Deadlock: The modern Western

deadlock1A suitcase full of stolen money, beads of sweat and bags of greed and distrust,  together with requisite close-up shots of shifty eyes, all generate a heavy Western-style masculine tension; and the increasing suspicion that things might not turn out too well at the end of DEADLOCK.

The traditional Western movie is violent, cynical and visually stunning, and this rarely screened feature is no exception. ‘Spaghetti Westerns’ were mostly made by Italians, but DEADLOCK is an independent West German Western, made by auteur director Roland Klick. Klick’s artistic vision embraces and transcends the ‘Spaghetti’ sub-genre which was itself coming to a natural decline by the early 1970s.

It’s hard not to be reminded of Sergio Leone’s THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY …

DEADLOCK stars Anthony Dawson (Blofeld, from FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE and THUNDERBALL) as ‘Sunshine’, and Marquard Bohm as ‘Kid’, the gunman with the suitcase; and Mario Adorf (THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE) as the desperate man who has seen better times, and who tries to get a piece of the action. It’s hard not to be reminded of Sergio Leone’s THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY as the plot unravels. Leone’s film was a massive international success by the time it was released in America in 1967, expanding the depths of the Western experience for audiences with dramatic widescreen cinematography, and the musical soundscape of Morricone.

Whilst DEADLOCK follows many of the conventions of the Western genre, the costume and found-location setting are strikingly modern; as is the feel of the tracking shots. There’s no attempt made to recreate the look of the authentic wild frontier of America, except through signifiers in the character’s accessories, plot, and the desert. DEADLOCK was shot at a disused mine in Israel, a real location that Klick discovered whilst travelling. The abandoned decay of the backdrop creates an atmosphere of oppressive and bleak isolation.

DEADLOCK sits between worlds of tradition and modern culture.

Like many other Spaghetti Westerns, DEADLOCK is low budget and shot renegade style in the middle of nowhere, but the production values are high. Quality performances from Adorf, Bohm and Dawson, and the mellow effect of 35mm desert colours and well-framed shots give credibility to the plot, and absorb the sun-bleached violence and downbeat climax.

The Can soundtrack bridges the gap between classic Western and a new generation of psychedelic interpretations out of the genre, leaning towards EL TOPO or the scorched desert of ZABRISKI POINT. All three were released in the same year, at the turn of a new decade. DEADLOCK sits between worlds of tradition and modern culture. It’s unconventional but with no demands to radically rethink the established Western movie genre: just sit back and enjoy the ride.

DEADLOCK screens on 24 September at 9pm. Click here to buy tickets.

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