A Fistful of Fingers (1995)

Rating: C

Dir: Edgar Wright
Star: Graham Low, Martin Curtis, Oli van der Vijver, Quentin Green

If a Western made in Italy is a spaghetti Western, what do you call one made in the West Country? A scrumpy Western? A Cornish pastie Western? I dunno. I must say, Somerset does a reasonable job at passing for the usual terrain, despite the lack of cacti. It’s a broad spoof of the genre, which aims to do for Westerns, more or less what  Monty Python and the Holy Grail did for Arthurian lore. Just on a budget of around eleven thousand pounds, and with considerably less experience in all aspects. The results are, understandably, variable. I did laugh out loud on occasion. However, it’s clearly no Holy Grail.

The plot concerns a bounty-hunter with no name, though we discover this is only because he’s really called Walter (Low). He’s on the hunt for an outlaw called The Squint (van der Vijver), and it becomes personal after his target kills Walter’s “horse”. Quotes used advisedly, and we’ll get to that shortly. He teams up with an Indian, Running Sore (Curtis), and discovers The Squint runs an organization called Outlaws OK. That’s about it. The film only runs 78 minutes, and is clearly (and understandably) more concerned with jokes than plot. For example, the horses are more or less of the hobby variety when being ridden, or the pantomime flavour when “running wild.” I’m certain 99% of Brits who saw this, will have immediately made a comment about coconut shells.

There are a few similar, unashamedly dumb jokes. The Indian blocking the way, who says “None shall pass.” A nun then passes. A “The Milky Bar’s are on me!” line, which will make absolutely no sense, outside of a very narrow window of place and time. When the comedy here hits the mark, it hits hard. However, even in its short running-time, there are a lot of scenes where it seems to be meandering in circles, without actual humour. Is it another case of place and time, making the jokes fall flat? Or was Wright over-reaching himself? Certainly, his preceding Dead Right, at forty minutes, seemed considerably punchier, and with much better editing. This might have worked better at a similar length, and the 4:3 aspect ratio doesn’t exactly scream “Sergio Leone”.

The (mostly, if not entirely) amateur cast try and get by on enthusiasm rather than talent. Given the broad nature of the material they’re delivering, this isn’t too much of an issue, and occasional elements do work better than the budget might suggest. The score is a proper one, and fits the genre mash-up nicely, while there are a couple of bits of animation that certainly do not suck. Like Holy Grail, it ends in a cinematic non sequitur, in this case with a much-loathed jokester from British nineties TV showing up, to tell us a key plot point was just a prank. I wonder how Wright set that up? And, more importantly, why? As first features go, I’ve definitely seen worse. Yet it’s no Evil Dead either.