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Case Number 27533: Small Claims Court

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Thunder at the Border (1966)

Sony // 1966 // 94 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge P.S. Colbert // July 1st, 2014

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All Rise...

Hey, Barkeep! Judge P.S. Colbert would like his Spaetzle in a dirty glass, Pod'ner.

The Charge

Old Firehand: "Who are you?"
Winnetou: "Winnetou, Chief of the Apaches. You're Old Firehand, the one they say never misses a target?"
Old Firehand (chuckling): "Well, you know how people like to talk a lot. But it's true, I don't like to waste ammunition."

The Case

The pair make their introductions under duress, meeting up just after Winnetou (Pierre Brice) and his sister Nscho-tschi (Marie Versini, Is Paris Burning?) have narrowly escaped a murderous band of horse thieves under the ruthless direction of Silers (Harald Leipnitz).

Siler's gang are the kind of career cut-throats who spend their downtime antagonizing and roughing each other up. And if one of them dies as a result? Oh, well…bah ha ha ha ha!

His comrades are wary when they see the Injuns approaching, but Old Firehand (Rod Cameron, Stampede) calms them by declaring that "these are friendly Indians," (something he can apparently spot on sight). After Winnetou relates his tale of woe, Firehand and friends agree to accompany the Apache chief and sis into town, where they'll seek justice.

Yada, Yada, Yada—Heroes and villains inch their way towards a final showdown in the tiny Mexican village of Mira Monte, where the poor and peaceable natives hold all the fascination of shooting gallery ducks for Silers and his blood-lusty bunch. Needless to say, the nearest Boot Hill will be crowding up, pronto.

Y'all know about Spaghetti Westerns, right? Now, git yourselves ready for a Spaetzle Western!

Yup. Deutsch marks the spot for Thunder at the Border, the umpteenth cinematic adventure of German novelist Karl May's most beloved Apache and his steadfast white companion, as famous in their homeland as the Lone Ranger and Tonto are here.

Though the Fatherland served as ground zero, borders were apparently no object for this co-operative production, which features gorgeous location shooting in the former Yugoslavia, and an international cast with co-stars from Italy, Romania, Serbia, Croatia, a pair of French actors imported to play the redskin siblings, and one feller who came all the way from Missouri in the good ol' U.S. of A. We are the world, indeed!

The picture also gets a world-class presentation from the nice folks at Sony Choice Collections. Originally shot in 2:35:1 Ultrascope, this home release gets a fine letterbox transfer at 16:9, and everything looks great, with solid color and fine detail. As for the black levels, I'll say this: if they're not true black levels, they're darned good liars! The mono sound mix delivers both (dubbed English) dialog and Peter Thomas' ripping score in style. Sony Choice Collections is a Made-On-Demand service however, so the usual No Bonus Features rule applies here.

Truth be told, Thunder at the Border seems less inspired by a Karl May novel (interestingly, author's name is conspicuously absent from the credits) than from a book titled Saturday Matinee Shoot-em-ups for Dummies. That's not a bad thing in this case; in fact, complicating this pure action flick probably would've doomed it. What we got here is a genuine cinematic excuse to throw popcorn at the screen, blow raspberries during the (mercifully brief) love interest scenes, and fire your cap guns into the air. Waahhh-hooo!

As someone in an altogether different Western once said: "There's what's right, and there's what's right, and never the twain shall meet."

The Verdict

Like the poster says, it's "A Thunder-Clap of Screen Excitement!" Not guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 92

Perp Profile

Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
• None
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Release Year: 1966
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Adventure
• Classic
• Foreign
• Western

Distinguishing Marks

• None


• IMDb

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