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Who wouldn't jump at the chance to get off a gallows and take a chance at living? The motivation is, of course, gold...lot's of it. James Coburn does a very good job of portraying a soldier seeking justice for his murdered wife, and goes after Telly Sevallis with a vengance, using condemmed men as his team. Much like the Dirty Dozen, but without the military structure of WWII. Liked this movie but the sound track is typically Italian...overmodulated and scratchy. When I first saw this film I thought I was watching a Sergio Leone spaghetti western...even the music sounded the same. In spite of the similes and plagarised plots from other films in this genre, this one still turned out well. Good photography and special effects. Hope someday someone will remaster the sound and turn out a smashing DVD. Enjoy!
It is the American Civil War as envisioned by Italians, set apart from the main theaters of conflict, out in the southwestern desert. James Coburn is Col. Pembroke who has lost impregnable Ft. Holman to the Rebs and who has a private scheme to retrieve it along with his honor. He sets out on a commando expedition with a sergeant and a dirty half-dozen volunteers, scalawags freed from the gallows and kept in line (barely) with a promise of hidden gold. Telly Savalas is the Southern commander dreading Pembroke's reappearance. Some exciting action and tense situations, but credibility is strained when, with the Ft. Holman Gatling gun spraying shot into the parade ground, the Confederate troops show no interest in cover but keep milling in the open like ants from a hill goaded with a stick. Not a great or inspiring movie but a solid performance from Coburn. And for all the death there's not much blood.
Disgraced Union officer James Coburn saves himself and a few
degenerates, including Bud Spencer, from hanging by suggesting a daring
raid on the impregnable Fort Holman, currently being held by mad rebel
General Telly Savalas. As the introductory crawl suggests, Coburn has
greater motivations than that of simple patriotism.
Inspired by The Dirty Dozen with a bit of Where Eagles Dare and The Wild Bunch thrown in, this is an entertaining Italian western/Civil War movie that makes good use of the massive sets previously built for the film El Condor.
Generally worth recommending, Massacre At Fort Holman (also widely known as A Reason To Live, A Reason To Die, with Coburn dubbed by someone else and Bud Spencer apparently by character actor R.G. Armstrong!) sags some in the middle but things pick up and the final battle is fairly exciting.
There's a great performance by the always cool James Coburn, while that of the supposedly insane Telly Savalas is actually more subdued than usual. He was much more zesty in Pancho Villa and A Town Called Hell, though this is still a better movie.
A group of conscripted convicts formed by seven condemned , already
destined for death row, are drafted to go on a near-suicide mission and
attempt to recapture a Missouri fort called Fort Holzman . They must
carry out the objective and reconquest the keep with the understanding
that if the Confederate don't murder them, the Union Army won't, either
. A two-fisted U.S. ex-officer and the ambitious drifters , join forces
to rob a lot of gold located into an impressive fortress where is
supposedly hidden a treasure , 500.000 dollars in gold bars taken from
a Confederate bank . In the hands of hardboiled director Tonino Valeri
and a tough-as-leather cast headed by the commander James Coburn , as a
troublesome U.S. Army official , that's all the plot that's needed to
make one rip-roaring Spaghetti Western flick. Coburn's mission is
two-fold and in ¨Dirty dozen ¨ style : first turn his prisoners into a
fighting unit and then turn them loose on a Southern fortress occupied
by Confederate soldiers commanded by cruel Major Telly Savallas . His
crime-minded characters include Bud Spencer as a chronic malcontent,
Benito Stefanelli as a ready-to-blow psycho, Hugo Fangareggi as a
lame-brained convict , and Reinhard Kolldehoff as Union sergeant, among
others . The first half of the film allows the colorful cast of
character actors to have their fun as they get their tails whipped into
shape and develop shaky relationship with their leader. The final part
is all action, as the culprit commandos wreck havoc and then run for
their lives. Despite the fact that few of the "heroes" survive the
bloodbath, the message here isn't that war is hell. Rather, it seems to
be: war can be a hell of a good time... if you've got nothing to lose .
Pretty good S.W. about a relentless and exciting dangerous mission set
against spectacular scenery of Almeria. The relentless assignment is
set against strong environment, risked mountains and hazardous trails .
