Country: United States
Director: Steve Carver
Starring: Chuck Norris, David Carradine, Barbara Carrera, Robert Beltran, Leon Issac Kennedy,
Music: Francesco De Masi
Growing up in rural Australia in the seventies and eighties is such a long way from the lifestyle we all live today. With the massive improvements in communication, be it radio, television and the internet, even if you live in the sticks, you can still be up on what’s happening in the world. Not so back then. Popular culture was drip fed to us then. My icons were Clint Eastwood, Kris Kristofferson, and I hate to say it, but Chuck Norris. Today, it may seem strange to lump these three together. Eastwood has gone on to become a premier film maker – Kristofferson is still highly regarded for his song writing – and well, Chuck is almost a redneck joke verging on parody (Hey, Chuck Norris doesn’t have showers – he has ‘bloodbaths’!)
But if you go back to that golden time during the late seventies an early eighties, each of these men were anti-establishment heroes. They weren’t wild hippy outlaws, and they often worked for or within the establishment they were set against. But they knew there was something wrong with the system and went about changing it – their way. Eastwood was still identified with Dirty Harry – a cop who was always in strife with his superiors; Kristofferson was the Rubberduck – a man who drove a truck into a blockade of armed soldiers because he received a speeding ticket from a corrupt cop; and Chuck was Lone Wolf McQuade – the scruffiest, mud covered cop ever depicted on film.
Every film lover has their guilty pleasure movie – the film (usually bad) that for some reason or another stays with you even though in your head, you’ve out grown it. For me, it’s Lone Wolf McQuade. Point at me, laugh at me, call me names if you will. I know, I know, it’s pretty dumb, but for some reason, maybe it’s the quasi-spaghetti western feel, or the ‘one man against the system’ story, but I love this film. It’s a drunken old friend that comforts me in times of hardship.
The film opens with a group of dirty Mexican horse thieves, led by Murano, rounding up and corralling the horse they have stolen. On a cliff top above them watching is Texas Ranger J.J. McQuade (Chuck Norris). McQuade is sweaty, unshaven and covered in dust. As he watches the State Police arrive to arrest Murano and his men. But the State police are clumsy and they are caught. Murano doesn’t take prisoners. He is going to kill all the police. He raises a machete to cut off one of the officer’s head. At that moment McQuade stands up, and with his rifle shoots one of the banditos utility vehicles with an explosive tipped bullet. The vehicle explodes. McQuade has Murano’s attention, but Murano has the police as hostages and orders McQuade to come down from the cliff.
McQuade comes down off his cliff with the sun beaming behind him. He is a glorious western silhouette. Once at ground level, McQuade is disarmed and brought before Murano. Gloating at outsmarting and capturing a Texas Ranger, Marano says “Once a Texas Ranger kicked me Father’s teeth out. Would you do that to me?” Of course, Murano is being facetious, and taunting McQuade. But McQuade doesn’t shy away from a challenge. McQuade does a flip and kicks Murano’s teeth out. Then he flattens the two men who were holding him. After that he grabs a machine gun and mows down the rest of the bad guys. One man does what a squad of State Police could not do.
This should make McQuade a hero, but back in town he is chewed out by his superior for not cooperating with other law enforcement agencies. And for his trouble, he is assigned a new younger partner, Acadio Ramos (Robert Beltran). It almost a cop movie pre-requisite, that the hardened veteran gets coupled with a naïve rookie. And as in the form in these types of films, McQuade lets him know in no uncertain terms, that he doesn’t need a partner.
My favourite scene in the movie occurs when McQuade, Ramos and a swag of other cops and agents storm super villain Rawley Wilkes’ (David Carradine) compound. McQuade gets shot a couple of times and then captured. Wilkes and his goons beat seven shades of shit out of McQuade, then they throw him in his 4WD, which in turn is pushed into a giant hole in the ground. Then large earthmovers fill the hole, so McQuade is buried alive in his vehicle. McQuade slowly regains consciousness. He reaches across to a six pack of beer, and cracks open a can. He pours a small amount into his bloodied mouth. The golden nectar gives him strength. He then pours the rest of the can on his head. The beverage revitalises his battered and bruised body. He turns over the ignition in the 4WD, then puts it in gear. He mashes his foot down on the accelerator while clutching the steering wheel and growling. The 4WD starts to move. Even buried under all those tons of sand, the 4WD, aided by McQuade’s willpower, rises up out of it’s sandy grave. I almost have tears in my eyes when I watch this scene. It’s always reassuring to know that if your heart is pure, and you have a six pack of beer beside you, you can accomplish almost anything.
With most Chuck Norris films, there is martial arts showdown with the villain at the end. Most of them are crap. But to this film’s credit, and with David Carradine as Chuck’s adversary, Lone Wolf McQuade provides a sensational showdown at the end.
When reviewing a film like Lone Wolf McQuade it’s easy to get caught up in the macho, boozy histrionics and overlook the cinematography and music. Firstly, the cinematography by Jerry G. Callaway, Roger Shearman, Michael Sibley is crisp and golden. Nothing B-grade here. It’s like the work of Tonino Delli Colli in pristine print of a classic Spaghetti Western. Speaking of Spaghetti Western’s, Francesco De Masi’s score is brilliant – sure it imitates Morricone, but it suits this film right down to the ground.
That’s Lone Wolf McQuade. I don’t expect you to be as enthusiastic about it as I am. It’s a hard film to tell people who haven’t seen it, to go and watch, because times have changed. They just wont get it. But there was a time when Lone Wolf McQuade was a superior piece of entertainment, and I for one am pleased that I was there for it.
For a while there, in the early ’80s it looked like Barbara Carrera would go on to bigger and better things. Her appearances in Lone Wolf McQuade and the Mike Hammer flick I, The Jury were just appetizers for her show-stopping performance as Fatima Blush in Never Say Never Again. But soon after her star began to wane and she drifted onto the television show Dallas. She has continued to act (IMDb list her last gig was in 2002) but her days as a sexy maneater, alongside major action stars were over.