By FREDA BRUCE LOCKHART
QETTINGS as far apart as " Spain. Sweden, Africa and New England, in four new movies provide a scene of savagery to the degree of monotony. No film critic could last long without developing a fairly tough immunity to scenes of violence; or, in my view, a fairly deep appreciation of Westerns.
This week's two pastiche Westerns. however, one "U" and the other an "X," in their different ways reach a new Iow in the debasement of the Western, as it were, dregs scraped from opposite ends of the barrel.
Nobody could deny the accomplishment of A Fistful of Dollars ("X," London Pavilion) as a Spanish-GermanItalian co-production of a black Western (the Italian company goes by the inappropriate name of Jolly Film). Goldensanded Spain in splendid colour photography makes as magnificent a setting as any we know from the actual New Mexico frontier country when the "anonymous stranger" (Clint Eastwood) roams into the town to be warned off by four toughs.
All the trimmings of the Western are here: the beautiful horses, stage coaches, cantina, apparently unlimited rounds of ammunition, a shipment of gold and innumerable "Baddies." The stranger quickly finds somebody to explain that the town is in the hands of two rival gangs, the Baxters and the Rojos. He soon kills off the four Baxter toughs and signs on as gunman with the Rojos. But nobody explains to the stranger or the spectator why the massacres and tortures, the plain brutalities should be on quite such an unbounded scale.
There might be a case for arguing that if men must be shown being shot (not to mention the horses) it is better we should see and hear that they die in agony. But where there are no characters and no individual purpose, the killings become as dull as they are beastly.
This is a Western without a hero. At best there arc two innocents; and even when the stranger does them a good turn, we never really know why. This co-production has imitated the violence of the Western but never touched its roots or its aspirations