Seine Kugeln pfeifen das Todeslied (1969)

a.k.a The Gunman of Ave Maria; Forgotten Pistolero; Il Pistolero dell'Ave Maria

A cleverly written, but over-directed Spaghetti Western from Ferdinando Baldi. Marketing Film R0 German disc. 

The Film

Deep in Mexico, Rafael is attacked by gunmen, sent to capture him alive; he takes shelter in the lodge of a man named Sebastian. It turns out that Rafael has been trying to track him down for years, he reveals that Sebastian's mother was not the woman he thought it was, but rather a noble woman named Anna who betrayed her husband (Sebastian's father) to his death. A servant at the Hacienda secreted Sebastian away and raised him as her own son, Rafael is an old family friend, and wants to see vengeance served against Anna and her lover Tomas for what they did. Together they ride to their old hometown but along the way face attacks from Tomas and Anna's personal forces...

Family loyalty was a common theme in stories of the Old West with revenge for a father or mother's murder the usual driving force behind most anti-heros. Writer and director Ferdinando Baldi had shot 5 Westerns before The Gunman of Ave Maria, and he had explored the theme
of patricide previously in Texas Addio (1966) - this time he rather complicates matters with a far more detailed mix of characters and links. Mostly a dialogue based Western, there are a few action scenes - one of the big problem with Texas Addio (1966) is that the action scenes were rather crudely written in to the largely dialogue based script, here they are far more a part of the storyline, and fit in well. The film boasts an inevitable but tense climax with some unexpected turns.

Baldi's quick-fire direction can take a lot of getting used too - his dialogue sequences rarely have the two talkers in the same shot, preferring to cut between extreme close-ups or long shots of each character as they speak, similarly the action scenes often have some very fast cuts. This technique can become rather nauseating at times and sometimes makes it hard to follow the conversation as it becomes very easy to get the characters muddled up. On the plus side, Baldi is expert at shooting in flaming buildings, and the film's firey climax sequence looks amazing. Composer Roberto Pregadio gives an appropriate and distinctive soundtrack to the film, he goes for the more traditional guitar and whistling theme rather than the songs that open most Spaghetti Westerns.

None of the big names in euro-cinema are on the cast list but all of them perform their roles well. José Suárez is interesting casting as the father as he played the patricidal lead villain in Texas Addio (1966). The only problem comes because the three 'good-guys' all look rather similar, and can get confusing at times.

The Gunman of Ave Maria is an interesting film with a good plot, but some rather over-edited direction in some scenes. A better than average Euro-Western it boasts a good firey climax, but lacks many exciting action scenes that denote many of the most popular Spaghetti Westerns and hence action fans probably won't enjoy this title so much. Recommended to Spaghetti Western fans who prefer more plot than action.

In brief:

Anyone famous in it? No-one of note.
Directed by anyone interesting? Ferdinando Baldi - an often overlooked Italian director who made his home in the Euro-Western genre.
Any violence? The usual fist, knife and gunfights - a little blood.
Any sex? None.
Good soundtrack?Composer Roberto Pregadio gives the film a strong soundtrack that has often been re-used.
Who is it for?
A well written film, recommended to fans of the plot based Euro-Westerns.


Visuals The film is shown at approximately 1.85:1 anamorphic wide-screen. Colour. Aspect ratio would appear to be correct.
The image is strong with almost no print damage, minimal grain and good colours. Only the title sequence is slightly lower quality
Audio English mono - sounds good, some very light hiss.
German mono and 5.1 surround - sounds good, but the 5.1 mix is quite flat. Some light hiss.
Italian mono - sounds good, with no hiss.
Subtitles None.
RuntimeMain feature runtime:  1hr 20m 02s (PAL)
ExtrasThe disc includes:
  • German cinema trailer. Low PQ. (2m 30s)
  • German title sequence. Low PQ. (2m 21s)
  • Artwork gallery - German promotional artwork and pressbook. Presented as video track, not scrollable, no music. (5m 43s)
  • German press advertising. Presented as above. (5m 40s)
  • Filmography lists for cast and director. Presented as above. (11m 15s)
  • Bonus trailer for Zum Abschied noch ein Totenhemd (1968) (a.k.a Vendo cara la pelle). (2m 35s)
  • Bonus trailer for Ohne Dollar keinen Sarg (1966) (a.k.a The Bounty Killer). (2m 53s)
Region Region 0 (worldwide) - PAL
Other regions? Japanese DVD, non-anamorphic print, but does include interview with director and deleted scene.
Cuts? The film is believed to be uncut. Titles and credits are in Italian.



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All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 26th July. 2006.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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