|Index||4 reviews in total|
I love European made westerns and agree with critic Roger Ebert when he
describes them as "the new old west". The vistas are different, the
faces are different, and the approach to making them is different, even
if the plots/stories/characterizations usually turn out to be the same.
Which is actually a somewhat amusing contradiction: In spite of how
different they are compared to Americanized/Hollywood westerns they
have a kind sameness to them that's quite reassuring to fans of the
genre. One can almost always count on having the quota of classic
spaghetti elements accounted for, and the interest comes from seeing
how the various directors, writers, composers and performers arranged
the usual elements.
In spite of what a wretched movie it probably is on a formalistic level, THREE BULLETS FOR RINGO appealed to me immediately for a lot of reasons that don't have a lot to do with the film itself, starting with when it was made: 1965 - 1966, during what might be called the "experimental" era of the genre. There is no doubt in my mind at any rate that spaghetti westerns are a genre unto themselves, quite separate and different than the Hollywood John Wayne approach. 1964 - 1968 is a particularly fascinating period from the genre's history because the conventions that would coalesce into the "classic" form of the genre were still being established. Examples of the form from that era have a sort of daring recklessness to their execution that is different from the more mature forms that are regarded as the classics of the genre. The high water mark in the development of this genre are probably Sergio Leone's THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY (1966) and more importantly ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (1968), after which Italians no longer necessarily had to prove that they could make an epic western on the same plane of artistic consideration as the John Ford favorites, even if the approach to how they were being made is decidedly different.
So THREE BULLETS FOR RINGO is an example of the genre when it still was evolving from just another offshoot of B grade genre cinema into an art form of it's own, and has what I'd call a typical mid 60s edginess to it that you just don't find in spaghetti westerns after 1968. The cowboys still dress in color coordinated costumes and their grime level isn't emphasized. The interior sets are garishly decorated and lit. The use of exterior locations is minimized, and there is an air of artificiality or make believe to the production that reminds me of playing cowboy as a kid rather than some pithy artistic vision. In many ways THREE BULLETS FOR RINGO has more in common with a classic era episode of "Star Trek" than it does THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY even, which was released in the same year.
There is a different aesthetic sensibility at work here that seems more closely related to the Italian/Spanish sword & sandal Peplum film craze, a first impression borne out by the fact that THREE BULLETS FOR RINGO stars two of the Peplum craze's biggest matinée heroes: the late Mickey Hargitay and big, grinning Gordon Mitchell, who gets to play the town sheriff for a change. Director Emimmo Salvi also got his start as a production designer and writer for sword & sandal potboilers, while composer Armando Sciascia's musical score has little or nothing to do with the stylized approach of the genre heavyweights, i.e. Ennio Morricone. Instead there's a kind of cheapness to the film's execution that is less concerned with making epic impressions than in just filling 90 random minutes.
Notice I haven't mentioned the story, and that's simply because the story really isn't even important. There's some nonsense about desperadoes being paid in gold for a kidnapping and the hidden deed to a ranch or something equally uninteresting. The plot does have a gimmick, however -- an important aspect of the spaghetti approach -- which is that hero Mickey Hargitay finds himself blinded at one point and must figure out a way to avenge a murder without being able to see who he's shooting at (an idea that had already found form in Sergio Corbucci's first spaghetti western MINNESOTA CLAY from 1965, and would find it's ultimate expression in the Tony Anthony/Ringo Starr vehicle BLINDMAN in 1971). And like a good Peplum there is an abundance of what might be termed horror movie elements, most noticeably the repeat use of a wolf call in the background that lends an eerie edge to some of the nighttime scenes.
The Peplum connection is further established by what is essentially a Veil Dancing scene, which in a sword & sandal would be the scene where the hero is treated to wine and victuals by the evil king/queen while his/her troupe of dancing young nubiles perform for their pleasure. Here it's a tribe of local peasant Mexicanos, but its essentially the same thing and as usual the scene serves as a bridge to set up a sequence of torture or suffering. There is an ordeal for the hero to undergo and he must summon his inner resolve to survive, and then nurse himself back into fighting shape for the big climactic showdown.