The dangerous pursuit includes a numerous group formed by a motley cast
. It will be a long and dangerous pursuit with continuous risks . This
Western is superior than subsequent entries because it displays
stirring adventures, shootouts, riding pursuits and is pretty amusing.
It's an exciting SW with breathtaking final showdown between the protagonists and their enemies full of explosions , machine gun and deaths . James Coburn is very fine, he ravages the screen, he steals the show as Union colonel seeking revenge . Telly Savallas as a cruelly baddie role as confederate officer is terrific , subsequently the would play similar roles in other Spaghettis . Furthermore, appears usual secondaries of Italian/Spanish Western as Benito Stefanelli , Francisco Sanz , Jose Suarez and of course special mention to Bud Spencer in a serious role . The film blends violence, blood, tension, high body-count and though the first part is slow moving , however is quite entertaining. There is plenty of action in the movie , guaranteeing a shootout or stunt every few minutes. There are many fine technicians and nice assistant direction and excellent production design with a magnificent scenario plenty of barren outdoors, dirty landscapes under a glimmer sun and a fine set on the final scenes . The musician Riz Ortalani composes a nice Spaghetti soundtrack and well conducted ; it's full of enjoyable sounds and emotive score . The film is well shot in Texas Hollywood-Fort Bravo, Almeria, Spain with a breathtaking set design at the impressive fortress which was made by Julio Molina for ¨the Condor ¨ movie , one of the best ever created and where were posteriorly filmed several Spaghetti as ¨ Blind man ¨, ¨ A man called Noon¨ and ¨Conan the Barbarian¨. Nevertheless, today the fort has been partially crumbled and only remain some ruins .
Tonino Valeri's so-so direction is well crafted, here he's less cynical and humorous and more inclined toward violence and too much action especially on its ending part . Colorful and evocative cinematography by Alejandro Ulloa , reflecting marvelously the habitual Almeria outdoors . The picture is well directed by Tonio Valeri , an expert on Western as proved in ¨The hired gun ¨ , ¨My name is nobody ¨ with Fonda and Terence Hill , ¨The price of power ¨ with Giuliano Gemma and Van Heflin , ¨The day of anger ¨with Lee van Cleef and ¨ Taste of Killing¨ with Craig Hill and George Martin .
A Reason to Live, a Reason to Die is a daft; knowing; old fashioned
yarn a film with clichéd action figures filling in for characters and
crazy shoot outs involving masses of extras acting as its high points
of drama. It is a film that begins with the aftermath of a huge gun
fight at an American Civil War fort; a gun fight in which an awful lot
happens AT the fort, but a gun fight to which the trudging prelude
across the deserts of the great American West TO the fort consists of
very little. One would compare it to Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch of just
a few years previously, but the getting to the fort shoot out finale in
that film was around about just as much fun as the maddening final
shoot out was, maybe even more: but not here. Tonino Valerii's film is
all about the pomp and the circumstance, a trek across the barren sands
of nineteenth century U.S.A. that is only ever mildly invigorating at
the best of times; the bulk of it acting as a prelude to the all of the
chaos which, by the time of its arrival, has just about seen us stop
In beginning with the fallout of the all out warfare, the film reveals to us its hand in regards to precisely where it's headed; a tactic we do not necessarily mind, and have indeed come to quite enjoy under varying guises from throughout cinema's long history. Some of the better instances, and the range of examples can be rather vast, arrive in the form of De Palma's Carlito's Way or Billy Wilder's classical era noir Double Indemnity; as two films with the eerie ability to snare us into proceedings and still have us as involved as much as we are by the time the conclusion arrives in exactly the manner we saw or heard during the opening beats. Valerii's film follows that of James Coburn's disgraced colonel Pembroke, and his propulsion from such a state into the messy world of suicide missions and open warfare in which he is the leader of an array of troops one would be a fool to not label the underdogs as to where they're eventually to head.
