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Italian Western made at the tail-end of the "Spaghetti" style, though it doesn't really fit into those parameters. The snowy setting recalls THE GREAT SILENCE (1968) - which, incidentally, I only watched a day prior to this one!
The plot revolves around the hunt for an escaped convict (Guido Mannari) by Canadian Mounties; however, it also takes in a personal grudge between him and one of the pursuing officers (played by Fabio Testi) - its eventual revelation, absurdly delayed, is clearly inspired by Anthony Mann's WINCHESTER '73 (1950). Testi, however, is unable to express the essential ruthlessness which marked his character following the death of his loved one (Lynne Frederick), who had previously been the neglected fiancée of his quarry; the trio's relationship also evokes memories of the James Coburn character's backstory, shown in intermittent flashbacks, in Sergio Leone's A FISTFUL OF DYNAMITE (1971). Incidentally, Testi and Frederick later appeared together in another (unsuccessful) Spaghetti Western - Lucio Fulci's THE FOUR OF THE APOCALYPSE (1975)!
An unusual element added to the fray is the relationship which blossoms between the villain and Testi and Frederick's child, whom he kidnaps and holds hostage; at one point, the boy saves the man's life and the latter reciprocates - by calling in befuddled doctor Lionel Stander - when the young one becomes feverish. The climactic scenes involve a showdown between Testi and his nemesis that's interrupted by the latter's greedy cohorts (prior to his capture, he had hidden a cache' of gold) and in which, finally repentant, he willingly succumbs to a hail of bullets.
In the end, the film is harmless enough but also strictly routine. This was the first film to bear the name of director D'Amato. He previously directed under his real name of Aristide Massaccesi, which he still retained for his other credit as the film's cinematographer! In anticipation of this, I rented the director's more typical sexploitationer EMANUELLE AND THE LAST CANNIBALS (1977) - which I'll eventually get to sometime this week...
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