Spaghetti Western Throws in Meatballs

DATELINE: Another Ashcanister of Film

When we heard that in 1971 Lee Van Cleef, Gina Lollobrigida, and James Mason, teamed up for a spaghetti Western, we could not resist.

We thought we had seen all of Mason’s singular performances, even those he preferred to relegate to the “ashcan,” as he called it.

Apparently when the script for Bad Man’s River came to him, he was in particular need of cash. Producers feared he would not show up—but he flew in to Madrid a day before shooting.

Mason surely had better offers, but maybe he owed someone a favor. We could not explain it any other way. We know that Lollobrigida received $50,000 for her effort—and felt she was ill-paid for her efforts.

Mason later told press members that just because a movie is made in the middle of nowhere in Spain doesn’t mean someone in England won’t see it, especially if the Rank Organisation decided to embarrass the star.

The film is light and played broadly with an annoying balladeer who finally disappears. After an hour or so, James Mason shows up as one of the many husbands of Gina. The running gag in the movie is that she is frequently a widow, often cheating her spouse unto death.

The story revolves around the fact that all three principals are not to be trusted: well, we would never have guessed that.

Van Cleef seems to have been the subject of more plastic work than Gina. Mason may look youthful for the last time in his career. Perhaps this movie took it out of them.

The producers were at ends when Lollobrigida and Van Cleef clashed on set. To his credit, Mason was the epitome of professionalism. He just wanted to finish this ashcan candidate and get the hell out of there.