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When outlaw Clay McCord learns the Governor of New Mexico has offered an amnesty to all who apply for it at the town of Tuscosa, he is intrigued but suspicious. He circles the vicinity, weighing the offer and encountering other outlaws, all the while troubled by occasional "spells" resembling the epileptic fits which plagued his father. Eventually McCord reaches Tuscosa where he clashes with the local marshal, Roy Colby. The Governor then arrives and tries to calm the situation, knowing that if McCord asks for amnesty, other outlaws will follow. Events lead to a shoot-out with McCord, Colby, and the Governor on one side while a band of outlaws comprise the other. Written by
dinky-4 of Minneapolis
The cast alone tells you this will be a notch above the usual Italian western. Veteran actors Robert Ryan and Arthur Kennedy team up with Alex Cord who, at the time, seemed on the verge of stardom. The result is a movie that's both off-beat and down-beat and yet it'll satisfy those who seek more from a western than just gunplay. Especially interesting here is the character played by Alex Cord. One expects the "hero" in these westerns to be taciturn and introspective, but "Clay McCord" is an extreme example and, surprisingly enough, he's often shone in a passive, even weak position. Much is made of the fact that he fears falling prey to the epileptic fits which immobilized his father, and in these moments of helplessness he's either at the mercy of those who wish to harm him or those who wish to help him. To emphasize his passivity, Clay McCord -- don't you love that name? -- is often shone stripped to the waist as if he were little more than an attractive plaything being put on display. There's even a strong masochistic streak in his nature, most in evidence when he's used as a punching bag by his enemies and then suspended by his wrists and left hanging above the middle of a street. Not only does he often fail to protect himself, but McCord is equally ineffective in protecting those around him. Nearly everyone who helps him is killed.
While "A Minute to Pray, a Second to Die" is far from being a complete success, it has a depth and a tone which sets it apart and causes it to linger in the memory. It's also a good showcase for Alex Cord whose career tended to decline after this point following a few promising years in the mid-1960s. He must have been about 34 years old when he filmed this -- in his physical prime -- and the scene of him hanging by his wrists, bare-chested and sweaty, is a memorable piece of cinematic "beefcake."
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