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After the Civil War ends, two soldiers return home with a cache of stolen money. They are caught by Union troops. One escapes, but the other is sent to prison for five years. When he gets out and goes home, he finds that his wife has died in poverty because his partner kept all the money, and is now a major power in the area with an army of deadly gunmen to back him up. Written by
Ha ha ha. I'm not going to kill you, stranger. You're a champion. And you don't kill champions, you raise them, And you're coming with me to the Mayflower Ranch, and you're hired for top dollar. Bravo! Bravo!
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Directed by one time film critic Carlo Lizzani, "The Hills Run Red" is a welcome addition to anyone's spaghetti western collection.
The film begins with ex-confederates Jerry Brewster (Thomas Hunter) and Ken Seagall (Nando Gazzalo) fleeing by stagecoach from soldiers following a successful heist. They agree that the only chance for escape is if one of the partners bails out with the cash. To decide who should get away the two draw cards, with Brewster the unlucky loser. Seagall promises to look after Brewster's family before leaping from the stagecoach. He successfully hides with the money, whilst Brewster is captured and imprisoned for five years.
On his release, Brewster returns to his now derelict family home. He finds a diary from his wife, and learns that she has been living in poverty during his absence, struggling to bring up their son alone. Seagall had shunned them, keeping the money himself and starting a new life under the name Ken Milton.
Brewster screams out his intention for revenge, and is soon faced by gun-hands sent by Seagall. Luckily for him, an ageing gunman Winny Getz (Dan Duryea) is on hand to help out - a mysterious character that is never fully explained (although some assumptions can be made that I won't spoil here!) but acts as Brewster's "guardian angel" throughout the film.
Learning that his wife has died and his son is missing, Brewster decides to settle his score with Seagall. On beginning his search he discovers that Seagall is attempting to drive out the local inhabitants of Austin, and in particular the leading light and saloon owner Brian Homer (Geoffrey Copleston). Aided by the demented Garcia Mendez (Henry Silva) and his gang. To confront Seagall and get his revenge, Brewster is forced to infiltrate the gang.
"The Hills Run Red" certainly has some interesting characters. Silva plays Mendez as a black clad demented psychopath. Hunter's lead role is not too far behind in the madness stakes (presumably bought on by that five years stretch, which appeared quite a gruelling and cruel imprisonment). Lets just say that both have some serious issues!! Of the two, Silva is particularly convincing, and his is the stand-out performance of the film. Hunter meanwhile could be accused of over acting at times here, although it is still an enjoyable display. Duryea's portrayal of the mysterious Getz also merits much applause.
The love interest is provided by Nicoletta Machiavelli as Seagall's sister Mary-Ann. Constantly having to dismiss advances from Mendez, her attraction to Brewster is immediate.
Music is courtesy of one Leo Nichols (better known as Ennio Morricone to you and I). In truth it is not one of his better scores, but still adds great atmosphere to the film, as one would expect from the master. It just does not have anything to make it unique, and is not as memorable as his more heralded efforts.
All in all "The Hills Run Red" makes for a great viewing. At times it can be quite brutal (such as the saloon massacre). And how I winced as Brewster's tattoo is cut from his arm whilst he is awake! But it is a gripping story, well directed and well worth watching.
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