef, "Bill Zachary", played by Stephen Boyd, "Ed Taylor", played by Albert Salmi, and, "Lujan", played by Henry Silva. It is the belief of "Douglas" that these four men raped and murdered his wife.
"Douglas" meets "Josefa Verlande", played by Joan Collins, a woman he fell in love with five years before. She is looking over her late father's ranch and he reveals his marriage and that he has a daughter.
Next, the four men escape prior to their execution and a posse follows, but it is the alone tracking, "Jim Douglas", they fear the most. "Alfonsal Parral" is chosen to ambush "Douglas", but instead he is ambushed by the rancher. "Parral" begs for his life and claims, when shown a picture of "Jim Douglas'" wife, that he has never seen her before. "Douglas" now executes him and goes after the others.
One by one, "Jim Douglas" catches and executes the other three men. After his "Revenge" is over, he returns to Rio Arriba and "Josefa Verlande". "Douglas" goes to the local priest to confess. He has realized, his actions make him no better than the men he executed for his wife's rape and murder. The story ends with "Jim Douglas" being told that the four men where not the ones that murdered his wife and the real murders had been captured several days before his arrival at Rio Arriba.
On October 9,1958, Lee Van Cleef portrayed "Antonio Castillo", in the episode, "Welcome to Monterey", on the Walt Disney television program, "Zorro", starring Guy Williams.
In, January 1959, Lee Van Cleef as "Mike Bennett", co-starred with British Marilyn Monroe clone, Mamie Van Doren, as "Vi Victor". Along with the actor who, throughout his career, was mistaken for Humphrey Bogart, Gerald Mohr, as "Chuck Wheeler", in the crime drama, "Guns Girls and Gangsters".
My article about Gerald Mohr, who starred in the Cult Classic "Red Scare" movie, 1952's, "Invasion U.S.A.", and, the 1959 Cult Science Fiction movie, "The Angry Red Planet":
"GERALD MOHR: Radio, "B" Movie and Television Actor", is available at:
Below, Lee Van Cleef's, "Frank Diamond", watched by character actor, Claude Akins, as "Jake 'Dodo' Ryan".
Then, it was back to appearances on six more television Western series, and two television detective series.
On, October 27, 1961, Lee Van Cleef portrayed "Steinhart", in a Western Horror tale, on Rod Sterling's "The Twilight Zone", entitled, "The Grave".
Normally, the old man would be correct. This would be the end of the story. We've had the traditional shoot-out on the street and the badman will soon be dead. But some men of legend and folk tale have been known to continue having their way even after death. The outlaw and killer Pinto Sykes was such a person, and shortly we'll see how he introduces the town and a man named Conny Miller, in particular, to the Twilight Zone.
Above, Lee Marvin as "Conny Miller", and Lee Van Cleef as "Steinhart".
The townspeople tell "Miller", that on his deathbed, "Sykes" vowed, if "Conny Miller" came close to his grave. He would reach up from it and grab the hired gun.
Above, Strother Martin as "Mothershed", James Best as "Johnny Rob", and Lee Van Cleef, after admitting to "Miller" that they are frightened to go to the gravesite. "Conny" claims not to be afraid of "Sykes" threat from beyond the grave and the three talk him into taking a knife and planting it on the grave as proof he was there.
"Miller" is confronted by "Sykes" sister, "Ione", played by Elen Willard, and then leaves for the graveyard. He plants the knife in the grave, but as he gets up and starts to leave, he is pulled back down.
The following morning, "Conny Miller" has not returned, and "Ione" and "Steinhart" go out to the graveyard. They find "Miller" lying dead upon "Sykes" grave with the knife through his coattail pinning him to the ground.
The story ends with "Ione" informing "Steinhart" that the wind was blowing from the other direction and could not have blown "Miller's" coat over him.
On, April 22, 1962, Lee Van Cleef was back with Lee Marvin in Director John Ford's classic, "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance", starring James Stewart and John Wayne.
This was John Ford's destruction of the myth of the "Old West". As he and others had created since the silent era in "Hollywood Westerns".
