Decent low budget Iberian western with usual themes
Made early in the Eurowestern boom of the mid-1960s, Ocaso de un pistolero (1965) is yet another underrated Spanish western that is actually a decent B-western of surprising psycho-social realism. The westerns written and directed by Spaniards tend to be very different in terms of technique, tone, and thematic preoccupations from those made by Italians. Like most Spanish westerns, this movie is more crudely made than their Italian westerns, but as the movie progresses there are actually a number scenes which are evocative if rough-hewn such as the Carter Brother's funeral, the sequence in they stalk their victims and in turn are hunted, and especially the movie's final scene. As such, it is much better than contemporary films like Tierra de Fuego (1965) or I Tre del Colorado (1965). If you enjoy Eurowesterns, it is worth giving this movie a chance on it's own (limited) terms.
Ocaso de un pistolero (1965) was written by Joaquin Marchent and directed by his brother Rafeal. Together they were responsible for many of the best "Paella westerns." The story is told economically and skillfully, with two partially independent story lines dovetailing in the psychological deterioration of Dan Murphy and not in the usual series of (unneeded) plot complications.
Where these "Paella westerns" match the Italian examples of the genre is in their own unique conception of the relationship of the individual and their society, one presumably rooted in the Franco regime and the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. Violence is a brutalizing contagion, resorted to by the protagonists out of necessity to protect something they value, but resulting in their corruption and ambiguous destruction. Their actions are motivated by good intentions, but in a world where the law is a tool available to anyone who can seize it each act only results in the confirmation of the inevitable final condemnation. Violence corrupts them and they become like those the brutalized them. The powerful individual may be killed (and usually is), but power itself is a raw enveloping force and physical presence that will collapse on the protagonist regardless, annihilating them. By the end, the protagonist must be destroyed as well in an ambiguous exorcism. Personally, I find some of these "Paella" westerns" fairly effective because of this recurrent desperate drama.
In contrast, the Italian movies tend to have subtexts of resurrection and revolution, leaving them with a strange optimism only thinly disguised beneath overt, cynical gestures. Though westerns declined as a genre in Italy in the early-1970s, many of their themes were taken up in the popular crime movies of the time. It is in these movies that a similar disillusionment can be seen.
In this movie, the filmmakers do a surprisingly good job imitating a low-budget 1950s American B-western with only a small amount of the usual surreal pre-Leone pastiche. Yet, the Iberian western underneath slowly rips through the facade, force and violence rending the image. The basic plot involves a gunman named Dan Murphy (Craig Hill) and his wife (Gloria Milland). Years before, on the run and attempting to find a place to settle down, Sheriff Rogers (Jesus Puente) accidentally shoots and kills there son, Andy. In retribution, they steal Roger's own son. They raise the boy as their own, naming him Andy. At the wedding of a neighbor, Roger's deputy finds Murphy. The same evening, the Murphy gets into a fight with the Carter brothers, the local criminal bullies. These threads are pulled and Murphy's life begins to unravel.
Much of the movie seems to be focused on the contrast between the institutions of law and the insoluble problems of justice. Murphy is seeking justice for the murder of his child and, later, of his friends. The Carter's are seeking justice for the death of their younger brother. The town's sheriff is simply an impediment to justice and is denounced, then murdered.
The movie seems to modeled after American westerns such as The Gunfighter (1950) and The Fastest Gun Alive (1956), in that it centers on a famous gunman attempting to escape is reputation. In the conflict between Murphy and the Carters, the movie seems to be recreating that between Earp and the Clantons in My Darling Clementine (1946). The overarching "gothic family" plot is a favorite trope that recurred in a number of Eurowesterns such as Pistolero dell'Ave Maria, Il (1969) or Tempo di massacro (1966).
The dubbing is terrible. The theme music by Angelo Lavagnino was reused in number of low-budget Eurowesterns. While unspectacular, but it does have a strange "lounge Morricone" vibe to it, being a laid-back deguello.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?