The Bang Bang Kid

Director: Giorgio Gentili, Luciano Lelli               
Tom Bosley, Guy Madison, Riccardo Garrone

I think that most, if not all of us, have at one point or another dreamed of being involved in the world of filmmaking. There is the dream of making your own films, of course. But I think all of us have also dreamed at some point of being involved in films that have already been made. Specifically, we have dreamed of what we would have done differently had we been involved in the filmmaking process. For some time now, I have dreamed what I would have done if I had edited Star Wars. This is what I would have done at the climactic sequence: When Luke Skywalker is ready to fire at the target at the end of the trench, I would cut to the earlier footage when the target was fired on before, but it was a miss. Then I would cut to the even earlier footage when the Death Star's main weapon was activated, and fired on Princess Leia's home planet, destroying it. (Of course, it would seem at this point that the rebel base planet that the X-Wing fighters took off from had been destroyed.) Next, I would cut to the brief footage from earlier in the climactic battle that showed Luke's sad reaction when one of his fellow fighters had been killed in battle. Right after that, I would cut to earlier footage of Darth Vader's spacefighter swooping into the frame (obviously, he had just recovered from Han Solo's attack), then cockpit footage of Vader locking in his laser sights on an X-Wing fighter from earlier in the movie. I would then end the sequence with earlier footage of Darth Vader firing on, and blowing up an X-Wing fighter - though with the way the footage is put together, it would seem this time that Luke Skywalker was being killed. Cut to the closing credits.

Another movie that I wish I could have edited is the classic Frank Capra movie It's A Wonderful Life. I would have kept the movie just as it is until the part where the suicidal-thinking George Bailey gets to the bridge and looks to the waters below. Then right before Clarence the angel appears, I would cut to footage of Clarence falling into the water below. It's hard to make out who is falling in the footage, so it would look like George Bailey jumped into the water. The movie would end right there. I know that with today's home computer technology, I could edit these movies just like I described them and post them on YouTube, but I'm not technically knowledgeable to do so. (If you want to do these edits and post them, feel free to do so. All I ask is that you credit me and my web site in the clips.) Anyway, not only am I sure that like me, you have dreamed of changing movies, I am sure that you have dreamed of movie projects that would mix elements of several movies together in one film. I am sure I'm not the first person to suggest this, but I would like to propose a project that I call Star Trek Wars. It would begin with the Enterprise and its crew after those pesky Klingons. During their pursuit, the Enterprise accidentally gets into a time warp. As the crew picks themselves up after the warp, Captain Kirk asks Spock where they are. Spock responds, "Captain, it appears to be a long time ago... in a galaxy far away." In a short time, they join with the Star Wars rebels, who are battling the Imperial's new weapon, Death Star 1.5.  The climactic battle with it is easy - Kirk figures out if they move to the side of the Death Star without the planet-busting lasers, they can bombard it with ease and stay safe.

As awful (and blasphemous) as that idea may sound to you, even if you are not a die hard fan of Star Trek or Star Wars, I can say with full confidence that this is not the weirdest combination of radically different elements that there has been in the history of film projects, both proposed and The Bang Bang Kidprojects that were actually filmed. There have been plenty of times when filmmakers have thought, "Hey, this works, and so does this. So putting them both together should make a movie twice as good!" In fact, I have actually reviewed at this site some movies that have combined radically different elements. The High Crusade combined medieval times with aliens from outer space, and so did Star Knight - and neither of those movies worked. I'm not saying that the combination of radically different elements never works. The classic spaghetti western Django had a character with a machine gun from several decades later, and that movie worked. So when I came across the western The Bang Bang Kid, I was willing to give it a chance, even though its combination was even stranger-sounding than the one in Django. The setting of The Bang Bang Kid is the year 1899 in the small town of Limerick, Montana.  For a long time now, the citizens of Limerick have been terrorized by "Bear" Bullock (Madison, Adventures Of Wild Bill Hickok), who has bought up the town and the surrounding area, and keeps his power thanks to his henchman "Killer" Kossock (Garrone), who kills anyone who challenges Bullock's law. Then one day, a fellow by the name of Merriweather (Bosley, Happy Days) rides into town and offers his help, having brought with him a useful gadget he's built... a gunslinging robot.

While Django filmed its combination of the old west and more modern machine guns with dead seriousness, The Bang Bang Kid on the other hand (as you've probably guessed) takes things more lightly, enough to be safely labeled as a comedy. That decision to make this movie humorous was probably a good thing, because I have a hard time picturing this premise done in a serious manner. As it turns out, this decision to not take things seriously is one of the few correct decisions the filmmakers made when shooting this movie. Let me start off by examining how "The Bang Bang Kid" (the name the robot is given) is treated throughout the movie. Some of you are probably thinking that much of the movie is focused on the robot and all the wacky shenanigans it causes, especially since this is an Italian movie, which can get pretty goofy at times whether they are intentional or unintentional comedies. But surprisingly, throughout the movie the filmmakers seem to be trying to avoid putting too much attention on the robot and what it can do. When it first goes into action (after a significant amount of time has passed), it's quickly revealed that there are still some bugs in its system and as a result it can't finish up cleaning the town. After the bad guys try unsuccessfully to string up the robot, it is then forgotten for some time so that the movie can focus on subplots such as a cave-in at a mine, and Bullock trying to sweet-talk the mayor's daughter. Then when the townspeople decide to lay siege on Bullock's castle (yes, a castle), the robot does almost nothing to assist the townspeople. And when the movie gets to its climax, the robot plays pretty much an insignificant part.