James Stewart's "United States Senator Ransom Stoddard" and his wife, "Hallie", played by Vera Miles, have returned to the small town of Shinbone for the funeral of "Tom Doniphon", played by John Wayne. "Stoddard" became famous after killing "Liberty Valance", played by Lee Marvin, in a shootout on the streets of Shinbone, that propelled "Ransom" to United States Senate. While his friend, "Doniphon" died a poor man with a broken heart, because he also loved "Hallie".
Through a flashback, as "Senator Stoddard" speaks to the newspaper editor and a reporter, the audience learns the real facts behind the legend of "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance". That the eastern tenderfoot lawyer, "Ransom Stoddard", who was bullwhipped by "Liberty Valance", when the outlaw and his gang stopped the stagecoach on its way to Shinbone. Was not the man who killed "Valance", but was given the credit by the visual circumstances of the gunfight. In truth, it was the unseen, "Tom Doniphon", who saved "Ransom's" life, and actually shot and killed the outlaw.
Lee Van Cleef portrayed one of "Valance's" henchmen, "Reese".
Above left to right, Lee Van Cleef as "Reese", Lee Marvin as "Valance", and Strother Martin as "Floyd".
This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.
Twenty more television appearances, mainly in Westerns of course, but a couple of comedy shows, a "Perry Mason", and a "77 Sunset Strip". Then, Lee Van Cleef accepted a role in a Spaghetti Western and the course of his career changed.
Italian producer, director, and screenplay writer, Sergio Leone, made a trilogy of Westerns starring, at the time, television's "Rawhide", co-star Clint Eastwood. The role was originally offered to "Rawhide's", Eric Fleming, "Gil Favor", but he turned it down and suggested his co-star.
Let's get one thing straight, before I continue with Lee Van Cleef.
Clint Eastwood's character had a name in each of the three motion pictures. The misnomer, "The Man With No Name", was a publicity gimmick for the distributor of the English language dubs, "United Artists".
In the first film, in both the original Italian language, and English language versions, Eastwood was "Joe". In the second film, he was the Bounty Hunter, "Manco", and the third, "Blondie".
On, December 30, 1965, "Per qualche dollaro in piu (For a Few Dollars More)". opened in Italy.
Gian Maria Volonte portrayed "El Indio (The Indian)". In 1964, Volonte portrayed "Ramon Rojo" in "Per un pugno di dollari (For a Fistful of Dollars)". Just before this picture was released, Gian Maria Volonte was in the Italian made-for-television, 1965, movie "La strada piu lunga (The Longest Road)"
Klaus Kinski portrayed "Juan Wild---The Hunchback". The great Polish character actor had already appeared in several German detective features and Westerns. In 1970. Kinski portrayed "Renfield", in the Spanish production, "Count Dracula", starring Christopher Lee. In 1972, he starred in Werner Herzog's, "Aquirre, the Wrath of God", in 1979, he had the title role in Herzog's vampire remake, "Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht", and in 1982, it was Werner Herzog's, "Fitzcarrdo". My article, "KLAUS KINSKI: Krimi's, Cowboys, Vampires and Mad Men in German Cinema", may be read at:
The first question with any Spaghetti Western is who's the hero, because there are no real Hollywood style cowboys like, William S. Hart, Tom Mix, Lash Larue, Colonel Tim McCoy, John Wayne, or Randolph Scott. The hero is usually the less bad, bad guy.
Although his costume looks the same as in "Fistful of Dollars", but by his name, Clint Eastwood's Bounty Hunter, is a different person from the drifter of the previous motion picture.
The one point made, the also separates the two characters, is that "Manco" is young and learning his new occupation. As compared to Lee Van Cleef's, ex-Confederate soldier, probable plantation owner through his family prior to the Civil War, and somewhat father figure for "Manco".
Although not directly mentioned in either of the first two screenplays. They both take place after the American Civil War and along the United States-Mexico border.
This screenplay, first establishes both the Bounty Hunters credentials and has their paths start to converge upon capturing, or killing, "Indio" and his band. The two start out as competitors and then become a partnership to divide the reward money.
"Indio" seems to go into trances when he listens to the music from a pocket watch with a young woman's picture in it.