If none of this sounds particularly original you are correct, though that is half of the appeal of these things in the first place. What makes this one interesting is that it was working to establish that formula rather than simply relying on it, and along with the Corbucci film mentioned above is probably an excellent example of the spaghetti western in it's toddler years, just learning to walk on it's own.
5/10: Available from Wild East Productions on a splendid widescreen DVD release of the full original 100 minute version.
Former hired gun Mickey Hargitay rescues his future wife from bandits,
reconciles with his mother, becomes sheriff, and is blinded in the
Civil War. He then finds himself clashing with a nasty banker and his
old partner Gordon Mitchell, the town's new sheriff.
Despite it's ultra-low budget, odd bits of humor, and very loose plot, I can't help but be entertained by this spaghetti western, in a so-bad-it's-good kind of way.
It's a lot of fun to see overwrought muscle-men Hargitay and Mitchell chewing the scenery together in the same movie, though not nearly as much as Mickey did the previous year in the crackpot horror classic, The Bloody Pit Of Horror.
The filmmakers appear to have thrown in everything but the kitchen sink, including a Voodoo ceremony (!), actors named John Heston, and Spean Convery, and a fleeting character that appears to have been dubbed by an actor impersonating Jimmy Stewart!
Also, notice that in the scene where Mitchell brings the blinded Hargitay back home, the extras that are playing Mitchell's men don't seem to know how to ride their horses!
I wouldn't go as far as to say this is not a movie not worth watching. However, I wouldn't take it too seriously either.
Ringo and his buddy Frank are two guns for hire, sent by a local
businessman to retrieve his daughter from some pesky Mexican bandits.
After shooting several hundred bandits and getting the daughter back,
it turns out that Frank is in love with this chick, but she has the
hots for Ringo, and they intend to marry. Following a punch up, Frank
heads out of town and Ringo marries, settling down with his missus and
becoming sheriff, also reconciling with his mum, who owns land that an
evil banker wants at all costs.
Got all that? It gets more complicated as war breaks out, Ringo gets blinded by accident and Frank takes over as sheriff in town, joining forces with the evil banker in order to get the land from Ringo's mum. When Ringo's mum gets killed and Ringo badly beaten, the blind guy goes on the warpath to bring everyone down, using his guns, his crazy friend, and a whole load of cannons and gunfire.
3 Bullets for Ringo is solid Spaghetti Western madness. Like Johnny Yuma, it starts off fairly innocent and jokey but gets more violent and crazy as it goes on. Every time Ringo goes into battle scores of bad guys get wasted, and there's a full on gun battle involving cannons in a cave system, and a climatic battle in town between the good guys and the bad guys, with the survivors literally stepping over all the corpses to get to each other.
Gordon Mitchell sure was ugly though, eh? Plus, fans of realism might want to stay away from this one though, as Ringo can gun down entire armies of bad guys without reloading or even using cover. As to be expected from an Italian film, everything looks great, especially the scene where three bad guys beat the crap out of Ringo and his family. There's also some sort of weird voodoo ceremony and the bad guys planning to roast Ringo's son over a fire. Fans of Spaghetti Westerns should track this one down. The opening credits are rather groovy too!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Though Mickey Hargitay is remembered as a muscleman, in this movie he keeps his shirt on, and does an okay job as the title figure. At least eventually - it takes a while for him to win the audience over. In fact, for the first third of the movie, there is not one likable character! It also takes that long for the movie to set up the situation as well as Hargitay's character's blindness - a plot point that surprisingly isn't used that much. Movie suffers from some poor production values (the Confederate Army costumes and cave interiors are far from authentic), as well as some strange comedy relief. Still, the movie doesn't get boring (though it gets close to that point at times), and there are some decent action sequences, so if you are a fan of spaghetti westerns, this is an okay way to pass 87 minutes of your time.
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