I’ve spent some serious quality time steeped in Beatle lore, so it’s not often that something of which I’ve never heard crosses my radar, and yet, here’s Blindman. It’s a 1971 Ferdinando Baldi spaghetti western that featured Starr second-billed after the redundantly-named genre mainstay Tony Anthony, and it’s really quite good.
Anthony is the titular Blindman, a man-with-no-name figure (everyone just calls him “blind man”) who’s tasked with escorting 50 mail-order brides to a group of miners in Texas. He’s double-crossed when an associate sells the women to a Mexican criminal named Domingo (Lloyd Battista). Starr plays Domingo’s semi-sympathetic brother Candy (absolutely nothing to do with the 1968 film Candy in which Starr also had a role—as a Mexican gardener), who shows very little interest in the family’s slave/brothel business, and who’s undone by his forlorn love for a rancher’s daughter.
Despite his eponymous handicap, the Zatoichi-like Blindman fights and shoots with eyerollingly improbable Book of Eli-ish canniness, but when the plot demands a clumsy blind guy who knocks things off of tables and breaks stuff, he obliges. His penchant for dynamite abuse is amusing, as is his (I’m not even fucking kidding) seeing-eye horse. But though his part is smaller, Starr is quite fine here. This isn’t just celebrity stunt casting, he actually gives the rather limited role of “lovesick bandito” some heft. There’s been much said lately—and justifiably—about the casting of white actors in non-white roles, but since the film is 45 years old, I’ll leave that be, as he plays the part so well. (And now I’ll be earwormed with Ringo’s version of “Act Naturally” for a few hours.)
Besides, casting isn’t even Blindman’s most notable values dissonance between its time and the present. The movie—as is to be expected from a western about mail-order brides and sex traffickers—is rapey as all hell, and all of its Mexican characters are villainous or cartoonishly lecherous. Even Candy, who we’re supposed to kind of like, is forcing himself on the rancher’s daughter Pilar, who’s mighty upfront about her disinclination to having him around, which is the only personality trait with which that character was written, making her the second most rounded female character in the film after Domingo and Candy’s one-dimensionally corrupt sister. Try drinking a shot every time Blindman says “I want my fifty women” and YOU’LL end up blind. But this being a western, just desserts are meted out quite unequivocally to the abusers. Mostly.
Continues after the jump…