When we first come across Pembroke, it is when the man is scraggly and worn in spite of his rank. He is a thief; a man on his way to jail, that is until he is identified by another official of a more gracious ilk and called into his quarters for a talk. An appreciator of fine wine and enjoying the high life that comes with having gone through the system, a life including armed guards; respect, it seems, and the ability to be so eloquent in one's multi-tasking when speaking of the wine and the mission in equal balance, Pembroke's saviour and his sitting opposite the bedraggled Pembroke displays, in sharp contrast, the deep difference between what a colonel should be and what Pembroke is. Pembroke has proposed to him a mission, a mission to try and recapture a fort for this, the side of the Union Army, from that of the Confederates whom took it under the command of Telly Savalas' Major Ward a recapturing, it is deemed, that is best preordained by that of an underground tunnel which needs to be taken first. As the gallows outside are readied, and Pembroke contemplates his situation, he begrudgingly accepts and proceeds to round up a disparate array of Apaches; Mexicans; fanatics and rapists from the death roll for this dangerous mission.
Pembroke, indeed the majority of the clan, are effectively on a quest for redemption; a quest surmised by the fact the nickname for the large fort they're due to take is that of the "Pulpit", in regards to its situation on that of a mountain, but a highly religious nickname neatly encapsulating the redemptive element of their mission as they attempt to do good for a change, and get the commanding officer back at the base whom sent them away the promotion he feels he deserves. People will be quick to point out the ties to The Dirty Dozen, but Valerii's piece owes so much more to Leone's game-changing Spaghetti Western The Good, The Bad and the Ugly; an apparently knowing point of inspiration inherent with the fact Pembroke initially brushes off enquiries to the rest of his crew with the promise of enemy gold buried out there in the region of where they're headed.
Alas, the rest of the film is not up to the standard of Coburn's grizzled, underplayed performance of which he instills within his character and unloads into the film; the man playing the material in a fashion that is better than what the film deserves and is a performance which belongs in a better film. There are skirmishes with those they come up against; disagreements within the band of proverbial brothers as one or two of them express their desires to flee, the bedding down for a night's sleep ought to being a good source of tension as Pembroke's no-nonsense attitude clashes with cut-throats wanting to flee, but it mostly falls flat. One occasion witnesses the stumbling across of a secluded farm, a set piece that, again, ought to rack up a fair degree of tension what with the group of bandits and rapists Pembroke has in tow being forced into sharing the same space as decent civilian folk, but it fails to induce much in the way of effective drama and instead leaves rather-a nasty taste which feels misplaced in an otherwise guilty, old fashioned romp which is a deeply underwhelming experience on the whole.
Another western taking place during the Civil War.
Colonel Penbroke (James Coburn) is trying to redeem himself after losing a fort to the rebs, and, like The Dirty Dozen, gathers condemned men to take a fort. He only has six or eight, not a dozen, but they manage to get to the fort anyway. Getting in is another matter.
This is where it changes from a western to a commando flick, a la WWII. The condemned all die thinking they would be rich off the gold supposedly buried in the fort, and Coburn gets his chance to once again face Maj. Ward (Telly Savalas).
Lots of dead Rebs and only Pembroke and Eli (Bud Spencer) survive, but his honor is restored.
"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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The fine quality of this comic and then very dramatic Coburn & B.
Spencer western was a surprise for me.
This heterogeneous and satisfying western is an odd proof that Valerii was an underachiever and that he should of been one of the most respected western directors ever. The movie is, as I said, very heterogeneous; but it also shows a flawless gusto and an unfailing taste for what an action film must be, and has an admirably pure line, there is this purity of the narration that makes it especially likable.
In a few words, it is the Dirty Dozen set during another warin 1862, I think.
It has been noticed that there are some WW 2 action films that are essentially westerns. Well, here we got the symmetrical situation: the Coburn western is essentially a commando flick.
A commando of only eight men, all evildoers (Coburn and B. Spencer are the most familiar faces ) is sent to conquer a fort; the fort is ruled by Major Ward (i.e., Savallas). Savallas and his soldiers are Southerners.
In a too small role, Savallas makes yet another of his outstanding villains.
Coburn's character isn't a lowlife, but a Colonel that wants to conquer the fort that he surrendered to Major Ward.
Most of the film is made in a humorous key. B. Spencer is the protagonist of all sorts of bodily jokes, there are discussions about buttocks, urinating and umbilical region. If you allow me an impious thought, who could imagine Wayne, G. Cooper or Mitchum forcing unsuccessfully to urinate, simulating vainly that they urinate, and complaining about their asses being inflamed by horse-ride? I guess it somehow depends on your particular sensibilities, yet this comic is never displeasing or misplaced or disgusting. It is simply Gargantuan joking.
