The Dirty Outlaws (1967)

The Dirty Outlaws (1967) movie poster

director  Franco Rossetti
viewed: 12/15/2017

The Dirty Outlaws is another of the Quentin Tarantino top 20 Spaghetti Westerns.

It begins in media res, with a horse thief being hung for his crimes, only to be rescued by a fellow outlaw garbed as a priest. This is all before the main plot is established in which near-hangee, Andrea Giordana (billed as Chip Carman) takes the identity of a dead Confederate soldier.

The crucible for the story is a ghost town abandoned in plague and war except for a blind old man and his aide holding out hope for the return of his son from the waning days of the Civil War. Throw in some other escaped soldiers and the titular gang of “dirty outlaws” after a gold shipment, not to mention the lead moll of the gang, an ex-compatriot of our anti-hero, and the tinderbox is lit to explode.

Though not as stylish or bizarre as the best of the genre, the story drives the film. Which may be in part because director Franco Rossetti was known more as a screenwriter than director.

It’s a good yarn. Good movie.

Attraction (1969)

Attraction (1969) movie poster

director Tinto Brass
viewed: 12/03/2017

The 1960’s and early 1970’s were radical times, in the world, and in the cinema. “Avant-garde” may have been a recycled term to describe a lot of what was coming out influenced by the French New Wave and further radicalization, but challenging times made for challenging films, and particularly, films that challenged cinema, meaning, and all things status quo.

Though Tinto Brass is often described as avant-garde, as is his 1969 film Attraction, I found myself questioning its rigor.

Anita Sanders is a young woman about town (the town being London), and the film is arguably all her perspective, her looking (voyeurism and desire) and interior images from her mind and impressions. It’s about sex and sexuality, sure, but also Vietnam, advertising, art, race, violence, all to the decidedly psychedelic groove of Freedom (the band).

For my money, the success level of Attraction‘s avant-garde-ness is moderate. I’m thinking of other films of the era that I’ve seen that were more radical and challengeing. Take a lot of Godard, but more specifically Věra Chytilová’s Daisies (1966), Jaromil Jireš’s Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970), Dušan Makavejev’s W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism (1971), and to some extent as well, Marco Ferreri’s Dillinger Is Dead (1969).

I don’t know. I’ll see how it sits. It’s cool but not too cool.

The Ugly Ones (1966)

The Ugly Ones (1966) movie poster

director Eugenio Martín
viewed: 11/24/2017

The Ugly Ones features a lean, deft premise: a bounty hunter is after a popular criminal. Tomas Milian is Jose, the Mexican kid turned storied outlaw, a “Jesse James type”, ensnared by fortune-seeking free agents, not traditionally legitimate lawmen. Richard Wyler is the straight-shooting freelancer, but who is the real villain of this picture?

The Ugly Ones is also known as The Bounty Hunter, which is the name of the Marvin H. Albert novel from which it was adapted. Eugenio Martín’s Spaghetti Western offers a kind of noirish characterization – moral ambivalence, at least initially, on either side. Though, as the film wears on each protagonist starts to show his true colors.

In between the men is Eden, an interesting role for Ella Karin (a.k.a Halina Zalewska). No shrinking violet, she’s reaching for a pistol when we first spot her, hearing an intruder breaking in. She is at the heart of the village’s understanding of Jose, an active participant in the story, and moral barometer as well. Maybe a little too stylish for a Western but an interesting character and good performance.

It’s tight and aesthetically pleasing production. The Ugly Ones makes Quentin Tarantino’s list of top Spaghetti Westerns. As usual, his favorites are worth investigating.

Cut-Throats Nine (1972)

Cut-Throats Nine (1972) movie poster

director Joaquín Luis Romero Marchent
viewed: 11/13/2017

Cut-Throats Nine arrives as advertised, a pessimistic and violent Western, filmed in the snowy beauty of the Pyrenees. Its delicious premise, a lone lawman and his daughter are marching a chain gang across the snowy mountains, is inherently fraught with tension. The simplicity of this scenario is upended when it turns out that the chains that hold the men together are made of the gold that they had mined. And the intentions of even the lawman are thrown into deep doubt.

Joaquín Luis Romero Marchent uses interesting freeze frame preludes to flashbacks, stylizing further the backstories to the rough-hewn characters. Marchent and cinematographer Luis Cuadrado make the most of the gorgeous, icy landscapes.

It’s probably my second favorite Spaghetti Western I’ve newly seen this year, after Cemetery Without Crosses  (1969). Interesting since these two aren’t purely Italian films and feature directors who were French and Spanish. Not that any grouping or genre needs to be completely neat and clean.

Excellent stuff.

 

The Return of Ringo (1965)

The Return of Ringo (1965) movie poster

director Duccio Tessari
viewed: 11/04/2017

Duccio Tessari’s 1965 Spaghetti Western, The Return of Ringo, reinterprets The Odyssey in a post-Civil War drama of return and revenge. Spaghetti-western.net features a keen analysis of the film, suggesting Tessari (as others in the genre) would use the setting of the aftermath of the American Civil War as a thinly veiled metaphor for post-WWII Italy, the return and rectification of morality in a shattered and invaded landscape.

