1966 was a big year for
the Spaghetti Western. At the beginning of the year, a lone coffin
dragging anti-hero became a success across Europe as Sergio Corbucci
introduced Django – a
character who would inspire almost a decade of violent anti-heros and
muddy/gritty westerns. A month later, Lucio Fulci's Massacre
Time brought new levels of
violence to the Old West. Later in the year, Texas, Addio
was released, a more traditional American storyline was accentuated
with the strong violence and a 'south of the border' setting of the
Euro-Western. All of these films had one thing in common, Franco Nero
as the sharpshooting lead.
film opens with a frantic shootout in a small town, two gunmen run
around the buildings as shots fly. We meet Sheriff Burt Sullivan
(Franco Nero) as he shoots the weapon out of one of the gunmen's
hands. Although he lets the gunman go free, the shooter returns
shortly to ambush Sullivan on the trail, leading to an old-school
Western gunfight on a rockface. Bert makes short work of the gunman
after he makes an unforgivable error and leaves his cover. In quick
succession: we meet Bert's younger brother Jim; Bert announces he is heading off to find Cisco Delgado, the
man who many years previously had killed their father, and bringing him
back to Texas for justice; Jim begs to go with him and Bert relents.
The brothers head down across the border. There they discover that
life is brutal and cheap, and rapidly make some violent enemies. In
time they track down Delgado but discover something shocking that
makes the revenge they sought much harder to carry out. Along the way
Bert aides a revolution, and Jim learns some valuable life lessons.
is a very mixed bag - the general plot of the film is solid, it is a
slight twist on the standard revenge piece, nothing spectacular, but
it holds up well. However, on closer inspection the script has some
flaws – mostly missed opportunities. It is merely a
couple of minutes before Bert and Jim are heading off to Mexico, not
nearly enough time to build a character – we know that Bert is
quick with a gun (and accurate in the way that only a Spaghetti
Western anti-hero can be), but little else. This lack of
characterisation continues throughout the film. Jim is generally
shown to be naive and inexperienced, but when it comes to shooting,
he is pinpoint accurate. After an early shootout, Jim confesses that
it is the first time he has killed someone, but this fact hardly
seems to register.
The story could have been much improved if Jim had
started off unable to kill a man, let alone hit him but been forced
to learn fast by the continual attacks. The 'big twist' has little
impact on the audience because we barely know the characters it
affects. In all, another half hour of character building could have
done the film good. A revolution subplot gives the film its biggest
gunfight as a swarm of revolutionaries take on Delgado's troops, with
some help from Bert, although this sequence, as well as a dry
riverbed shootout seem to be tacked-on to provide some big gun battle
moments, and do nothing to further the main storyline. Franco Nero
described the film as the most American-style Western he starred in,
indeed had it replaced the large gunbattle scenes with
characterisation it would not only have passed as an American
Western, but been a much better film.
most positive aspect of the production has to be the look of the
film, this is aided by a scope widescreen that is used to
the full throughout the film, and some beautiful Spanish locations.
While the shootouts are pretty standard affairs, with horsefalls and
balcony tumbling in large supply, the fistfights are quite
distinctive. They were shot with stuntmen who often employ
professional wrestling moves (watch out for a 'backbreaker' and
'scoop and slam') but are awkwardly edited – frequent switches to
different camera angles are jarring and the lack of music makes these
sequences unimpressive. They certainly pale in comparson to the the
PoV camera fights in Django (1966) or even the fights in Ferdinando Baldi's later Viva Django (1968).
As expected, Franco Nero looks very good here - not as gritty or grizzly as his Django
portrayal, he looks convincing throughout. The young Alberto Dell'Acqua
as his brother Jim is rather let down by the script and never really
gets much to do but looks decent when he gets a chance to act. Various
familiar faces crop up throughout, including Luigi Pistilli (Milano Calibro 9 (1972)) and Gino Pernice (the earless Jonathan in Django (1966)).
the film, despite its flaws, is watchable and passably entertaining,
mostly thanks to Franco Nero and some big gunfights – although it
reeks of missed opportunities that could have made this film a
notable genre entry. Baldi would later take the plot focus of this film to make the more effective Il Pistolero dell'Ave Maria (1969).
Quite a lot of gunfights, no blood. Some distinctive pro-wrestling style fist-fights.
Who is it for?
Of interest to Spaghetti Western fans but not for new comers, there are many far superior films to
Typical ballad-like Spaghetti Western title music, average music throughout.
Original Aspect Ratio - 2.35:1 anamorphic wide-screen. Colour. The
image is good but with some noticable print damage: large amounts of grain are
present and some scenes are quite soft. It is never unwatchable though.
English and Italian language - Dolby digital mono. Sound fine although neither sync up perfectly.
English (these are based on a translation of the Italian track)
Main feature runtime: 1hr 32m 09s
The disc includes:
Franco Nero: Back in the Saddle - interesting interview with star Franco Nero - 5m 35s
On screen biography of Franco Nero.
Original US Trailer, slightly beat-up quality - 2m 43s