The Civil War has ended, but not for Jonas, a ruthless Confederate officer who wants to continue the fight by reorganizing Confederate troops in the Southwest with the support of a large sum of stolen money. He devises an elaborate ruse to allow his small party to travel with minimal scrutiny through hostile territory, for the money is hidden in a coffin said to contain the body of his dead son. Jonas' other sons travel with him along with a hired "widow", as they proceed to what they hope to be a new start to the War between the States. However, while en route, they face severe, ongoing strife among themselves and successive threats from Union soldiers, a posse of cowboys, and an Indian war party. Written by
"The Hellbenders" is Corbucci's predecessor to his genre defining "Django" of the same year. Initially, the film can be dismissed as a low-budget mess because of poor audio and cinematography, but there are redeeming qualities which make this film a landmark in the overall Western genre. It was one of the first to use Almeira, Spain as a backdrop. It follows the adventure of a gang of ruthless Conferates (three brothers and their father, Joseph Cotten) fleeing the Union cavalry, Mexican outlaws, a local sherrif, and a vengeful Indian tribe. They carry a coffin filled with booty, and a permit stating that the coffin contains the body of a dead lieutenant. Corbucci pulls in a femme fatale (Norma Bengall) to foil the gang's money heist. Along the way a Mexican bandit is backstabbed, so to speak, by Cotten, and the bandit proclaims that they will meet again in hell. I'll leave the plot twists for you to discover, but note that "The Wild Bunch," released two years later, has a similar plot and twists. Also note Corbucci's more refined and improved spaghetti western, "Django," employs the use a mysterious coffin, which houses a Gatling machine gun, just so conveniently used again in "The Wild Bunch." Ol' Peckinpah sure did his homework.
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