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Lee Van Cleef,
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Lorella De Luca
This is another fine Spaghetti Western, actually a sequel to THE BIG GUNDOWN (1966), from the same director-star team; in the accompanying interview, Sollima said that he felt the "Cuchillo" Sanchez character from that film (who, basically had been a subsidiary to Lee Van Cleef's lone gunman) was worthy of his own vehicle.
However, having perhaps overdosed on films from this subgenre over the last two weeks, I was slightly underwhelmed by it (being preceded by my first viewing of the German Expressionist classic WARNING SHADOWS [1923; see my review elsewhere], which was well and truly impressive, may also have had something to do with this!): throwing in everything but the kitchen sink in the various characters' search for gold, the film still offered nothing that was essentially new!!
In fact, here we have Tomas Milian's "Cuchillo" (whom Sollima admits to have been inspired by Toshiro Mifune's role in Akira Kurosawa's SEVEN SAMURAI ) being helped, hindered or pursued by a mysterious American bounty-hunter, a couple of French mercenaries, a bandit horde, Mexican revolutionaries (led by John Ireland, who turns up for a two-minute bit!) and the Army - not forgetting the attentions of two beautiful women, his feisty and extremely jealous Mexican girlfriend and a statuesque Salvation Army officer (but who's not above a little greed)! All this tends to make the film episodic (but which doesn't hang together as well as the first film), overlong (for no real purpose) and exhausting (there's less action than usual for a Spaghetti Western, with little of it that's actually memorable, but a good deal of talk - this is one of the most overtly political films in the genre!). The comedy, too, is more pronounced than in THE BIG GUNDOWN and, indeed, apart from the lead character's constant running (hence the title) and distinctive knife-throwing, he seems to be a different person - as if the characteristics of roles Milian had played in the interim, such as those in FACE TO FACE (1967; also directed by Sollima) and DJANGO, KILL! (1967) had filtered through to his interpretation of "Cuchillo" here!
There's still the shaky 'alliance' between the Mexican and an American ex-sheriff (played this time around by Donal O' Brien, as a cross between the Lee Van Cleef of THE BIG GUNDOWN and the William Berger of FACE TO FACE!) and even the double duel at the end - but with the former not being a chase and the opponents in the latter amounting to only minor characters, i.e. not alter egos as in the earlier film, these elements don't have quite the same impact (though I understand that Sollima couldn't merely repeat himself)! Besides, after two hours the film can only come up with an unresolved ending (with the gold still unclaimed); Sollima, however, feels it was the right thing to do!
From this review, one might think that I didn't like the film all that much or that I spent too much space comparing it to other Spaghetti Westerns - but the star rating should indicate otherwise: it's solid, flavorful and enjoyable (if overly familiar) with a few good action highlights; best of all is the rousing and infectious score by Ennio Morricone (although, due to some contractual glitch, it was credited to his friend and habitual conductor Bruno Nicolai!).
With respect to the supplements included on the Blue Underground DVD: I'll comment elsewhere on the TV special from 1968 about Spaghetti Westerns; the 17-minute featurette which includes interviews with both Sollima and Milian (it was especially great to listen to him talk about this period of his career, having missed out on his interview on BU's edition of DJANGO, KILL!) is wonderful: Sollima is as eloquent and witty here as he was on the interview featured on the Italian DVD of THE BIG GUNDOWN; Milian, apparently, was hurt by the director's put-down of his "Actor's Studio" background and here he comments how his carefully developed characterization of "Cuchillo" as a trapped rabbit was more or less ruined during the editing stages (Milian even allows himself a self-compliment by saying that he's "f***ing talented" but, then, he made poignant comments about his approaching old age)!; we're also offered the original Italian credit sequence (which adds some blue to the red tones of that in the English version), the trailer, a poster gallery and talent bios for both star (I was distressed to learn that when he returned to the U.S., all his great work in Italy meant naught to the Hollywood producers and that, in order to get even a supporting part, he had to reduce himself to testing for it!!) and director.
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