Navajo Joe

Navajo Joe is a 1966 Spaghetti Western film, directed by Sergio Corbucci,[3] and stars Burt Reynolds as the titular Navajo Indian who opposes a group of bandits responsible for killing his tribe.[4]

Navajo Joe
Directed bySergio Corbucci
Produced by
Screenplay by
Story byUgo Pirro[2]
Music byEnnio Morricone[2]
CinematographySilvano Ippoliti[2]
Edited byAlberto Gallitti[2]
Release date
  • November 1966 (1966-11) (Italy)


Having massacred an Indian village, outlaw Duncan finds his men falling victim to a solitary rider, Navajo Joe. Joe saves three prostitutes who have overheard Duncan plot with Lynne, the town doctor, to steal a train full of money belonging to the bank. Joe steals the train back from Duncan's gang. He asks the townspeople of Esperanza to pay him to protect them from Duncan, making an offer of "I want a dollar a head from every man in this town for every bandit I kill." The townspeople reject him, as they "don't make bargains with Indians." Lynne's wife Hannah persuades them otherwise. Joe sets a trap for Duncan, but is caught and tortured; Lynne and Hannah are killed. Rescued by an old man from the saloon, Joe again steals the train and eradicates Duncan's gang. There is then a showdown in an Indian cemetery, where Joe reclaims the pendant that Duncan stole from his wife when he murdered her. As Joe turns, Duncan shoots Joe with a hidden gun. Injured, Joe grabs a tomahawk and throws it, hitting Duncan square in the forehead. With Duncan dead, Joe sends his horse back to town, carrying the bank's money. The townspeople are surprised by Joe keeping his word, yet show more relief at the return of their money over the status of Joe. Estella, disappointed in the attitudes of the townspeople and grateful for what Joe did for them, sends Joe's horse back to be reunited with him, still leaving his fate ambiguous after his fight with Duncan.


  • Burt Reynolds as Navajo Joe
  • Aldo Sambrell (as Aldo Sanbrell) as Mervyn 'Vee' Duncan
  • Nicoletta Machiavelli as Estella
  • Fernando Rey as Father Rattigan
  • Tanya Lopert as Maria
  • Franca Polesello as Barbara
  • Lucia Modugno as Geraldine
  • Pierre Cressoy (as Peter Cross) as Dr. Chester Lynne
  • Roberto Paoletti as Sheriff Johnson
  • Nino Imparato (as Antonio Imparato) as Chuck Holloway, Banjo Player
  • Lucio Rosato as Jeffrey Duncan
  • Valeria Sabel as Hannah Lynne
  • Mario Lanfranchi as Jefferson Clay, Mayor of Esperanza
  • Ángel Álvarez (as Angel Alvarez) as Oliver Blackwood, Bank Manager
  • Rafael Albaicín (as Rafael Albaicin) as Mexican Scalphunter
  • Lorenzo Robledo as Robledo, Duncan Gang Member
  • Álvaro de Luna (as Alvaro De Luna) as Sancho Ramirez, Duncan Gang Member
  • Valentino Macchi as Gringo Scalphunter
  • Maria Cristina Sani as Joe's Wife
  • Gianni di Stolfo as Sheriff Elmo Reagan
  • Simón Arriaga (as Simon Arriga) as Monkey, Duncan Gang Member
  • Cris Huerta as El Gordo
  • Ángel Ortiz (as Angel Ortiz) as El Cojo
  • Roderik Auguste (as Roderick Auguste) as Ciudadano
  • Dyanik Zurakowska (as Dianick) as Swedish Settler


Producer Dino De Laurentiis approached director Sergio Corbucci with a script titled Un dollaro a testa (lit.A Dollar a Head).[5] Corbucci claimed that Marlon Brando was promised to him for the lead role in the film.[5] De Laruentiis cast Reynolds for the role as he felt he looked like Brando.[5]

Reynolds was friends with Clint Eastwood who had raved to his friend about a director named Sergio.[6] Eastwood introduced Reynolds to De Laurentiis who was looking for an actor who could do his own stunts.[6] Reynolds went to Italy in April 1966.[6] Reynolds spoke about his time in Europe at the time in 1969, explaining that "the only thing today for an American actor is to go to Europe for $350,000, crinkle up the film, jump up and down a couple of times and you've got it made."[7]

