Man of the East (1972)

a.k.a. - E poi lo chiamarono il magnifico (ITA)

An enjoyably light-hearted Terence Hill Spaghetti Western from director Enzo Barboni. Optimum UK R2 DVD.


The Film

Into the 1970s, the serious Spaghetti Western had become oversaturated and was starting to decline with writers struggling to come up with new storyline ideas. However the Sabata and Trinity films had proven remarkably popular and shown that comedy westerns could still sell, so filmmaker were quick to cash in. Producer Alberto Grimaldi had missed out on the Trinity films, but managed to secure both the director and star of the productions and looked to make his own...

Somewhere in the Old West, two members of a gang meet up and liberate their third friend from a prison to tell him that their fourth member, 'The Englishman', has passed away. Meanwhile the Englishman's son, Tom (Terence Hill) is on a train and then a stage, bound for his father's old house, ordered by his father to travel to the Old West and make a man of himself. He meets up with the trio at the house and as a tribute to his father, they take it upon themselves to make Tom into a real man - he resists, abhoring violence, but when he catches the eye of the local landowner's daughter and discovers that she is meant for the rough and ruthless Morton, he realises that being a man might be the only way to stay alive...

Enzo Barboni's script is the classic Old Western tale of an outsider arriving and making enemies - for comic effect however he makes this outsider a real outsider (a British Peer to be precise) and most of the comedy revolves around his interaction with the typical Old Western veteran trio he ends up living with. Although not particularly original, these scenes have a certain enjoyable charm and certainly the sight of Tom on his bike riding alongside the trio's horses is genuinely funny. The rest of the comedy varies between the simply lighthearted and the almost surreal (such as the punishment the trio inflict on the prison guard) and some of the humour does seem a little forced.

Characterisation is surprisingly strong and Barboni goes to a lot of trouble at the start of the film to introduce us to the trio before they even encounter Tom - while this does give the film a strong backing, it can drag on a little and it is 15 minutes before Tom even appears. Even after this, the pacing could have used a little tightening up and there are several rather superfluous scenes - the black dressed assasins are amusing but unnecessary, as is the scene where Austin offers to buy Tom's land. However, there are a few parts that could have used a bit more expansion - Tom is convinced of the joys of law and order and it should come as a shock when he discovers that his father was into stagecoach heists, but nothing is made of this. Fortunately the good characterisation does mean that the climax is genuinely tense, although the very end of the film does seem rather rushed and its focus on the trio rather than Tom is a little disappointing.

Genuine American scenes at the start (some beautiful stock shots of the Rio Grande railroad) become Jugoslavian locations. Not the most common Spaghetti Western location, but not unknown, they provide a more fertile landscape than the typical AlmerÝan deserts and look suitably authentic. Barboni does a solid job behind the camera and works very well with Terence Hill, although he generally lets the story take centre stage and there is no 'fancy shooting' here. The De Angelis brothers provide a typically strong soundtrack (although it is a relief that the title song 'Don't Lose Control' doesn't crop up much in the film itself as it could become quickly grating).
Although Terence Hill was by now a solid veteran of the Old West, he looks every bit the na´ve kid at the film's start, rather remniscent of his earlier Toby character from Old Surehand (1965), but scrubs down very well by the film's finalÚ. The trio themselves are all American character actors and have some great interaction - Harry Carey Jr. as bible preaching Holy Joe was an American TV Western regular and had worked with Hill on ...continuavano a chiamarlo TrinitÓ (1971), little known Dominic Barto has appeared briefly in Lo chiamavano TrinitÓ (1970) and a Sergio Garrone Western before playing 'Monkey' while Gregory Walcott who plays Bull is best known now for his unfortunate decision to take the lead role in Ed Wood's notorious Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959) but was also a veteran of the American Western with this his only Spaghetti appearance. The beautiful Yanti Somer returns from the second Trinity film to again play the love interest, while genre veteran Riccardo Pizzuti puts on a typically strong performance as Morton.

Barboni's script is not perfect, unsure whether to be an all out comedy or just lighthearted, but with Terence Hill in the lead role it is hard for the film to be anything but enjoyable. The solid characterisation, beautiful locations and some very good character actors give the film a solid backing. It comes certainly recommended to any fans of Terence Hill and the comedy westerns although newcomers might be best starting with the Trinity films.


In brief:

Anyone famous in it? Terence Hill - made his start in the Karl May Westerns and as Django in Preparati La Bara (1966)
Directed by anyone interesting? Enzo Barboni (as E.B. Clucher) - after working as cinematographer on a variety of Spaghetti Westerns he wrote and directed Lo chiamavano TrinitÓ (1970) and worked on the best of the Hill/Spencer comedies.
Any gore/violence? Lots of fist-fighting, no blood.
Any sex? No
Who is it for?
Certainly one to watch for existing fans of the Terence Hill films and comedy Spaghetti Westerns.

The DVD

Visuals Original Aspect Ratio  - 2.35:1. Anamorphically Enhanced. Colour
The picture quality is strong with only mild grain and some light speckling.
Audio English mono - sounds fine throughout, if a little quiet.
Subtitles None
Extras None
Region Region 2 (UK, Europe) - PAL
Other regions? Also available with a similar, widescreen print from Suevia in Spain (Spanish and English audio), Homevision in Netherlands (English audio, Dutch subs) and AWE in Scandinavia (English and Spanish audio, Norweigan, Danish, Finnish and Swedish subs). Expected from Koch Media in Germany later in 2008.
Cuts? Believed to be fully uncut. Print is English language.

Summary

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All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 16th August 2008.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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