The two Bounty Hunters infiltrate "Indio's" band with "Manco" getting a close friend of the outlaw out of prison, by literally blowing up the prison walls. After a confrontation with the Hunchback in a saloon, "Colonel Mortimer" turns out to be a safe cracker and is needed to open the now stolen "Bank of El Paso's" safe.
Eventually, "Douglas Mortimer's" secret is revealed to "Manco", that the picture in "Indio's" watch is of his sister. Who was raped and murdered by the outlaw and the Colonel carries a duplicate pocket watch.
This all leads to a gun fight with the members of "Indio's" band and finally a confrontational gun duel, set-up by "Manco" to be sure its fair, between "Colonel Douglas Mortimer" and "Indio", with great background music by composer Ennio Morricone.
Lee Van Cleef had become somewhat of a Western Star in Italy and he next found himself starring in:
"La resa dei conti" (Depending upon the translation, the title is either "The Showdown", or "The Settling of Scores") released on November 29, 1966 is Buenos Aires, Argentina. The motion picture would come to the United States on, August 2,1 1968, as "The Big Gundown".
"il buono, il brutto, il cattivo (The Good, The Ugly, The Bad)" released on December 23, 1966
Keeping the images in place caused some confusion as to which character Lee Van Cleef portrayed from the title, "The Bad", or, "The Ugly"?
Although this is the third movie in Sergio Leon's trilogy, if you believe that Clint Eastwood's character, "Blondie", is the same from the two proceeding motion pictures, "Joe", and, "Manco". Then, this has to be the prequel, because it takes place during the American Civil War and the others, as I already mentioned, take place after.
Eli Wallach portrayed "Tuco Benedicto Pacifico Juan Maria Ramirez". Wallach had just co-starred with Audrey Hepburn and Peter O'Toole in director William Wyler's crime comedy, 1966, "How to Steal A Million". He followed this motion picture by portraying, "Mr. Freeze", on televisions, "Batman". Brooklyn born. Eli Herschel Wallach had previously played a classic Mexican bandit and was the reason Sergio Leone wanted him in the role of "Tuco". That motion picture was John Sturges' classic, 1960, "The Magnificent Seven".
Bounty Hunter "Blondie" brings "Tuco" to a Sheriff's office and collects the reward. As "Tuco" is about to be hung, from a distance and out of sight by the townspeople, "Blondie" shoots the rope, freeing the bandit. It turns out this is a ploy the two are using to keep getting the higher reward money for "Tuco".
"Tuco" makes it to a small town, puts together a proper pistol, leaves without paying, to get some others to find and kill "Blondie".
"Tuco" runs for water, but returns to find "Carson" dead. However, "Blondie" has the knowledge of where the gold is actually buried at "Sand Hill". "Tuco" gives him water, the two change clothes with the dead Confederates and head for a local mission.
"Blondie" and "Tuco" immediately spot "Sentenza" as a Union Sergeant, he had infiltrated the prison camp in his search for "Bill Carson". Of course, "Sentenza" spots the two and has "Tuco" brought to him for questioning and discovers "Carson's" watch in his possession. This will lead to the severe torture of "Tuco", but only revealing that other than the name of the cemetery, knows nothing more.
Knowing that "Blondie" will not break, "Angel Eyes", has civilian clothing waiting for him. The two leave together and one of "Angel Eyes" henchman takes "Tuco" to the train tracks to have an accident, but "Tuco" kills the henchman. Next, he gets some others and they head for a now deserted town being shelled by the Union Army. It's the same town that "Angel Eyes" has taken "Blondie".
"The Good" and "The Ugly" reluctantly join forces and kill "Angel Eyes" men, but "The Bad" escapes.
While in hiding, "Blondie" discovers some clothing that just happened to be there, and Clint Eastwood now looks like he does in the other two motion pictures of the trilogy.
"The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly", is the only feature in Sergio Leone's Western trilogy with a specific date, the previously mentioned 1862, IF you believe Eastwood's character is the same person with three different names. Then, the first motion picture, "A Fistful of Dollars", at a minimal, had to take place after May 9, 1865. three years later, when Robert E. Lee surrendered and the American Civil War ended. Because of Lee Van Cleef's character's background, "For a Few Dollars More", would take place even later.
At a safe distance, "Blondie" turns, and with his rife shoots the noose freeing "Tuco".