While I was watching the movie, I kept wondering why the filmmakers were spending much less time on the robot than many other things in the movie. After a while thinking about it, it finally clicked: The reason why they seemed to be intentionally avoiding using the robot was because that the robot is a very boring character. He doesn't look very much like a robot, for one thing - he's obviously a human actor dressed completely up in western garb, and has a rubber face that looks like its human inventor Merriweather. (And now that you know what his face looks like, you have probably correctly guessed what happens during the climax.) There are only a couple of brief shots of his mechanical innards. What's worse is that nothing that this robot is seen doing in its limited role is funny in any way, or even mildly interesting. This isn't a character, it's just a (weak) plot device. But the robot isn't the only character that is badly written. Take the henchman character of "Killer" Kossock. His character stays basically in the same way throughout the movie. Any surprises he comes across are quickly brushed aside so he can quickly return to being a cackling murdering bully that at times seems to be quite harsh for a movie that's supposed to be a comedy. The central villain of the movie, "Bear" Bullock, starts off being a hissable bad guy, but halfway through his character takes a bizarre turn that forces the audience to not only see him in another way, but see him get written out of the movie without punishment. As for Merriweather the inventor, he's not only not given a proper introduction (almost right after he's first seen, he's showing off his robot), but at times he's surprisingly dim-witted for someone who could construct a complex mechanical creature.

I don't blame any of the actors for these particular shortcomings, nor for any of the other faults the movie has. It's clear by the expressions on their faces (especially with Bosley) that the actors don't seem to be very enthusiastic about being in this project. They also have the humiliation of being so poorly dubbed that their dialogue sounds like it was recorded in an echo chamber. The fact that even a second director on set couldn't build the cast's energy is just part of the movie's generally poor direction. That aforementioned siege at the castle comes across as extremely flat, for one thing, and both directors simply don't know at times when to quit hammering an attempted gag into the audience. However, all this bad stuff about the movie that I've illustrated in the past two paragraphs is nothing compared to what the main fault of The Bang Bang Kid is: IT ISN'T FUNNY. There are no laughs, no giggles, not even any moments that might make you smile. I can't even imagine little kids (the audience the movie seems to be aiming at frequently) will be amused. A typical gag of the movie has the narrator telling us that Bullock thinks of himself as "some kind of a king," and all of a sudden the movie cuts from a shot of Bullock in western garb to Bullock wearing a crown and a robe, and then shows the townspeople wearing medieval peasant outfits for the rest of the scene. Is this supposed to be funny? Believe it or not, there are gags in the movie that are even worse than that one. It's incredible to conclude that everyone involved in the creative process of this movie had no sense of comedy or even basic storytelling. The only useful function this movie has is to illustrate the slow progress of the comic spaghetti western had before movies like They Call Me Trinity came along.

UPDATE: Mike Mueller sent in this information:

"I could endure just 20 minutes of Bang Bang Kid before tossing it back in the rental pool, so am only familiar with the title thru the memoirs of its producer, Sid Pink (So You Want To Make Movies, 1989).

"BBK indirectly came about when Pink struck an insane deal with the 60's TV syndicate, Westinghouse, to produce 36 pictues for its stations in 5 years,  (He anaged to deliver 19 timekillers in 2 years before balking over the usual creative differences.) 

"You wrote that BBK was directed by 'two Italians', Georgio Gentilli and Luciano Leli.  The film was actually helmed by Stanley Praeger, an American theatrical director also involved with the cult 60's tv show,
Car 54, Where Are You?  Gentilli  was likely the AD, and Leli was paid for the use of his name.  Euro co-productions required quotas of both actors and technicians from each participating nation to qualify for government subsidies.  (It was common in the 60's to see TV Guide list cheap films with several countries of origin.)  Although a certain number of each nationality was represented, countries also demanded the presence of a US actor, howeveer faded.  Tom Bosley must have been hard up for work, because the producer was surprised when he readily accepted the initial fee. 

"After the film wrapped a week ahead of schedule, the editor soon discovered why - he could only assemble 67 minutes of usable footage. Hence, the added filler about the five hired killers, plus the medieval malarkey.

"Born pitchman Pink claimed Bang Bang was "a love story loosely based on Taming Of The Shrew(!), and the unreliable robot was intende to generate yocks.  I suspect the story really originated with a
Twilight Zone episode, wherein Lee Marvin managed a malfunctioning robot fighter.  The finale is suspiciously familiar."

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See also: Death Machine, Evil Roy Slade, Rustlers' Rhapsody