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A wagon load of convicts on their way to prison is being escorted through the mountains by a cavalry troop. They are attacked by a bandit gang, and only a sergeant, his beautiful young daughter and an assortment of seven sadistic, murderous prisoners survive, and they are left without horses or a wagon. The sergeant must find a way to get his prisoners to their destination while protecting his daughter, watching out for the still pursuing bandits and trying to determine which one of the prisoners was the man who raped and murdered his wife. Written by
Corbucci-meets-Fulci in this bleak, violent western.
By 1972, the spaghetti western was already past its hay day and was looking for different ways, styles and themes to push the envelope. Cut-Throats Nine belongs to that small variety that brought horror sensibilities to the genre (like Sartana, Django the Bastard and others) but it also took it one step further. Whereas other westerns were content to be dark and brooding in an atmospheric kind of way, Cut-Throats is as violent and graphic as any Italian horror movie from the 70's.
The plot is minimal but quite good. For better or for worse, the director doesn't go for the psychological angle between captor and captives like Anthony Mann's The Naked Spur did, but instead focuses on the violence and nihilism that is the logical conclusion when nine ugly, dangerous criminals chained to each other are transported through the barren, desolate terrain to a nearby fort.
On the western front, Cut-Throats is as bleak and unforgiving as the gritty works of Sergio Corbucci minus the finesse and style of that great cinematician. The feeling is there though. The snowy, rocky landscape, the nihilistic, unredeemable characters, the grit and the violence. There are no heroes and cowboys with white hats here. If John Wayne were to set foot in the western universe Cut-Throats portrays, he would sooner pack his things and find a new hobby like sewing. Much like Hitchcock's Psycho, the person closer to what we could identify as the "hero" is burnt to a crisp 30 minutes in. That's where the movie ultimately succeeds. By being deprived of all certainty, you're left hanging there in the snow with a bunch of ugly cut-throats. Speaking of cutting throats, there's more: people get stabbed, intestines pour out, others are burnt alive, beaten mercilessly, nailed to hooks, get their brains blown out, corpses are burnt, legs are cut off. And with all the same graphic detail one would expect from a gruesome Italian horror from the likes of Fulci or Lenzi. Coupled with the general take-no-prisoners, mean-spirited air that permeates every minute, Cut-Throats is more likely to appeal to exploitation fans than the traditional western crowd.
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