Branded a coward for surrendering his New Mexico fort to the Confederates without firing a shot, a Union colonel attempts to redeem himself by leading a band of condemned prisoners on a suicide mission to recapture it.
"A Reason to Live, A Reason to Die" (1972) is a exciting, Civil War-set Spaghetti Western, directed by Sergio Leone's protégé Tonino Valerii and stars James Coburn, Telly Savalas and Bud Spencer.
The script by Rafael Azcona, Ernesto Gastaldi, Jay Lynn and Tonino Valerii is hardly original, amounting to nothing but a "Dirty Dozen" rehash, but it is adequate: during the American Civil War, the disgraced Colonel Pembroke (James Coburn) tries to retake a heavily defended fort that was taken by the Confederates from him without a shot fired, a mystery that helps drive his character, by using twelve recruits who he has saved from death sentences.
Despite the lack of originality in the screenplay department, the spirited direction makes the story rattle along at a breathless pace to the expertly staged, wholesale carnage at the end. Throughout, the the three leads fare remarkably well and are the only ones who are given any sort of more than superficial examination of their past. The music by Riz Ortolani, all powerful horns, is masterly, compensating for uninteresting photography.
The fast pace and direction help raise this Spaghetti Western into a higher plane, turning it into a very, very enjoyable film.
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