I watched this today after not having seen it since it was released in 1968. It was a lot of fun, but admittedly it is not the equal of the Sergio Leone works, or even those of Sergio Corbucci - although both are spoofed here.
In the opening scene we see a trio that has two resembling Eastwood and Van Cleef's characters in FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE and another who is clearly based on Franco Nero's Django. Clearly here Castellari is letting us know that he's going to have some fun at the expense of what had preceded him in the spaghetti western canon. George Hilton's bounty killer dispatches these three and we're informed that his next target is Monetero, played by veteran Gilbert Roland, then in his early 60s and still the epitome of machismo elegance. At this point he had been in the business for 40 years, and with the slightest of gestures, blows away his younger cast mates.
Monetero and his gang rob a gold shipment from a train loaded with the cavalry as well as Edd Byrnes playing a bank employee. Kookie, Kookie, lend me some money. His gang gets away with the loot, but the money gets away from Monetero. The bank man is after Monetero for the gold shipment, Hilton's character ("They call me the Stranger" - a nod to Tony Anthony's films?) is after him for the reward, and the rest of the film play out a series of crosses and double-crosses, all with a fair dose of humor.
The film even anticipates some of the later spaghetti westerns - particularly Gianfranco Parolini's "Sabata" films which also relied heavily on circus-styled gymnastics. Byrnes' character Clayton gets into some Faibanksian-styled gymnastics fights with both Hilton and later about six members of Monetero's gang, and then later both Byrnes and Hilton take on many of the same gang in a bathhouse.
None of this is to be taken any more seriously than Terence Hill's antics in MY NAME IS NOBODY, it's probably just that this early in the game, it wasn't obvious that it was a spoof as the sub-genre was barely around for four years. A scene where Hilton and an insurance man spot each other through binoculars tips its hat to a similar scene in FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE, and the overall tale of three men and the search for hidden gold is obviously based on THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY.
But the best homage comes at the end, a face-off among the three main characters that satirizes the similar scene in the latter film. Only the music fails to make the point here, whereas in other scenes the score is appropriate - as long as one keeps in mind that this is just an affectionate spoof, and on its own, it is an appealing film. The leads are more than capable - although the looping is often flat, and the production design quite attractive. Even at 105 minutes, the film moves quickly and never runs out of steam.
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