As was common with many Spaghetti westerns, the Italian actors in Vivi O, Preferibilmente, Morti were billed with more English-sounding names to try and make the film more appealing to American audiences. As such, leading lady Sydne Rome was billed here as Karen Blake - even though she is from Akron, Ohio and "Sydne Rome" is her real name. See more »
The premise here is that two estranged brothers must spend six peaceful months together in order to inherit $300,000 from a rich uncle. This premise, however, is merely an excuse to put the two brothers into a series of comic adventures in the American West -- circa early 1900s. While none of these adventures is original or memorable, they combine to produce an easy-going "spaghetti western" which never takes itself too seriously and which therefore qualifies as a pleasant time-killer. (Incidentally, the movie's Italian title translates as "Alive or Preferably Dead." The American title shamelessly tries to capitalize on another film's success but it has nothing to do with the famous characters portrayed by Paul Newman and Robert Redford.) This movie is helped by the fact that the two brothers, (and they actually look like brothers), are played by such handsome and agreeable actors as Giuliano Gemma and Nino Benvenuti. Gemma, (billed as "John Wade" for American audiences), got his start wearing nothing but a towel in 1959's "Ben-Hur" when he appeared as one of the muscular Roman athletes who observe Messala placing a bet with the Shiek on the outcome of the chariot race. Benvenuti, (here billed as "Robert Neuman"), first achieved fame as a boxer in Rome's 1960 Olympics. Despite being personable and good-looking, he only appeared in two movies. Not surprisingly, opportunities are found to show off these hunks' physiques by stripping them to the waist. Gemma is shown sitting in a tub, taking a bubble bath, while Benvenuti sheds his shirt when he chops a load of firewood. Both men are also shirtless when they're tortured by the Bad Guys who apparently poke burning sticks into their chests. Alas, both the American theatrical release and the videotape release drastically cut this torture scene. The two brothers are shown tied up and threatened but then the action jumps forward. The brothers now have burn marks on their chests but no torture was actually shown.
Sydne Rome, (billed here as "Karen Blake"), makes a spunky and appealing heroine but at the end of the movie one realizes she's just been added to the proceedings to persuade viewers that the two brothers -- appearances to the contrary -- are really "straight."
(November 2007 update: Having viewed a DVD of this movie under its Italian title, some new comments are in order. This Italian version is longer and more detailed than the American version known as "Sundance Cassidy and Butch the Kid." It contains the complete torture scene which turns out to be quite different than expected. The two brothers, stripped to the waist, are laid face-up on the floor with their hands tied behind their backs. The bad guy approaches with a smoldering stick taken from a nearby fireplace but does not, as expected, poke it into the brothers' chests. Instead he uses it to draw a smudgy line across the floor. Then he tells his gang-members they can throw hot pennies at the brothers but they cannot step across the line. The gang-members reach into the fireplace with their gloved hands, scoop up hot coins, and gleefully toss them at the brothers' bare chests. The brothers squirm and writhe, trying to avoid the scorching missiles, but some still hit their targets. Then a distraction occurs, the brothers manage to free themselves with no more damage than a few burn marks on their chests. It's puzzling why the American prints cut most of this scene since it's not especially violent and is played more for comic than sadistic effect. The beginning of the movie also varies from the Italian to the English-language print. The Italian version begins with a scene "back East" in which Monty Mulligan leaves a Christmas party, fights off four street-thugs intent on robbing him, and then encounters four more men who demand that he repays his gambling debts. Monty's unable to do so but is saved by the arrival of a messenger from a lawyer's office. The scene then shifts to this office where the lawyer reads to Monty details of his uncle's will. At this point the movie switches to its Wild West setting which is where the English-language prints pick up the story.)
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