Cheap, Uninteresting, Middle-Period, Euro Western Crap
Maybe I just got out of the wrong side of the bed this morning, but this movie sucks. Lead Gabriele Tinti is wooden, bland, lacking in charisma and looks stupid in his white fur jacket. Usually Spaghetti Westerns have long, taut pauses in dialog where actors sort of glare at each other. Tinti's eyes seem glazed over in comparison, as though he was bored and just couldn't think of a one-liner worth opening his mouth for. He walks into rooms, turns around, faces the camera, nods, and walks out. Most of the time he looks like he is sulking; At least Jack Palance would have the excuse of being hung over.
I do not like Gabriele Tinti. He has never done anything to me personally of course, and while married to Euro sex symbol Laura Gemser became one of the fixtures of Euro Sleaze. He plays a sadistic creep in BLACK COBRA WOMAN and maybe it just left an impression. In any rate he is not suited for a Spaghetti Western anti-hero. But this movie was cheaply made as possible and perhaps he was all they could afford. Costumes are mish-mashes of department store threads combined with movie prop room cowboy vests. Even the ladies seem to be clad in hand-me-downs from more expensive productions that don't seem to fit them right, and the song one of them warbles for the camera is completely out of place in this production. Then again everything feels out of place; Supporting actors stand around looking like they are waiting for stage directions and the camera lingers on empty space in the canvas of the widescreen picture waiting for something to fill it. More often than not, nothing does.
The story is supposedly about Tinti in search of the killer of his father, who was named Django. The only reason to have this plot element was to tie the film to Sergio Corbucci's superior DJANGO from 1966, and the only reason to do that is because nobody would have otherwise cared about this film, and correctly so. If the combined efforts of Guy Madison, Daniele Vargas, writer Tito Capri and composer Piero Umiliani (who would later recycle his musical score for at least 2 other films, both better than this, and who could blame him) cannot add more than a momentary spark to a Spaghetti Western, you know you are in trouble.
There's another name in the credits, one Demofilo Fidani. More commonly known by his Americanized moniker Miles Deem, Fidani is a name that Spaghetti Western aficionados have come to associate with cheapness for the sake of cheapness. Between 1970 and 1972 or so he directed a dozen of these things, each one cheaper than the previous, and most of them about as interesting as your average Bazooka Joe chewing gum comic. Here he was in charge of the set designs and chose a minimalist approach that sadly leaves a few too many blank spaces for the imagination to fill in. Which mind you isn't necessarily a bad method given the film's look is approached with a certain sense of style.
This movie's was not. It is an assembly of clichés and formula solutions strung together with a modestly engaging musical score, costumed in unattractive drab trappings & populated by actors who not only look like they don't give a damn but don't inspire the audience to give a damn. Even the pretty wife of the mistreated down on his luck dork rancher was only in the film to be abused on-camera as if to provide some sort of exploitation angle. You just don't care what happens to her so long as there is some sort of erotic thrill attached. And her sudden departure is the film's sole moment of surprise, yet does nothing to break the stilted, hesitant dialog, the uninspired camera-work, the clueless mugging of the supporting cast, and the inexcusably out of synch dubbing.
I love low budget Spaghetti, but this movie quite frankly is way subpar. The only redeeming quality I can see is a sort of odd visual tension due to when the film was made. 1966 thru 1968 were probably the most interesting years of the Spaghetti boom, the pre- ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST period where the lesser Italian directors were trying to find their voice in the form that Leone & Corbucci invented. This effort straddles the divide between the straightforward Euro Western approach and the Spaghetti "style over substance" method. The basic story, direction and cinematography here is Euro Western, only the content's ultra-violent depravity speaks for what would eventually become the Spaghetti approach.
What's missing is the style. The film has no sense of identity, it doesn't know whether it wants to be a cheap knockoff or a languid horse opera. A year after this was made, ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST proved that the Italians could make a Western on the same level of craft & scale as that of John Ford or Peckinpah. By contrast, this film is a slacker, trying nothing new, taking no chances, not even having the decency to provide us a lead star worth rooting for. You sort of watch the action in muted anticipation, hoping that Guy Madison or one of the sleazy villains will do something interesting. Only they don't.
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