Reviewed by JONATHAN LEWIS:         

SANTEE. Crown International, 1973. Glenn Ford, Michael Burns, Dana Wynter, Jay Silverheels, Harry Townes, John Larch. Director: Gary Nelson.

   What do you get if you cross a Disney coming of age story with a Spaghetti Western revenge story and a 1970s video aesthetic?

   Santee, that’s what. One of the first American movies to be shot entirely on video, this quixotic movie features Glenn Ford as Santee, a bounty hunter who has never quite gotten over the death of his son at the hands of outlaws.

   But then he meets young Jody Deakes (Michael Burns) and takes the teenage orphan under his wing. Did I mention that Deakes is an orphan because Santee killed his outlaw father? So, there’s some suspense as to whether Deakes is going to seek revenge against Santee, despite their budding father-son relationship. And Jay Silverhills is around too, portraying ranch hand John Crow and dispensing words of wisdom to the boy.

   All told, Santee is more of an historical curiosity than anything else. It feels like a made-for-TV movie and plays as a psychological Western. There’s something very 1970s about it all, including an incredibly New Age theme song that is so horribly out of place that it actually fits. The movie ends on an extraordinarily downbeat note, washing away all the saccharine wholesomeness that has come before.

   If that doesn’t make sense to you, don’t worry too much.

   Santee, as a film, doesn’t make all that much sense. Why was this made? Why Glenn Ford? And why on video? In the end, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that it was made and that, while the 1970s gave us a lot of cheap forgettable features, it also was a time when filmmakers and big name stars had a lot more license to try bizarre things than they do today. And that’s got to count for something.