“One-Eyed Jacks” is probably — other than Arthur Penn’s “The Left Handed Gun,” starring Paul Newman — the strangest, most disjointed but utterly fascinating western ever made.

OK, Penn’s 1976 “The Missouri Breaks,” which also starred Marlon Brando, comes in third.

Originally, the script of “Jacks” was written by the quirky action director Samuel Fuller, pulling the story from Charles Neider’s “The Authentic Death of Hendry Jones.”

It was slated to be directed by Stanley Kubrick, who had no patience with the screenplay and left to direct “Spartacus,” leaving star Marlon Brando adrift. No one seemed to want to touch it, so Brando did it.

In the film, swirling back and forth from behind the camera to the front, Brando plays an itinerant bank robber named Rio.

The film starts after a robbery in the Mexican state of Sonora, in 1880, with Rio and his partner “Dad” Longworth (Karl Malden, Brando’s co-star from “On the Waterfront” and “A Streetcar Named Desire”) pinned down on a sandy hill by the Federales.

Seeing no way to hold out, Dad volunteers to go for fresh horses and never comes back, leaving Rio to spend five years in a Mexican prison.

Rio, with a heart full of revenge, returns to the Monterrey coast with a couple of prison mates, Chico (Larry Duran) and Bob Amory (the indispensable bad guy and most cowboy of all cowboys, Ben Johnson).

Rio finds his old partner and betrayer in Monterrey (beautifully filmed by Charles Lang), where Dad has become a wealthy sheriff (even then that was possible) and is married to the breathtaking Katy Jurado (just as breathtaking as she was with Gary Cooper in “High Noon”).

There is the added heat of Katy’s daughter Louisa (Pina Pellicer).

Of course Rio, never far from being Brando, falls in love with Louisa and begins to think that running off with Dad’s beloved stepdaughter may be the best revenge.

We’re treated to some vicious fistfights, Dad’s bullwhipping of the lashed-up Rio, and a sadistic and horrifying mutilation of a perfectly good shooting hand. Of course, it ends as all westerns must, whether by Brando, John Wayne or Gary Cooper, with a city square dance of death and blazing guns.

“One Eyed Jacks” suffered severe beatings by a flock of top and bottom critics, mostly hitting on Brando.

Karl Malden, Brando’s Actor’s Studio classmate and frequent co-star, came out the cleanest in reviews, and deservedly so.

I’ve seen the film several times, and it’s not without its share of flaws. All in all, it’s jumpy and uneven enough to be interesting.

Seeing it for the first time, you’ll be drawn into it and have to admit it was worth it to see the disciplined Malden and improvising Brando, two New York method-trained Broadway stars, bouncing off one another, in leather and spurs, and clashing in Mexican heat. C’mon, you’ll want to say you were there when that happened.

J.P. Devine is a former stage and screen actor.

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