And God Said to Cain (1970)

And God Said to Cain (1970) movie poster

director Antonio Margheriti
viewed: 09/02/2018

And God Said to Cain starts a little slow, with Gary Hamilton (Klaus Kinski) getting pardoned after 10 years hard labor on a work gang. But it quickly picks up, with the wind and tumult of a coming storm, both literallly and metaphorically. Antonio Margheriti stages the majority of the drama over one tornado-ravaged night in a small Western town

Kinski is the protagonist, if not quite the “hero” of the picture, slated to dole out revenge one rifle blast at a time. While not exactly “supernatural,” Kinski’s Hamilton is see as a ghost, a monster, “one miserable man,” working his way through his vengeance via outright slaughter .

And God Said to Cain does indeed play as a horror film, with an atmosphere of implacable dread and through the haunting ringing of the church bell.

Margheriti puts Kinski’s unusual visage to great use, casting the camera over planes and crannies of his face and lingering on his inscrutable  and vaguely tragic hooded eyes.

Good stuff.

Run, Man, Run (1968)

Run, Man, Run (1968) movie poster

director  Sergio Sollima
viewed: 08/17/2018

Currently at #20 on spaghetti-western.net’s 20 Essential Spaghetti Westerns, Sergio Sollima’s Run, Man, Run is the director’s third and final entry in the genre. 

Not exactly a sequel to his more generally appreciated The Big GundownRun, Man, Run, Tomas Milian reprises his role as agabond Cuchillo (in brownface?), the knife-thrower extraordinaire, who evolves from petty criminal to revolutionary through the film.

The narrative is episodic, almost picaresque, and the tone, which is the site of much apparent criticism is comedic, while still pushing a serious message.

Hitched to the windmill

You can always reason with a woman in love.

A cavalcade of characters run after Cuchillo, who himself is on the trail of a cache of gold, intended to support the Revolution. Chelo Alonso is great as his Mexican spitfire, Dolores and in stark contrast to the blonde Salvation Army worker, Penny Bannington (Linda Veras).

In my opinion, I wouldn’t necessarily place it in the top 20 of the genre, but it is a good, solid film.

Best bit of dialogue:

“Hey amigo, can you tell me where…”
“I ain’t your amigo, dirty Mexican, get outta here”
“I think we’re in Texas.”

Death Sentence (1968)

Death Sentence (1968) movie poster

director Mario Lanfranchi
viewed: 07/25/2018

Death Sentence is an interesting if not essential Spaghetti Western. Notable for it’s four act structure, a quartet of revenge plays set Cash/Django (Robin Clarke) on the trails of his brother’s four killers.

Many agree that the first sequence, starring Richard Conte is the film’s strongest segment as Clarke hounds him in the desert as Conte’s Diaz has a gun but no water and Cash has water but no pistol.

Tomas Milian really chews scenery as the albino O’Hara, or at least tries to. 

Clarke has the rugged looks of late Sixties manliness, but doesn’t exactly exude charisma. When he digs a bullet out of his thigh to get his revenge – that’s pretty rad.

Terrible theme song.

Bandidos (1967)

 Bandidos (1967) movie poster

director  Massimo Dallamano
viewed: 07/15/2018

A cool title sequence opens Bandidos, a very solid, though lesser-known and seen Spaghetti Western.  

This was Massimo Dallamano’s first film as director, having served as cinematographer for at least 15 years prior. He was fresh off of shooting A Fistful of Dollars (1964) and For a Few Dollars More (1965) for Sergio Leone. According to spaghetti-western.net, Dallamano was disappointed with not being brought back for the finale of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966), and infused Bandidos with themes of betrayal, apparently pointed at Leone.

“Hurry up and die, will you?”

Bandidos is packed with lots of action, nearly brimming with it, and the cinematographer turned director shoots the whole thing teaming with style and panache. It all starts with a train robbery, the brutal killing of all of the passengers, save one, a sharpshooter who has his hands maimed. Revenge percolates, a young man comes into play, student to the damaged gunslinger, but it doesn’t turn out quite the way one might think.

Good stuff.

One Silver Dollar (1965)

One Silver Dollar (1965) movie poster

director Giorgio Ferroni
viewed: 06/24/2018

Not as stylish or cinematic as the best of Spaghetti Westerns, One Silver Dollar still boasts a solid scenario.

In the aftermath of the American Civil War, two brothers emerge from a prison camp with emasculated pistols, but unbroken spirits, ready to begin life anew. The brothers part ways to try to make a go of things. Post-war America is still the Wild West, and Southerners are still held in contempt. When Gary O’Hara (Giuliano Gemma) finally gets an opportunity with a land baron for a dangerous job, it turns out to be a set-up, brother is poised against brother and both are shot down in a flurry of bullets.

Certainly, One Silver Dollar has some nice flourishes, but as others have noted, it bears less of the Italian Western than its Hollywood prototype.

