Rio Conchos / Take a Hard Ride

From 1964, “Rio Conchos” — which, according to Google Language Tools, translates to English as, um, “Rio Conchos” — is a standard B Western of insignificance, other than the names among its cast: Stuart Whitman, Richard Boone, Tony Franciosa, Edmond O’Brien and Jim Brown. It’s a slight variation on the cowboys-vs.-Indians theme in that it’s Army men vs. Indians, and everyone’s after a bunch of stolen guns. To be honest, it was so dry and dusty, I could not finish it.

The same could not be said for the disc’s other half, 1975’s “Take a Hard Ride,” which is rather spirited and colorful (pun not intended). Somewhere between the traditional American Western and the Italian spaghetti Western, its ensemble cast features not one, but three African Americans, all former NFL players: Brown, Jim Kelly and Fred Williamson. That may not raise any eyebrows today, but back then, it was something of an anomaly.

The plot, however is not, with various players — which also include Lee Van Cleef as a bad guy and the lovely Catherine Spaak (“Cat o’ Nine Tails”) as a widowed prostitute — scramble for tens of thousands of dollars in gold near the Mexican border.

Spaak’s not in it enough, nor Kelly’s kung-fu half-breed mute character, but with multiple instances of live snakes as weapons, stunts by Hal Needham and some goofy ol’ coot singing “Oh My Darling, Clementine” while taking a dump in the desert, it’s more fun than your average oater.

Shout! Factory includes lengthy interviews with Kelly, who’s humble, and Williamson, who’s not. —Rod Lott


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