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By Rachel Morgan | February 24, 2005

Rarely does one come across a two-hour sci-fi western comedy that features time traveling spree killers headed to Nashville, Tennessee in a convertible Cadillac in hopes of landing their band’s demo tape on the radio. A Modern Day Western: The Sanchez Saga is just that type of film. The movie opens in West Texas in the year 1884. A sheriff offers the “tough desperado”, Reno Sanchez (Charles Cullen), his last cigarette and a bottle of tequila as the two prepare to walk to the gallows tree where a crowd of angry Texans anxiously await the Sanchez execution. With some encouragement from his bunkmate, Sanchez swallows the worm in the bottom of the bottle of tequila and seemingly hallucinates his way into the future. Suddenly it is modern day America, a group of guys in a Cadillac with tags that read “Ghost Train” drive leisurely down the highway. They stop to pick up their friend Charlie “Chainsaw” Chisolm (Jeff Vest) who has been spending a bit of time at the Happy Clam Sanitarium due to his proclivity for sawing people into small pieces. The crew also make a pit stop in the middle of the Wyoming desert to pick up, who else, but Reno Sanchez who has just been released from the shackles of a chain gang. Sanchez jumps in the car, but not before spitting at a lady cop, kicking several snakes out of the way and shedding his clothes down to a very small pair of leopard print bikini underwear; he really is a “tough desperado”. Sanchez and his crew aren’t just your average gang of mean spirited criminals looking for trouble in every town that they pass through, they are also a band (Reno Sanchez and Ghost Train) and they are headed to Nashville in hopes of finding fortune and fame. It isn’t long before the band demonstrates their musical aptitude; Sanchez’s voice could easily be compared to the sound of a chainsaw cutting through a boulder.

At the band’s first gig a corrupt club owner doesn’t pay the $800 that the crew was originally offered so they don costumes that look like they were stolen from the set of “The Elephant Man” and slaughter everyone in the club. Unfortunately for the Sanchez gang, the bands lack of musical talent is the least of their worries; “Texas lawman” Sheriff Jesse Lobos (Ken Tignor), who also seems to have traveled from the past, is in hot pursuit of the gang of criminals and Lobos is as unscrupulous as the rest of the time travelers. In addition, Detective Billy Crimes (Patrick Cooper) and his partner Detective Leslie Henderson (Donna Albano) are also trying to apprehend the Sanchez gang. Of course Lobos and the two local detectives don’t exactly get along. The charming Sheriff’s first words to Detective Henderson are, “you ought to be bare a*s-naked scrubbing a kitchen floor somewhere”. When Detective Grimes asks Lobos to show a bit of respect and comments that Henderson has a degree in “police science”, Lobos responds by stating, “my degree in police science is the 14 bullet scar across my chest”. While the cops are arguing, the Sanchez gang is making time, still driving around in their hooded masks. Eventually Sheriff Lobo catches up with the outlaws and manages to shoot one of them in the face, the rest of the Sanchez crew shoot Lobo repeatedly and leave him for dead. Detective Grimes finds Lobo lying in a creek, still alive, but bleeding from his stomach. Lobo has Grimes hand him a pair of pliers, he digs the bullet out of his own chest and the two are once again on the trail of the killers. Sanchez and his crew play more shows (unfortunately for the audience), kill a lot more people and suffer through some internal fighting over Sanchez’s theory that birds turn into bats at night. Detective Henderson hosts a rather strange party where she serves hot dog pizza and her friends, unable to resist Lobo’s charm, end up in bed with him. Apparently, a shirtless, hairy man with a huge belly, wearing a cowboy hat and bloody, tan Dockers who refers to women as “training bra” and “she-bitch” is hard to resist. It isn’t long before Henderson and Grimes discover that they aren’t dealing with your average mass murdering, country-western, psychopaths, as they learn, via a fax, that each member of the gang is well over a hundred years old and Sanchez was actually executed in 1884. Stranger than that, a radio DJ comes across Reno Sanchez and the Ghost Train’s first single, “High Noon” and it somehow hits number 1. Despite such good fortune, the gang is still trying to make their way to Nashville with Henderson, Grimes and Lobo hot on their trail.

“A Modern Day Western: The Sanchez Saga” claims to be “the bloodiest western ever made” and that is probably not far from correct, though the featured blood baths are more typical of a B horror movie than a true western. The film’s weakest point technically is the audio; the music is far too loud in some areas, making the dialogue difficult to hear. Less problematic, there is a great deal of audible camera noise that is loud enough to be distracting. Numerous scenes take too long to play out; the film could easily be 40 minutes shorter. The acting in some areas is horrific (but entertainingly bad), particularly by bit players. The music is beyond atrocious and there is a good bit of it in the film. Despite its weaknesses, “The Sanchez Saga” has some extremely funny moments and the story, though a bit drawn out, is fairly interesting. By far the dialogue is responsible for most of the successful humor in the film. Occasionally there is some decent physical comedy (most notably the Sanchez Shuffle), but for the most part the dialogue and visual humor are what allow the movie to hold its own. The film is a true Indy, and displays an unusual meshing of genres. Charles E. Cullen is also the mastermind behind the more economical (73 minutes to be exact) gore fest “Super Badass” released in 1998 by Sub Rosa.

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