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It was just four years ago that the Winnetou
series has started with the wonderful Der
Schatz im Silbersee, but with this film the series has pretty much
hit rock bottom (though Winnetou und das Halbblut
released only a few months before, was even worse). In this one, wrong decisions
were made all along the way: For one it was decided to not hire Lex Barker
to do one more as Winnetou's white bloodbrother Old
Shatterhand, instead, seasoned American B-cowboy Rod Cameron was hired to
do the lead - and due to his age (he was 56 when this was filmed) he was
in no shape to handle action or come across as the daredevil the script
tries to make him. Then Martin Böttcher's romantic tunes were
replaced by a more suspenseful score by Peter Thomas, who is by and large
the more interesting composer of the two, but his style of music sits ill
with the fairy-tale-like Winnetou-mood.
Furthermore, for a Western, the film makes remarkably little use of its
(very scenic) outdoor locations, instead centers the action in a Mexican
village (not necessarily a bad thing, only it doesn't work here).
And Winnetou ?
Ah yeah, he seems to be absent during most of the plot ...
Winnetou (Pierre Brice) and his sister Nscho-tschi (Marie Versini) are
attacked by Silers (Harald Leipnitz) and his outlaws, but are saved by
trapper Old Firehand (Rod Cameron) and his friends young Tom (Todd
Armstrong) and old Caleb.
After the outlaws are fought off, our heroes decide to report the
incident to the Sergeant (Rik Battaglia) in the next town, Miramonte, but
the villagers of Miramonte have their problems with Silers and his men all
of their own, and what's worse, they have captured Silers' brother Billy
Bob (Wlater Wilz), and part of the villagers want to hang him for murder
while part want to free him so that Silers won't have his vengeance on
them. And when the Sergeant refuses to set Billy Bob free, some villagers
free him just like that ... but Billy Bob is shot while escaping. Now the
villagers who freed him make their getaway ... but they cross part with
Silers and his gang, who cold-bloodedly has them shot and directs their
waggon treck back to Miramonte, loaded with dynamite that goes up right at
the town's square.
Old Firehand now takes it upon himself to command Miramonte's defense,
while at the same time meeting Michèle (Nadia Gray), an old flame from
long ago, and finding out he has fathered her a son, Jace (Jörg Marquard)
back in the days, who now looks up to Firehand as his idol. Meanwhile,
Firehand's friend Tom and Winnetou's sister Nscho-Tschi fall in love,
while Winnetou ... well, he doesn't really do much at all.
Twice, Silers' gang attacks Miramonte, twice they are fought back by
the valiant villagers, but they suffer severe losses, and with each attack
more of Miramonte is blown up.
Then Winnetou has the glorious idea to get help, however, he is not all
that successful in putting his plan into operation, because he asks noone
but a gang of desperadoes for help, and to noone's real surprise, they
decide to side with Silers ...
However, thanks to some fireworks, and thanks to Winnetou who somehow
steals the outlaws' dynamite, the villagers can scare away Silers' gang
and the desperadoes, then they go to the offensive, kill the outlaws'
leaders and throw the rest of them into a conveniently situated pond ...
All's end that ends well.
Well, only Tom, who had fallen in love with Nscho-Tschi, had to die,
because she has to stay innocent for Old Shatterhand in Winnetou
I, which, despite having been made 3 years earlier, takes place
after the events of this one.
Viktor de Kowa does the (not very comical) comic relief as an eccentric
To noone's real surprise, Winnetou und sein Freund Old Firehand
was the last the last Winnetou-film
2 years later though, CCC-Filmkunst
tried to revive the series with Winnetou und Shatterhand im Tal der
Toten, reusing most of the classic cast and crew (Pierre Brice, Lex
Barker, Karin Dor, Ralf Wolter, director Harald Reinl, composer Martin
Böttcher), the film however became merely a moderate success, on both an
artistic and financial level.