Interestingly, when Ringo returns to his home post-war, the bandits have taken over the town and the homestead, hold his wife in their clutches, as well as a little daughter he didn’t know he had. These dudes are Mexicans and are very racist against Americans, won’t allow them to own property or firearms.

Thus: “The Return of (G)ringo”

The Return of Ringo is a notable Spaghetti Western, on many lists of the best of the genre. And it’s solid, though it didn’t really overly impress me. Actually, reading the Spaghetti-western.net article gave me further pause to reconsider. Still, some films grab you, while others just wave “hello.”

The Night of the Devils (1972)

The Night of the Devils (1972) movie poster

director  Giorgio Ferroni
viewed: 10/29/2017

The Family of the Vourdalak, a novel by Aleksey Konstantinovich Tolstoy  (the “other Tolstoy”), is the source material for Giorgio Ferroni’s The Night of the Devils. It’s also known for being the source material of the “I Wurdulak” segment of Mario Bava’s fantastic Black Sabbath (1963).

Yeah, I know, everybody knows that or can look that up on Wikipedia.

I actually don’t have a lot to offer here that others have not said already. The Night of the Devils is a different flavor of Italian vampirism, salted with its variant folklore. There is something strange and hard to put one’s finger on about modernizing the story to the then present day 1970’s. It’s sort of dislocated, like having stepped into a dream (or nightmare) of more Gothic times. It also features some very evocative effects on top of it all.

Well worth seeing.

If You Meet Sartana Pray for Your Death (1968)

If You Meet Sartana Pray for Your Death (1968) movie poster

director Gianfranco Parolini
viewed: 10/24/2017

I’ve been working through a variety of lists of the “best” Spaghetti Westerns that I haven’t seen, something I’m cobbling together from a variety of sources. And I’m finding how many of these are available on Amazon Prime. Happily many.

If You Meet Sartana Pray for Your Death launched another named antihero to the genre, starring Gianni (John) Garko as Sartana, the guy you don’t want to meet.

“You look just like a scarecrow.”
“I am your pallbearer.”

Armed with a cool four barreled Derringer, he strides into what I guess is a story about teams of robbers and other teams of robbers and local gentry robbing themselves for insurance money and a coffin full of gold (or rocks.) Apparently it’s not just me, the story is pretty hard to follow.

Luckily Gianfranco Parolini does better with the action than the story. It’s derivative but also employs other genre elements of giallo and horror, giving it some flavor.

Even with a very inept dub and an abbreviated role on his voice Klaus Kinski is by far the best actor in the film.

Full Moon of the Virgins (1973)

Full Moon of the Virgins (1973) movie poster

directors Luigi Batzella, Joe D’Amato
viewed: 09/25/2017

I’m going with Full Moon of the Virgins here, contrary to the title the movie is better known as: The Devil’s Wedding Night. That’s what it said on the version I saw, a literal translation of the Italian Il plenilunio delle vergini.

What neither really gives you is that this is a vampire flick. A sort of throwback Gothic vampire flick in the style of heyday Hammer Films.

Mark Damon stars as twin brothers researching some Wagnerian biz of German lore, only to step into a sort of gender-swap Dracula thing. The Countess Dracula is Rosalba Neri, and she’s got the goods as resident vampire lady.

I sensed a vein of humor running throughout. Not camp, per se, but playful?

I guess I’m at a bit of a loss to say why I liked it, but I did. The production is really pretty solid, putting location Piccolomini castle in Balsoranao to great use, and employing mostly nice cinematography.

And ultimately, you get those full moon virgins for the devil’s wedding night, eventually in their altogether.

Caltiki – The Immortal Monster (1959)

Caltiki – The Immortal Monster (1959) movie poster

directors Riccardo Freda, Mario Bava
viewed: 09/21/2017

There is debate about how much Caltiki – The Immortal Monster is Mario Bava and how much it’s Riccardo Freda. It doesn’t really matter. Certainly it’s not “pure” Bava. But there are certainly some shots that look like prime Bava.

For 1950’s sci-fi, there are some well-noted gruesome effects. I even sensed a little bit of Godzilla in the miniatures. I also found some of it to be quite Expressionistic.

What I found kind of odd was that a movie about a vengeful Mayan goddess, Caltiki, (d)evolves into a much more scientific description of events. Caltiki the monster is an irradiated amoeba, essentially, grown to huge proportions resulting from earthquakes and then further powered by a returning meteor. (I didn’t say it was “good” science).

I don’t know. I pretty much dig 1950’s sci-fi/horror.

Hercules Against the Moon Men (1964)

Hercules Against the Moon Men (1964) movie poster

director Giacomo Gentilomo
viewed: 09/17/2017

“Under the evil influence of Uranus,” Hercules Against the Moon Men is goofy peplum fun. Peplum is a new term to me for “sword and sandal” movies.  I like it.

It totally channels old movie serials (maybe because as a genre it dates back to silent films and old genre tropes. That and more contemporary of television’s Batman.

Totally agree that Alan Steel is a very good Hercules.

The moon men are silly as fuck but awesome. Sadly they get hardly any screen time. This film needs more moon men.

Evil queen, Samara (Jany Clair), looks vaguely like a brunette Nancy Grace but without her harpy voice. She’s somehow worked a deal with the moon men to do evil.

Needs more moon men.