One of the characteristics associated with traditional masculinity is a man's unique ability to stand above the herd in certain ways. The best and most heroic men are characterized by their multi-faceted personalities. We admire men like Theodore Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy who were warriors, but also intellectual and moral men.
This personality type appeared fairly regularly in popular media of the past; especially in early television series like Have Gun Will Travel and The Saint, but has largely disappeared from our misandryist culture. Postmodernism wholly dislikes the image of a cultured, intelligent, and capable man of action.
Our feature for this weekend is from 1970, and is the story of such a man. It is a Western titled A Man Called Joe Clifford, though it's frequently found under the title Apocalypse Joe. It stars Western film legend Anthony Steffen, who in real life was often like these kinds of characters.
Joe Clifford (played by Steffen) is a gunfighter who incidentally has a passion for the writings of William Shakespeare. Between his highly action-filled adventures, Clifford studies Shakespeare and acts in Shakespeare plays. Now, of course, Shakespeare is today a dead white male who is no longer studied, but during the 19th Century even frontier towns of the Old West respected him.
So Clifford learns one day that a relative of his has died and he's inherited a gold mine. He's delighted at this news, a hopes that this windfall will finance a trip to England where can he further his studies. When he arrives in the small mining community to claim his fortune, he discovers that the corrupt town-boss and his army of hoodlums murdered his relative to seize the mine for themselves.
Clifford doesn't take this injustice lying down, to say the least. He demonstrates exactly what kind of damage that one man with gun and a brain can do to a mob of thugs. Clifford is one of those types of warrior-heroes who doesn't let little details like being heavily outnumbered deter him from decisive action. That seems to be a trait common to intellectually inclined heroes in both fiction and real-life.
This film isn't a typical Western with one-on-one duels; it's more like several one-on-twenty gun battles. Don't be misled by the Shakespeare angle that this film is a 'soft-core' Western. Many Western film websites list A Man Called Joe Clifford among their top-ten 'Most Violent Westerns' lists. Clifford rarely fights in this film unless he's outnumbered at least often enough to reload.
All in all, Joe Clifford is a really likeable character. In several scenes during the film, he shows a genuine empathy for the other people oppressed by the town-boss and his men. Uncompromising when fighting evil, he is also a friend to those in need. There's something truly ideally masculine in that personality constellation. Small wonder that so many heroes of the past fit this description.
A Man Called Joe Clifford is currently available on Youtube and some of the free download sites. It's also available on DVD.