Most Americans believe that during the 1960's and 1970's, the only European made Westerns came from Italy. Actually, Germany made more starring primarily either Stewart Granger, or Lex Barker. Then there was the Soviet Union and Japan, my article, "American Westerns European Style", is ready for my readers to hit the trail at:
Next Lee Van Cleef appeared in my favorite Spaghetti Western:
"Da uomo a uomo (From Man to Man)" released on August 31, 1967 in Italy.
Lee Van Cleef portrayed "Ryan".
John Philip Law portrayed "Bill Meceita". In 1966, he was in the All-Star comedy, "The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming", Law had third billing in the Michael Caine and Jane Fonda, 1967, "Hurry Sundown", and would be the blind angel, "Pygar", in 1968's, "Barbarella", starring Jane Fonda, the "Red Baron" in Roger Corman's, 1971, "Von Richthofen and Brown", not to forget "Sinbad", in Stop Motion Animator Ray Harryhausen's, 1973, "The Golden Voyage of Sinbad". My article, "JOHN PHILIP LAW: The Films", will be found at:
The story has a boy, "Bill", watch his father murdered and both his mother and sister raped and murdered. The house is set on fire, but one of the four outlaws, wearing a skull necklace, saves and hides "Bill" from the others. This man seems to have been against what was happening, but couldn't stop it and his face isn't clearly seen by the boy.
"Ryan" was framed for armed robbery by the same men who murdered "Bill's" family and he is out for revenge. The two hunter's paths will cross-------
"Bill" reaches a Mexican town and recognizes the killer with "Big Earrings" and guns him down. However, he is captured and buried up to his neck and left to die in the hot sun.
In a town, during a fierce sandstorm, the rest of the outlaws are killed and the last, from the ranch, by "Ryan's" thrown knife, but "Bill" still wants revenge on him.
The two face each other, but "Ryan's" guns are empty and "Bill" tosses him one-bullet. "Ryan", however, turns his back on "Bill" and starts to walk away. "Bill" fires, not at "Ryan", but the actual last surviving outlaw and saves the other. "Ryan" gets on his horse, thanks "Bill", and rides away.
Next, Lee Van Cleef was in an Italian and West German Western.
"l giorni dell'ira (The Days of Wrath)" released on December 19, 1967.
Lee Van Cleef portrayed "Frank Talby".
Lee Van Cleef portrayed "American Army Master-Sergeant Sullivan".
"Ehi...c'e Sabata. Hai chiuso! (Hey friend...that's Sabata. You're finished!)"
William Berger portrayed "Banjo". Austrian actor Berger was appearing in West German dramas, comedies, and Westerns.
Aldo Canti using the American sounding name of Nick Jordan portrayed "Indio". Stunt Man Canti appeared in several "Peplum (Sword and Sandal)" features, Italian Science Fiction, and Spaghetti Westerns, as both stunt man and actor.
Lee Van Cleef plays "Sabata" as a parody of both "Colonel Mortimer" and "Angel Eyes" and was enjoying it. "Sabata" is the ultimate Western gunfighter, as he never misses, no matter the distance, and his only weapons are a derringer, a modified rifle with a long barrel, and his brains.
In this story, "Sabata" and his three companions take on the town bosses who want to steal $100,000 from their own bank. So, they can purchase land for the on-coming railroad that no one else knows about. There is a comic element to this story and a little larceny among the heroes (?) to lighten the storyline compared to many of the Italian Westerns of the period.
Lee Van Cleef portrayed "Travis".
"Travis" is the "Barquero", he has a barge that people use to cross the river from the United States into Mexico. The very unstable outlaw, "Remy", and his gang have murdered to get a large shipment of silver and weapons. They make one mistake, they need "Travis" to get them across the river, and he's already heard they're heading his way and awaits them.
Lee Van Cleef portrayed "Jaroo". Van Cleef would follow this picture with a United Kingdom, Spain, co-production, 1971's, "Captain Apache", an "Acid Western", look it up!
The unlikely team of an escaped convict, "Luke", and a not very bright prospector named "Jaroo", join forces with a group of Apaches led by, "Santana", played by Iron Eyes Cody, to take down the fortress. However, "Luke" spots, "Claudine", "Chavez's" mistress, and wants to take her down too.