De Laurentiis announced the film would be part of a six picture deal he had with United Artists which included other films titled Absurd Universe, Matchless, A River of Dollars with Reynolds and Henry Silva, The Bandit with Eastwood, A Dollar a Head with Reynolds, and Waterloo.[8] Reynolds was ready for the film but had to De Laurentiis kept getting re-writes of the film from Piero Regnoli and Fernando di Leo.[6][9] After the sixth draft, De Laruentiis approved the script, Reynolds found himself surprised that his cast was predominantly non-English speaking and that the director was not Sergio Leone as he thought but Sergio Corbucci.[9] Commenting on his role in the film, Reynolds felt that the physical aspects did not worry him, but his costumes did.[10]

Reynolds stated that the Italian crew did not know what "real Indians" looked like, describing his wig that made him look like Natalie Wood[10][7] Reynolds added "of course when you play a half-breed you have to be stoic - and you can't get funky - and you have to have a deep voice. Apparently there are no Indians with high voices. And you have to shave your arms all the time. It's easy to get the left but just try and reach the right."[7]

Corbucci spoke about his work, opining that he made "European Westerns the way they like them over here. Plenty of action. Little talk. And I have the privilege of changing at a moment's notice the costumes and geography.[11]


Navajo Joe was released in Italy in November 1966.[12] The film was released in the United States in 1967.[12]


From contemporary reviews, Bosley Crowther (New York Times) dismissed the film as "colorless" and another of the "super-bloody "Westerns" made by Italians and Spaniards in Spain with Italian, Spanish and American actors"[4] "Whit." of Variety noting that Regnoli's and Di Leo's screenplay allowed for "fast movement which Corbucci handles well enough", ultimately declaring the film to be "Lowercase western [...] Okay for minor action market."[13]

In retrospective reviews, Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a D rating, calling it "a dubbed Italian botch", finding it inferior to another Western reviewed, Man of the West.[14]

Burt Reynolds described Navajo Joe as "So awful it was only shown in prisons and aeroplanes because nobody could leave. I killed ten thousand guys, wore a Japanese slingshot and a fright wig."[5] When Reynolds won an Emmy in 1991 for Evening Shade he said during his acceptance speech, "All those pictures – Navajo Joe – they paid off, you know."[15]



  1. "Navajo Joe Italian 2p '67 Sergio Corbucci, different Casaro art of Burt Reynolds hanging". Retrieved May 22, 2019.
  2. Hughes 2004, p. 81.
  3. Hughes, p.59
  4. Crowther, Bosley (December 7, 1967). "Screen: 'Eye of the Devil' Begins Run:Deborah Kerr Appears With David Niven 5 Other Films Arrive in Local Theaters East-West Twin Bill Local Double Bill The Casts". New York Times. Archived from the original on September 11, 2018. Retrieved September 10, 2018.
  5. Hughes 2004, p. 82.
  6. Hughes 2004, p. 83.
  7. Clifford, Terry (6 April 1969). ""Burt Reynolds, Who Plays Half-Breeds Stoic About Roles"". Chicago Tribune. p. F14.
  8. Martin, Betty (16 March 1966). "Warners, CBS Sign Pact". Los Angeles Times. p. D16.
  9. Hughes 2004, p. 84.
  10. Hughes 2004, p. 86.
  11. Crowther, Bosley (4 May 1966). "U.S. Filmmaker Keeps Balance A mid Spain's Production Whirl: A Coincidence? Hardly Spanish-Style Westerns". New York Times. p. 50.
  12. Hughes 2004, p. 92.
  13. Variety's Film Reviews 1964-1967. 11. R. R. Bowker. 1983. There are no page numbers in this book. This entry is found under the header "November 1, 1967". ISBN 0-8352-2790-1.
  14. Tucker, Ken (May 9, 2008). "Navajo Joe". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved September 19, 2018.
  15. "Cheers dominates Emmys with 4 wins". The Province. 26 Aug 1991. p. 42.


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