Don't Turn the Other Cheek (1971)

a.k.a. - íViva la muerte... tua! (ITA)

Franco Nero and Eli Wallach star in Duccio Tessari's hit and miss comedy Spaghetti Western. USA R0 Wild East DVD

The Film

Somewhere in the Old West, a Russian prince, Dmitri Vassilovich Orlowsky (Franco Nero) is disguised as a clergyman and carrying out a series of robberies. He hears about a shipment of gold that has been hidden somewhere in Mexico and sets out to track down Max Lozoya (Eli Wallach), a Mexican murderer due to hang in Yuma jail. At the same time Irish journalist Mary O'Donnell (Lynn Redgrave) arranges with the Sheriff of Yuma to have the Mexican revolutionary leader, El Salvador, released (hoping to get the scoop on him leading an uprising) - but he died 6 months ago. Not wanting to pass up on the bribe money, the sheriff aranges to have Lozoya set free, as the only other Mexican in the prision he figures that no-one will know the difference - besides which, he plans to shoot the escapee. But with Dmitri's help, Lozoya does get free and the pair find themselves in Mexico trying to track down the gold while inadvertantly causing a revolution...

Mexico was in a state of near permanent revolution during the 19th and early 20th centuries - at least that is what Italian film makers would have you believe. Don't Turn the Other Cheek has a pretty typical setting, although quite a lot later than most Westerns, being set some time around 1915 it seems, evidenced early on with the presence of a motor car (although aside from this, the later setting does not actually affect the storyline itself). Co-writer Massimo De Rita previously worked on Companeros (1970) which succesfully combined light hearted moments with serious political issues - Don't Turn the Other Cheek is more focused on the humour, with the couple of more serious moments being lost in a mix of physical comedy and some rather purile gags (with a lot more sex references than normal).

It does seem at times like the writers took a serious script and expunged it of political commentary, replacing these scenes with the low-brow humour. The lack of politics is quite surprising and although we are clearly meant to support the revolutionaries against the army, we never get any particular reason to do so. The characters are all quite familiar - Orlowsky in particular is very remniscent of Peterson from Companeros, while Lozoya instantly brings to mind that film's El Vasco (or indeed any Tomas Milian Mexican peasant role). The pacing is a little slow in paces, the film runs to 100 minutes and would perhaps have been better as 90 but lots of double crossing and twists keeps the film moving. The climactic town gun battle is good fun but just goes on a little too long, the ending is well played though and the coda is kept nice and short to wrap things up effectively.

More at home as a writer, Duccio Tessari takes the director's chair here and unfortunately his lack of experience shows as the film never flows as smoothly as the comparable Corbucci or Sollima productions and at times it does seem rather disjointed. Fortunately the budget was all there and the sets and locations all look as good as ever. Genre regular Gianni Ferrio provides a rather different to usual score, but one that suits the film well.

Franco Nero takes the top billing here and just like in Companeros looks very fitting in the suit - he gives a strong performance and really helps to keep the film entertaining. After the success of The Good, The Bad and the Ugly (1966), Eli Wallach made three other Spaghetti Westerns including this one, his interactions with Nero are probably the highlight of the film. Lynn Redgrave (Nero's future sister-in-law) is well cast as Mary, but does get a very grating Irish accent which makes it a real relief when she is not on screen. German actor Horst Janson (Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter (1974)) is rather surprising but effective casting as the sheriff while genre regular Eduardo Fajardo plays yet another Mexican officer and a number of other familiar faces crop up in the minor roles.

Obviously an attempt to cash in on the success of Companeros, Don't Turn the Other Cheek borrows heavily from the earlier production (to the extent that in Germany it was marketed as a sequel) but it simply cannot compare to Corbucci's film's light but effective politics and in-depth storyline. However, on its own terms, Tessari's effort is a perfectly good later era Spaghetti Western with some genuinely amusing moments and it boasts good performances from Nero and Wallach. There are many better films to watch first, but Spaghetti Western collectors will certainly enjoy this. Of interest.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? Franco Nero - the Italian actor who starred in the genre defining Django (1966)
Eli Wallach - American actor who also appeared in Corbucci's uninspired Il bianco, il giallo, il nero (1975)
Directed by anyone interesting? Duccio Tessari - an occasional director but better known as a hard working writer, he co-scripted a large number of Peplum and Spaghetti Western titles including Leone's iconic Per un pugno di dollari (1964).
Any gore or violence ? Plenty of typical Western violence, nothing particularly vivid.
Any sex or nudity? A few unexpected sex jokes but no nudity.
Who is it for? Spaghetti Western fans who enjoy the lighter 1970s films should enjoy this.

Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 2.35:1. Anamorphically Enhanced. Colour.
Picture quality is strong with minimal damage and a decent amount of detail. Colours are slightly faded.
Audio English mono - sounds fine.
A couple of scenes, running to about 5 minutes in length are in Italian as these were never dubbed into English.
Subtitles English - fill in for the Italian language scenes.
Extras This disc includes:
  • Interview with actor Eli Wallach - he discusses his experiences in the Italian Westerns including some interesting stories about this film as well as a lot of tales from The Good, The Bad and the Ugly and the Italian industry in general. (19 minutes)
  • Original US title sequence - completely different to the Italian sequence seen on the main film print, it is a rather rude cartoon emphasising the 'cheeks' of the title. The opening theme is sung with the same Irish accent as Lynn Redgrave gets in the film. Fullscreen print, VHS quality.
  • International title sequence - as the Italian print on the main film, but with English language text.
  • American theatrical trailer - as Don't Turn the Other Cheek
  • Italians theatrical trailer - as íViva la muerte... tua!
  • Picture gallery - 32 stills and images of press materials from the film, presented as a video file, with chapter stops and film soundtrack backing.
Region Region 0 (ALL) - NTSC
Other regions? Available in Germany as Zwei Wilde Companeros and in Italy as íViva la muerte... tua! - neither DVD has English options.
Cuts? Believed to be fully uncut, it runs to 111 minutes and includes scenes not present in the English language prints. Print used is Italian language with the Italian opening sequence (stills of Franco Nero's character robbing a church, rather than the rude cartoon of the US prints).



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 10th July 2009.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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