Van Cleef was "Roy King".
James Mason was "Francisco Paco Montero". British actor Mason's career started in 1935, and up to this motion picture, he had starred in several major motion picture roles. Among these are, 1945's, "The Seventh Veil", co-starring with Ann Todd and Herbert Lom. In 1951, there was both, the fantasy love story, "Pandora and the Flying Dutchman", co-starring Ava Gardner, and, "The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel", with Mason in the title role.1954 saw James Mason as "Captain Nemo", in Walt Disney's, "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea". That same year, he co-starred with Judy Garland, in the second version of "A Star is Born". In 1959, James Mason was the main villain in Alfred Hitchcock's, "North by Northwest", starring Cary Grant, and in 1962, he portrayed "Professor Humbert Humbert", in Stanley Kubrick's, "Lolita", co-starring Shelley Winters.
Gina Lollobrigida portrayed "Alicia". Among the Italian actress's motion pictures known to Americans, are, 1953's, comedy adventure, directed by John Huston from a screenplay by Truman Capote, "Beat the Devil". Where the Italian actress co-starred with Humphrey Bogart, Jennifer Jones, Robert Morley and Peter Lorre. Two years late,r in 1955, was, "Trapeze", co-starring with Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis. Then, there was the seventh version of Victor Hugo's classic, "The Hunchback of Notre-Dame", in 1956, opposite Anthony Quinn in the title role.
There were many versions of Victor Hugo's novel on-screen going to back to 1905. My article, "Victor Hugo's Immortal Love Story: THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE-DAME on the Motion Picture Screen", can be read at:
Above front row, left to right, James Mason, Gina Lollobrigida, and Lee Van Cleef.
"Roy King" and his gang rob an American bank and cross the Rio Grande into Mexico. There he meets the beautiful, "Alicia", and marries her, but she steals all the money from the bank robbery and leaves him.
Stefanie Powers portrayed "Laurie Gunn". Powers had portrayed John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara's daughter, "Rebecca", in 1963's, "McLintock", "April Dancer", "The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.", 1966 through 1967, and, "Jennifer Hart", opposite Robert Wagner on "Hart to Hart", 1979 through 1984. At the time of this movies production, Powers was guest-starring on other television shows.
There are two converging storylines:
"Chris" rescues his old friend, former bounty hunter "Jim MacKay" , from some Mexican bandits. "MacKay" asks him for assistance in defending the border town of Magdalena from the bandit, "Juan Del Toro", played by Ron Stein, but "Chris" declines.
"Chris" returns home to his wife "Arrila", who wants the Marshall to release teenager, "Shelly Donovan", played by Darrell Larson, arrested for robbery. He refuses, and meets newspaper writer, "Noah Forbes".
A while later, as "Chris" and "Noah" are still out on street, "Arrila" comes out to thank her husband, but out of the bank comes "Shelly" leading the "Allen brothers", after robbing it. In the small shootout that follows, "Chris" is wounded and falls to the ground unconscious and "Shelly" grabs and kidnaps "Arrila".
Two days later, "Chris Adams" finally comes too and starts out after his wife. He permits "Noah" to accompany him, if he can keep up. The two find "Arrila" dead in the desert. "Chris" now tracks the "Allen brothers" down and demands to know the whereabouts of "Shelly Donovan". Believing the Marshall will take them back to town and jail, "Hank Allen" reveals that "Shelly' fled to Mexico and that he raped "Arrila". Without a moment's hesitation, "Chris" shoots "Hank" dead and "Bob" starts pleading for his life, but "Chris" also shoots and kills him. The shocked "Noah" doesn't know what to say, but as he watches, "Chris" gets on his horse and starts to ride away, and he follows.
Riding toward the Mexican border, "Chris" and "Noah", come upon "Jim" with some armed farmers from Magdalena, and is asked to join them in an ambush of "Del Toro". "Chris" tells "Jim" they'll be slaughtered and rides away with "Noah" following. "Chris" is now tracking "Shelly Donovan" and discovers that he and "Noah" are circling back to "Jim MacKay" and the farmers, gun shots are heard, then silence, and the two men find some of the farmers dead and "Jim" missing. "Chris" assumes "Jim" is heading back to Magdalena and the unprotected women.
