Somewhere in the Old West, wealthy cattle owner Barrett is trying to scare, buy or kill farmers off their land in order to take it for himself. Peasant farmer Ramón (George Eastman) is taking money to Barrett to pay off a loan when he is mugged by men he later discovers are working for the cattle baron. Without the money to pay he looks set to lose the farm, but does not want any part of a vigilante group setting out to kill Barrett - until he discovers his home burnt and his father dead. Meanwhile, Barrett has called in the hired gun Django to kill his business partner and when Ramón is injured in the crossfire, he is taken in and looked after by the gunslinger.
Credited script writer Augusto Caminito had not much Spaghetti Western experience before penning L'ultimo killer, his only previous credit being on the very unusual Pecos è qui: prega e muori (1967), and the resulting storyline is not a typical Spaghetti Western, instead its heavy focus on storyline over action scenes makes it more closely resemble an American production. The background to the land grabbing is certainly a lot more detailed than most other genre films and the strained relationship between Barrett and his business partner Burt is very unusual - the educating of Ramón is similarly explored in more depth than usual and does not just fall into the cliché montage sequence.
Unfortunately you do get the feeling that a lot of interesting ideas are not as developed as they could be, in particular the reasons why the Sheriff chooses not to intervene and the story behind Barrett's woman and her relationship with Ramón which are hinted at but never really expanded upon. The pacing can also be a little slow in places which some of these expanded stories might have been able to fill. On the plus side, Caminito does not give in to the usual genre standby of gratuitous action scenes and although slowly paced the film certainly never drags, instead building up to a very impressive climax and conclusion that although perhaps not unpredictable, is very well played. The Django character was not named as such in the original Italian and only added for some export prints, although it does make for an interesting chapter in the character's evolution, becoming in his later years a jaded killer-for-hire.
Director Giuseppe Vari had some experience in the Sword and Sandal genre, but like writer Caminito was working on only his second Western. The production is generally solid but completely unremarkable - the sets and locations all do their job, as does the camerawork, but there is none of the flair that made the best Spaghetti Westerns so memorable. An early soundtrack from Euro-cult composer Roberto Pregadio (Mondo cannibale (1980)) provides a good backing although a 'sting' theme used in several scenes does seem a little too light in tone.
L'ultimo killer marks the first leading role for actor George Eastman who would soon become a Euro-cult regular. He gives a strong performance as the peasant Ramón and is convincing as someone learning how to kill. Jugoslavian actor Dragomir Bojanic (credited as Anthony Ghidra) was a regular in domestic cinema but little known in the rest of Europe aside from a few appearances in Spaghetti Westerns - he plays Django (known as Rezza on the Italian prints) and gives a good turn as the rather cold hearted killer. The rest of the cast are solid although there are none of the usual extras.
L'ultimo killer certainly ranks above the great mass of Spaghetti Westerns with a detailed and well written storyline and some good leading performances, however a rather generic production means that it will never rank among the genre's best titles. Italian Western fans will certainly want to track this down once they have watched their way through the better known titles.
|Anyone famous in it?||
George Eastman - Italian actor best known for the notorious 'video nasty' Antropophagus (1980)
|Directed by anyone interesting?||Giuseppe Vari (credited as Joseph Warren) - an Italian director who worked in a variety of Euro-cult genres, from Pepla including Roma contro Roma (1964) to nunsploitation sex film Suor Emanuelle (1977)|
|Any gore or violence ?||None|
|Any sex or nudity?||None|
|Who is it for?||An above average entry for genre fans.
|Visuals||Original aspect ratio 2.35:1 non-anamorphic wide-screen. Colour.
Picture quality is generally strong, although being non-anamorphic it does lack detail.
|Audio||English mono - sounds fine.|
|Extras||This disc includes:
|Region||Region 0 (ALL) - NTSC|
|Availability||Only available as a double-feature with Hate thy Neighbour.|
|Other regions?||Available from Koch Media Germany as Rocco - Ich leg dich um with an anamorphic print, Italian and German audio and English subtitles. Extra feature is an interview with star George Eastman and film historian Antonio Bruschini (Italian with German subs only).|
|Cuts?||Believed to be fully uncut. Titles and credits are in Italian although the title also appears in German.