The very long fight scene is particularly pleasingonce the commando enters the fort, a long battle begins. The movie's end is somehow a twistfor me, it was a twistI expected a duel, etc.. Anyway, Savallas is very good. These three actorsCoburn, B. Spencer and Savallasgive the film a particular charm.
The fight scene is indeed an interesting one, though on another level than the rest of the movieit's like the film suddenly changesthe feel, the style change suddenly, and we get one of the finest fight scenes, like an ultracompact Dirty Dozen!
During this last part of the moviethe fightthe tone becomes intensely and convincingly , seriously dramatic. One could define the film in its entirety as a very funny, comical western, excellently played, and with a long very dramatic fight scene. Coburn meeting Savallas is really chilling and thrillingand Savallas indeed looks as if he was dying when Coburn pierces him with the sword. I dislike disclosing here the endyet Savallas' death was of course foreseeable and on the other hand and much more important Savallas' death scene is so important and finely done and interesting that it of course deserved to be explicitly mentioned here.
A Reason to Live, a Reason to Die is rather short. B. Spencer has most of the screen time. Everything seems to happen very quickly; Eli's (B. Spencer's) sabotage techniques allow for many funny things to be played. Eli and the Colonel are the only two good guys in the film; Eli is as intelligent as the Colonel, and sides with him on every occasion.
The humor is of course manly and also very unsubtle; the naturalness gives charm to the comic strips story, while B. Spencer's sometimes aggressive humor is amusing in his usual buffoonish way. This '72 western comes towards the end of B. Spencer's career in the westernsin '73 he'll launch his Piedone. He alternates placidity with aggressiveness ,having already found the formula of his action roles.
On the other hand, I have to say that, with all its merits and qualities, A Reason to Live remains a modest thrilling funny likable action western, and it's in no way the equal of a film like The Dirty Dozen (where everything was infinitely better, worked much better, etc., there was plenty of action and suspense, the characters had their individuality and the finest actors abounded!).
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Two men, Colonel Pembroke(JAMES COBURN)and Eli Sampson(BUD
SPENCER),stand in the middle of a fortress, Fort Holman, littered with
dead bodies, in the aftermath of a bloody battle. The story is told in
flashback and as the two men leave the deserted and destroyed fortress,
the film begins from the start and depicts the events leading up to the
massacre. During the American Civil war, a disgraced Colonel Pembroke
is brought back to his union superiors after having escaped from a
Confederate prisoner of war camp and been arrested for looting. It
turns out that Pembroke was in charge of the garrison at Fort Holman,
but surrendered to Confederate Major Ward(TELLY SAVALAS)and his rebel
forces without a single shot being fired, which allowed Ward to take
over the Fort without a fight. Although branded a coward and a traitor,
Pembroke's superior officer gives him the chance top redeem himself, by
re-taking Fort Holman. Pembroke selects 6 men to take with him on his
mission,4 convicts, a dubious army Sergeant and Eli, whom he met
shortly after his escape from the POW camp. As the men set out on their
mission, we soon find out Pembroke's personal motivation for giving up
the fort, and wanting to take it back...
A REASON TO LIVE,A REASON TO DIE is one of my favourite Spaghetti Westerns,the highlight of the whole film has got to be the climatic battle inside Fort Holman.The whole sequence was spectacular, exhilarating,absolutely riveting and shot in a fun, exciting way.As with every other Spaghetti western, the stunts in this sequence are awesome, the shots of masses of soldiers being gunned down by Gatling Guns and pistols and furiously flinching, falling down steps and off of walls as they got shot were fantastic and sent my pulse pounding and adrenaline surging through my veins. The massive explosions were mind blowing and the shots of the wagon sheds angrily exploding with flames tearing them apart blew me away, I was completely awestruck by how I could feel the thundering impact of every explosion as the camera shook violently every time something was blown apart. Pembroke and his men kick ass and raise hell in rollicking Spaghetti western fashion as they throw packs of Dynamite over the fort walls and into the fort, destroying the entire place and taking out dozens of men and tearing up buildings. One part in this sequence which made me laugh was when Eli grabs two soldiers manning a Gatling Gun, bashes their heads together and throws them off of the fort wall. I was extremely impressed by the Fort Holman set and awestruck just by how vast and huge it was and how expertly designed and built it was.This final battle is the only action scene in the whole film and the director does a great job in building up to this explosive, ear shattering, all-guns-blazing finale.