"Chris" and "Noah" ride into Magdalena and meet "Laurie Gunn", the leader of the women, but no "Jim MacKay". She tells them that the day before "Del Toro" and forty-men rode into town, raped all the women, and left them. She asks the two to guide them back across the border to safety, but "Chris" observes that they have no horses and a desert trek would kill them all.
"Chris" goes to the prison to acquire five particular men he sent there. Those five, plus "Noah" and himself, become the new "Magnificent Seven".
"The Seven" return to Magdalena and the unprotected women waiting the return of "Del Toro" and his men. "Chris" starts by laying out some ground rules. The women will feed the men, help load rifles, it is up to each to choose a man to take care of, and anything beyond that, is between the two.
While, "Chris" and "Laurie" come together, even closer than either thought would happen under the circumstances of his wife's murder, and her husband's death.
Four more Spaghetti Westerns and an Italian crime comedy brought Lee Van Cleef to 1977 and a Western made in Israel. A co-production of that country and Italy, but shot in Israel.
"Kid Vengeance" aka: "Vengeance" was released originally on February 25, 1977, in Milan, Italy.
My article, 'BLAXPLOITATION (BLACKSPLOITATION) Motion Pictures From A White Guy's Perspective", can be read at:
This motion picture borrows part of its plot from "Death Rides A Horse", except that Lee Van Cleef is actually the sadistic leader of a gang of outlaws from Mexico named "McCain".
The basic story has "McCain's" outlaws attacking a ranch house and raping and killing "Tom's" mother before his eyes. His father is also killed and his sister kidnapped.
A forgotten United States made-for-television movie followed, and back to Italy for two Italian gangster features, and the United Kingdom for a made-for-television movie starring Patrick McGoohan.
Lee Van Cleef had third billing in martial artist Chuck Norris' feature film, "The Octagon", released on August 22, 1980. Van Cleef portrays "McCarn", a friend of Chuck Norris', "Scott James". While, second billed actress Karen Carlson portrayed "Justine".
John Carpenter directed and co-wrote the screenplay with Nick Castle. At this time, Carpenter's 1980, "The Fog", had proceeded this motion picture and he would follow it with his version of writer John W. Campbell, Jr.'s, "Who Goes There", aka: 1982's, "The Thing".
For those fans of Carpenter's work, like I am, here's a look at the source novella and the three other versions of "The Thing":
"WHO GOES THERE?" 1938: 'THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD' 1951, 'THE THING' 1982, 'THE THING' 2011, 'HORROR EXPRESS' 1972" at:
Kurt Russell portrayed "Snake Plissken". The Walt Disney star of 1969's, "The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes", and, 1971's, "The Barefoot Executive", had moved up in the world to all 6 episodes of the cancelled television series, 1974's, "The New Land", and the 15 episodes of the cancelled, 1974, television series, "The Quest". Then in 1979, director John Carpenter cast Kurt Russell, in the title role of his television biography, "Elvis".
Meanwhile, former highly decorated former Special Forces soldier, "Snake Plissken", has been arrested for attempting to rob the "Federal Reserve". "Plissken" is taken to "Bob Hauk", who offers him a way out of his predicament with a full-Presidential-Pardon.
All "Snake" needs to do, is to be dropped into the prison of Manhattan, simply locate and rescue the President and return safely to "Hauk". "Plissken" accepts the forced upon him mission, but wasn't aware of one small requirement to be sure he does his mission and not just escapes from custody.
"Police Commission Bob Hauk" has a micro-explosive placed in "Snake Plissken's" neck that will explode and sever his carotid arteries within 22 hours, if he is successful, the explosives will be neutralized.
Two months later, on October 5, 1984, was the West German and Italian, "Geheimcode: Wildganse (Code Name: Wild Geese)". No, it is not a sequel to the 1978 "The Wild Geese", starring Richard Burton, Roger Moore, Richard Harris and Hardy Kruger, the many believe it is.
On May 31, 1990, his last motion picture, the straight to video, "Thieves of Fortune" was released.
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