History Professor Brad Fletcher heads west for his health, but falls in with Soloman Bennett's outlaw gang. Fascinated by their way of life, Fletcher finally takes over the gang, leading with a new 'efficient' ruthlessness. Written by
Tom Seldon <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Gian Maria Volontè and Tomas Milian frequently clashed on-set due to their political beliefs - Volontè was an outspoken communist, while Milian had left his home country (Cuba) as Fidel Castro came into power. To build on their onscreen chemistry, Sergio Sollima also intentionally provoked the two actors into engaging in boxing matches with each other. See more »
The pages of the book that Fletcher tears out and scrunches into balls are written in Italian - a language that a history professor in the American Civil War would be unlikely to be familiar with. See more »
Professor Brad Fletcher:
I've an announcement to make, and I find it... very painful. I'm unable to... continue this history course. But as you perhaps know, it's not a matter of my own volition. However, the study of history can be suspended... and resumed at any point. Because, though all men must die in time, other men will make history live. And each man can choose his own part in history. We've been forced to choose: when the war between the States declared that we were either Union loyalists or ...
[...] See more »
Carlo Simi is given a "sets and costumes" credit on Italian prints, while English prints credit him as the "art director". See more »
Very good quality spaghetti western with strong acting and script
This Italian western is often mentioned as one which is well known for having political undertones, specifically a storyline that is an allegory on the rise of fascism and the then current Vietnam War. While it's certainly true that you could make these interpretations if you look deep enough, you really need to be looking for them and the film works just fine without these readings. It's about a professor who moves from the urban east coast to Texas to retire for health reasons and immediately becomes involved with a bandit who is on the run from the law. As the story progresses their partnership results in a transformation between the two where the good guy's behaviour gets worse and the bad guy develops a conscience.
It was directed by the third Sergio of the spaghetti western genre, Sergio Sollima; the other two being Leone and Corbucci. He directed three well received westerns in total, including the impressive The Big Gundown (1966). Like that one, this one features the talented actor Tomas Milian in another shifty role, in this case as the bandit. He is joined by another two regulars of the genre in William Berger, playing a character based on a real life Pinkerton detective, and Gian Maria Volonté, most famous for his two highly memorable turns in the first two films in Leone's 'Dollars Trilogy'. Volonté is especially good here in a role that shows how good an actor he is. It's his character's transformation from meek intellectual to callous gang-leader that really drives the narrative. His performance, along with Milian's, is very convincing and illustrates how easy it is to cross a line and become immoral. It's this aspect in particular where the fascism allegory comes from, while the massacre of a group of innocents later in the film echoes the events in Vietnam. As well as being a well-acted and directed affair, it has a good script and another impressive score from Il Maestro himself, Ennio Morricone. Needless to say, when you have all these ingredients coming together you are left with a great western, which is certainly enhanced by having more going on under the surface than most.
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