I can’t help but continue to find it weird how Western narratives so often feature Southerners as the beaten and disenfranchised class and become the heroes. It’s easy to see where the sympathies lie, with the class that has lost its pride and power. Underdogs make for good rooting.

But to ignore the real reasons for the Civil War, the significance of Slavery and deep racism, it’s something quite common throughout the genre that I’ve always found gobsmacking.

Compañeros (1970)

Compañeros (1970) movie poster

director  Sergio Corbucci
viewed: 06/04/2018

After watching Compañeros, I realize how I’ve really got to get around to watching all of Sergio Corbucci’s Westerns.

Compañeros is a Zapata western, Corbucci’s second, after 1968’s The Mercenary. Stories set against the Mexican Revolution proved keen metaphorical landscapes for the more political Italian filmmakers, and they really deserve closer reading. I recommend Simon Gelton’s write-up on Compañeros at Spaghetti-Western.net.

On the surface, Compañeros seems more lightweight, as the Spaghetti Westerns of the 1960’s moved towards more comedy in the 1970’s. Thomas Milian and Franco Nero are good, but as almost everyone has noted, Jack Palance steals the show, in what is definitely my favorite Jack Palance role. He seemed to be having a very good time, smoking weed with his prosthetic hand and vengeful raptor.

Good stuff.

Se sei vivo spara (1967)

Se sei vivo spara (1967) movie poster

director Giulio Questi
viewed: 06/02/2018

The title Django, Kill…If You Live, Shoot! is an inappropriate misnomer to what is definitely one of the most crazy, violent, and fascinating Westerns to come out of Italy in the heyday of the genre there. Since the Django piece of the title was tacked on for marketing abroad, I think it would be better to refer to it as the literal translation of the Italian original Se sei vivo spara (If You Live, Shoot!)

The whole thing starts with our protagonist, “half-breed” Thomas Milian reaching out from his shallow grave. Betrayed by gringos who ripped off a load of Wells Fargo gold, he tracks them only to find them lynched by the most villainous town in the West.

There is so much going on in this film: visual play in the camera work and editing, the bizarre deconstructed revenge story, four sets of villains, the gay caballeros, fingers digging into the patient’s wounds for gold bullets, that final shot of the children playing and distorting their faces. A sense of horror pervades the whole.

People just ain’t no good.

Massacre Time (1966)

Massacre Time (1966) movie poster

director Lucio Fulci
viewed: 05/06/2018

Fulci’s first Western has requisite grit, perversity, and blood, the stuff that set the Spaghetti Western apart from the Hollywood ones and revitalized the genre. Also Massacre Time is a pretty badass title and that poster is killer too.

Massacre Time itself is not all meat, but it is pretty toothsome featuring Franco Nero and George Hilton as brothers, reunited to inflict some vengeance on a clan of nogoodniks who have taken over their small town.

There is a similar, if less effective, half-brother twist as in Adios, Texas (also 1966 — released in the same month, no less). There is also a foppish Sadist archetype (played here by Nino Castelnuovo – how old is this archetype, I wonder).

Fulci pulls off some stylish shots and sequences, but it’s the violence that elevates the film, from the more pointed cruelty of the whipping scene to the somewhat elegant shootout towards the end.

I also liked the scene with the kid playing the diegetic harmonica.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Texas, Adios (1966)

Texas, Adios (1966) movie poster

director Ferdinando Baldi
viewed: 04/02/2018

Texas, Adios isn’t necessarily a vital Spaghetti Western. It’s an adequate one.

It does have prime age Franco Nero going for it. But this is no Django.

It does, as others have noted, feel at times more Hollywood than other Italian Westerns. But it shifts around in vibe, at times more typical of its Spaghetti brethren. But that shifting also denudes it of feeling particularly compelling as well.

I don’t know what else to say.

The Grand Duel (1972)

The Grand Duel (1972) movie poster

director Giancarlo Santi
viewed: 03/03/2018

Giancarlo Santi’s The Grand Duel isn’t itself quite grand. It features some excellent sequences, stylishly shot, but it shifts back and forth between more dramatic scenes and comic ones, giving an odd, unsettled tone.

Apparently, it suffers the impact of They Call Me Trinity (1970), a watershed of sorts for the Spaghetti Western, in which a successfully comic tone was then forced upon many other comers, signalling the beginning of the fade of the genre.

This was Santi’s first film as head director, having worked alongside Sergio Leone and other notable Italian filmmakers. The comedy is particularly odd in its placement, coming right after some very serious dramatic sequences, really throwing off the vibe.

The cast is good, in particular Klaus Grünberg, who plays a pockmarked pretty boy sadist (also clearly meant to be read as homosexual and not in a progressive way). Grünberg exhibits the malice of a good villain.

The Duel itself comes at the end, and even as the dramatic climax happens, the music breaks into a more jovial tune, a final punctuation of the film’s mixed-up sensibility.