the Spaghetti Western boom did not kick in until 1965, driven by the
globally sucessful Sergio Leone films, European film-makers had
been shooting Westerns as far back as the silent movie era. Duello nel Texas
is a perfect example of these films that more closely resemble the
genre's American cousins, rather than its later adaptations within
In the small Mexican border town of Carterville,
Lisa and Manuel Martinez are heading into town, her to pick up
supplies, and him to get drunk. Before they go their father hands
Manuel a bag of gold he has dug from their new strike, with
instructions to cash it at the bank. That night Manuel gets very drunk
and the next day finds himself home without the gold. Later that day
three masked men raid the farm, stealing the gold and killing Manuel's
father, he sets off in persuit but is shot in the shoulder. The events
are seen by a man who turns out to be Ricardo (Richard Harrison), the
adopted brother of the family, returning from fighting in Mexico.
Devistated by the death of the man he called father, he sets out to
track down the killers, but finds himself in conflict with the town
sheriff who believes in law and order, and wants to see the killers
brought to trial and not just killed in combat.
From the beginning of the film, it is clear that this is not a traditional shoot 'em up Western - for the first 15 minutes were are introduced first to the daily routine of Lisa
and Manuel and then to their estranged, adopted brother, building from
the get go some strong 3-Dimensional characterisation that makes us
really care about their fate later in the film. Unlike many of the
later Spaghetti Westerns, where the lead characters were all but
superheros, the characters here are very realistically portrayed and
don't always hit their targets. The story itself contains a variety of
twists and turns as Roberto tries to track down the killers, and most
noticable is the very unstated way that plot twists are revealed
through casual comments between the characters. Eventually it builds up
to an exciting climax, with the titular duel a very tense affair.
almost unknown director Ricardo Blasco teams up with the
cinematographer Massimo Dallamano who had gained experience shooting a
variety of European adventure films during the 1960s and would
later work with Sergio Leone on his Dollars films. Duello Nel Texas
is certainly very different to these most famous Italian Westerns and
is generally well filmed throughout - most notable are the horse riding
scenes which seem to have been shot from a poorly sprung moving truck
and possibly by accdient have a handheld quality, making these scenes
far more thrilling than usual, the fistfights are also well filmed,
with some nice long takes. The 1.66:1 frame is very different to the
scope widescreen frames used by Leone and subsequently most of the
Spaghetti Westerns, but it suits this plot focused Western a lot
better. The soundtrack by Ennio Morricone (credited as Dan Savio), marks his first genre score, with a catchy opening song.
American actor Richard Harrison had come to Europe as part of the sword
and sandal boom of the early 1960s, and performs well in the lead role
here. Italian born Giacomo Rossi-Stuart plays the sheriff, and is a
familiar face from a variety of European films of the 1960s and 1970s -
including The Last Man on Earth (1964) and Mario Bava's Knives of the Avenger (1966). Few of the familiar genre faces are here, but there are some solid performances all round.
Most of the early European Westerns are poorly rated, simply trying to emulate the standard American formula - however, Duello nel Texas
is a very impressive film, boasting a well written storyline, strong
direction and a solid cast. Fans of the Spaghetti Westerns might well
be disappointed by the lack of action and European style, but it should
appeal to fans of the American Westerns and anyone who enjoys plenty of
storyline with their Western. Recommended.
Anyone famous in it?
Richard Harrison - an American actor who made a name for himself in 1960s Euro-cult adventures.
Directed by anyone interesting?
Ricardo Blasco - an almost completely unknown Spanish born director with few other credits.
A little blood.
Who is it for?
Recommended to Spaghetti and American Western fans.