The cinematography was incredible, with stunning shots of the rocky, sun baked mountains, as I've already stated, the excitement and energy of the final battle is captured magnificently. The shots of the Steam Engine chuntering down the track early in the film were also excellent. I thought Colonel Pembroke was a strong character and was portrayed excellently by James Coburn, even though he gets very little screen time, Telly Savalas absolutely superb as the crazed Major ward, I loved the part during the battle in which he shoots a deserting soldier before screaming "There'll be no time for court martials, EXECUTION ON THE SPOT". Bud Spencer was magnificent and the guy who played the brutal union Sergeant also gave a decent performance, I also thought the dubbing was terrific, although the voices of James Coburn and Telly Savalas sounded genuine, I thought the rough, deep voices of the characters were cool/The storyline was appealing, interesting and marvellously gritty and the pacing was satisfactory with the men constantly getting closer to the fortress. The final scene between Colonel Pembroke and Major Ward was chilling, taut and really nail biting and shot in a mind blowing, gut wrenching way, I sensed a brief anti war comment at the end of the film when Colonel Pembroke cuts down the confederate flag, then throws down his sword and takes off his gun belt and throwing it on the ground. I had no fingers left after the men scaled the cliff face, the shots here were amazing too.Riz Ortolani's score was exceptional, the title music was beautiful, it reminded me of the music in the American westerns of the 40s and 50s.The hairs on the back of my neck stood up prior to the battle as Pembroke and his men emerge on a ridge and shoot two guys before Pembroke screams "GO GET EM" and the men charge towards the fortress and begin hurling dynamite over it's walls as the epic soundtrack plays in the background.
A REASON TO LIVE,A REASON TO DIE is a flawless Spaghetti Western,it has an engrossing, intriguing and intelligent civil war storyline,fantastic script and characters, stupendous and brisk camera-work, a tremendous soundtrack which sounds magnificent in the film, dozens of intense and exciting scenes which are well directed, shot and paced and an electrifying,out-of-this-world action sequence to top it all off.10/10.
The spaghetti western sub-genre might have grown rancid by this period,
but there are no doubts their titles were striking and creative, when
which said simply rolled of your tongue. Tell me that this title isn't
a lyrical joy. No stranger to the sub-genre with "My Name is Nobody"
and "Day of Anger", director Tonino Valerii's 'A Reason to Live, A
Reason to Die!" would be a hardy old-fashion western variation of "The
Dirty Dozen". While it might be only half of that film, its remains an
amusing fare thanks largely to the three central performances of Bud
Spencer, James Coburn and Telly Savalas. The latter might not make an
appearance until the hour mark, but it's the combination between the
buoyant Spencer and low-key Coburn which drives it. The humour seems to
come off thanks to Spencer timing and presence. Even though the greying
Coburn and swaggering Savalas get top billing, it's Spencer who's
really the star.
Like most films of this ilk, it's systematic with its staples as the theme of vengeance and redemption looms prominently. There's no real change of route, as it keeps it gritty and the straight-forward narrative never loses focuses, especially that of the character's motivations with it to throw up a sudden revelation (which my DVD synopsis' spoiled). The expandable characters are clichés, but workable as they serve their purpose with it ending on a bang. It actually starts with the end, to only retell the story from Spencer's character's point of view. This gives it like a mythical tale-like quality. It's well shot with a commendable music score. Valerii does a serviceable job behind the camera letting it move at a fair pace while constructing few intense scenes and cracking action sequences, like the delirious climatic showdown at the hillside forte (with it vivid locations), which had me thinking of "The Wild Bunch" (in which case Coburn would star in Peckinpah's "Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid" the following year), but in the end you feel like there just wasn't enough going on. Some moments should have been much stronger than they were, like the personal battle between Coburn and Savalas.
Contrived, but tough and dirty entertainment.
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