Stephen Boyd in Westerns : “Montana Trap” (Potato Fritz), 1975

Stephen Boyd started his Hollywood career in a Western (“The Bravados”) in 1958, so in a bittersweet way it is appropriate that he would close out his career (albeit far too early!) with another Western. During 1975 Stephen made a flurry of pictures that were German productions (“Lady Dracula”, “Frauenstation”) and this ‘sauerkraut’ Western called “Montana Trap”, or “Potato Fritz”, or “The Massacre at Condor Pass”. It was directed by Peter Schamoni, whose own relatives had immigrated to Montana in the 1860’s. The film was shot primarily in Almeria, Spain, the same location as “Shalako” (1968). Most of the cast was German, including it’s main star, the always delightful Hardy Krüger (“The Flight of the Phoenix”), who actually started out in movies around the same time as Stephen did. He became one of the biggest German stars of the 1960’s. For more about Hardy’s very interesting life in Germany during and before WWII, see IMDB bio here. Veteran German actor Anton Diffring also co-stars as Lieutenant Slade.

The movie starts off with a flashback to a massacre of an army unit on the march in rough Indian country transporting gold funds for both the settlers and the Indians who have been displaced. After the massacre, some rifles are stolen, but the gold disappears. A certain Captain Henry escapes the attack, unbeknownst to his attackers. However the attackers were not Indians but white men dressed up as Indians, which no one yet realizes. These men rule the isolated settlement beyond the pass (which includes some settlers alongside these ruffians), and because of their predicament (which they blame on the Indians), they are trapped here.

Along comes Bill Addison (Stephen Boyd), who rides unscathed into this settlement to the surprise of the settlers and the roughnecks in town. He’s on the hunt for this legendary cache of lost gold. He settles into the saloon to sample some of the local whiskey. Potato Fritz (Hardy Krüger) arrives next, looking for his next drink to ease the sorrow of this trampled potato crop. His small abode has just been ransacked again, this time by the real Indians. He is an pacifist farmer who lives with a baby black bear and a cow out in the wilderness. He keeps his weapons tied up on a pole to show the Indians he means them no harm. When he arrives in town, he is known by everyone there and mocked for his drinking and quirky behavior. Of course, Addison takes an interest in this character as well. Addison hints that he is looking for the aforementioned Captain Henry who is presumed dead among the massacred soldiers. Henry had a reputation for dispensing justice by shooting criminals through the wrist. Addison had been one of his unfortunate victims.

As the story develops, these two form a tumultuous bond of sorts which, after a knock-down-drag-out brawl in the dirt, becomes a cooperative understanding. They work together to help the settlers get through the pass eventually, and also dispense their own justice against of the ‘gang’ of ruffians who had been terrorizing the pass. In the end it is revealed that Potato Fritz was the long lost Captain Henry all along. Addison reveals his wound in the wrist to Captain Henry before riding off into the proverbial sunset…and so does Stephen Boyd as he exits his final Western.

Stephen wears a full beard in this movie. He looks older in this film – graying and definitely thinner – yet still handsome. His hair is as thick and curly as ever and his bright blue eyes sparkle, along with that wry, mischievous grin. He continues to wear Western clothes with a certain flair and swagger. I especially like the silk scarf he ties around his neck, one of his favorite Western fashions it seems. He wears an almost identical scarf like this in “The Man Called Noon” and “Shalako”.

I really enjoy the chemistry between Hardy and Stephen in this film. They really seem to have liked each other’s company and they certainly work great on screen together with a true mutual respect for one another. It is sobering to think that they would have been co-stars again in “The Wild Geese” had it not been for Stephen’s untimely death in 1977.

Luckily there is a fairly decent DVD version of this movie available on www.ioffer.com aand Amazon (Germany).

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