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.
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This film stood on my must-see list for one reason, namely the three major names in the cast and particularly because I'm an enormous fan of Telly Savalas' naturally malignant charisma. I should have guessed, however, that Savalas' part here is not much more than an small supportive role during the last half hour and that everything else isn't worth sitting through, neither. "A Reason to Live, A Reason to Die" is a poor, dull and forgettable hybrid between Spaghetti Western and (Civil) War movie that steals ideas and stylistic aspects from numerous classics but doesn't contribute the slightest thing itself. Director Tonino Valerii carefully watched all the blockbuster hits that got released during previous years (like "The Dirty Dozen", "The Wild Bunch", "The Great Escape", "The Magnificent Seven" ) and mishmashes a familiar story of a group convicted criminals that are offered the choice between the noose or fighting along in a battle to re-conquer a lost fortress. Colonel Pembroke gave up the fortress all too easily and, in order to avoid total loss of dignity, he embarks on a crazy mission to reclaim it with an 8-headed posse of outcasts that he promised a gold treasure that isn't there. James Coburn, who looks like he's been sleeping under a bridge for two years, depicts the anti- hero Colonel, Bud Spencer in a largely non-comical role is one of his henchmen and the great Telly Savalas is the evil Confederate Major they have to chase out of the fortress. "A Reason to Live, A Reason to Die" is incredibly long and tedious, especially because it's mainly derivative plodding during the first hour and a half. The trek towards the fortress is full of clichéd obstacles and macho arguments, while the final battle is dire and unspectacular. Being an Italian western from the early seventies, there's an unforgivable shortness of violent action, filthy bastard characters and general nastiness.
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