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Lorella De Luca
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Enrico Maria Salerno,
Haunting Morricone Score is Highlight of Comedy Western
Ah, such beautiful music!
This film opens with a classic sequence. A stagecoach is attacked by a gang, with all the passengers brutally massacred. Cue Morricone's haunting soundtrack as the camera focuses on the dead, and in particular the face of a blonde girl. A hand brushes the dust from her face,and the camera pans up to show the sorrowful face of Billy (Giuliano Gemma). A truly moving scene, but made particularly so because of Morricone's music.
In a way, this opening sequence is quite out of place with the remainder of the movie. The rest is a light-hearted affair, based around the partnership of Billy and Larry (Mario Adorf). Billy is a smart, world-wise man, whilst Larry is not gifted with the greatest amount of intelligence. This is a perfect foil for Billy, who is a convincing conman and successful in getting the better out of his gullible partner throughout the film (including robbing him of his entire life savings).
The action really hots up when the character of Roger Pratt (Federico Boido) is introduced properly (until this stage, he is purely the face of the gang leader from the opening ambush). He is a brutal man, tracking down Billy on behalf of his father Samual Pratt (Anthony Dawson). The second half of the movie concentrates on this pursuit, with Samual also arriving on the scene and proving to be as barbaric as his short-fused offspring.
Director Giulio Petroni (of "Death Rides a Horse" fame) adopts a similar style to the one used in his later Milian cast "Life is Tough, Right Providence?". It shares its episodic structure, and "clever man/thick man" partnership. Anyone that has read my other reviews will probably have noticed that I do not generally like the more light-hearted westerns. However, I did very much enjoy most of this particular film (the same could not be said of "Providence" incidentally).
Gemma does not look as comfortable with the more comedic role as he does to that of an angel-faced gunman. But he still looks and acts the part - as likable in this film as ever. Adorf meanwhile is suitably oafish (in a role that would have been perfect for Bud Spencer), as Boido and Dawson are villainous.
A particular highlight of the film is a superb scene as Billy cons his way into the house of a beautiful Widow (played by the frankly gorgeous Magda Konopka). Another very beautiful Spaghetti Western actress, part sorrowful and part sexually teasing.
As my review closes, I must dwell further on that opening sequence. The background to this massacre is never fully explained - perhaps those killed have been unfortunate acquaintances of Billy, and suitably punished by the Pratt gang. I don't know. And, in its serious nature, it perhaps feels like a scene that doesn't really belong in this film. But... if you watch it for no other reason, then watch it for this powerful prologue (even close your eyes just to hear Morricone's score). I am also quite confident as you sit through the whole film that you will find other scenes that you will enjoy.
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