Friday, 25 November 2011



I'm not the world's biggest Chuck Norris fan. I've seen most of his movies from his Golden Age - the 80s and his time with Cannon Films - but I wouldn't really say that any of them were neglected classics in need of rediscovery. Some of them are a touch too flagwaving and jingoistic for my taste - Invasion USA, The Delta Force - while others are entertaining enough but entirely disposable and I've no urge to put any of them on my DVD shelves. Code Of Silence, for example, is a bog-standard cop thriller with a terrific David Michael Frank score and a great villainous turn from Henry Silva, but blows it in the final reels with a silly remote-control robot thing that looks like Robocop via Blake's Seven.

I first saw Lone Wolf McQuade on the bottom half of a double bill with The Terminator at the tiny little Star Centa four-screener in the Swiss Centre just off Leicester Square (recently bulldozed). Rediscovering it twenty-six years later, it now stands as probably Norris' best film: a tough, violent action yarn with Chuck as Jim McQuade, a legendary, no-nonsense Texas Ranger in El Paso up against an arms trafficking ring led by David Carradine, following the inadvertent injury of his daughter (Dana Kimmell, from Friday The 13th Part III) during a massive weapons heist. The only question, since it's carved in stone that the movie's going to end with Norris and Carradine kicking seven bells out of each other at Carradine's desert base, is whose side the widow Parkinson (Barbara Carrera) is on.

Lone Wolf McQuade is infused with, indeed drenched in, the Spaghetti Western spirit, thanks mainly to an overblown Francesco De Masi score that's full of twangy guitars, whistling (by Alessandro Alessandrini), organ, choir and harmonica in the best Morricone tradition, along with the barren desert setting and Norris doing the stolid, impassive hero routine (oddly enough, if you believe the IMDb, the film was originally conceived for Kris Kristofferson). Even the opening credits slide onto the screen in that instantly recognisable Spaghetti Western typeface! There's also the sight of the "Eastwood Hospital" although that's probably real since it's mentioned in the acknowledgements in the end credits (although GoogleMaps suggests there's currently no hospital of that name in El Paso).

It's generally an enjoyable, silly, violent B-movie with equal parts martial arts and gunfire and explosions and, it being former world karate champion Norris squaring off with the great David Carradine (no slouch at the fight sequences), the martial arts stuff is pretty good. In fact much of the action footage is well handled: it's an efficient piece of work that's well shot and mostly well put together (although it is perhaps absurd that McQuade leaves a vital witness in the care of his retired buddy and an inexperienced deputy to go home and suddenly start having sex with Barbara Carrera - shouldn't he really have more important things to be getting on with?). A fun couple of hours and probably Chuck Norris' best film: not a classic but definitely worth a rental.



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