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PAID IN BLOOD is another one of those Italian made Westerns churned out between 1970 and 1972 by Continental and Flora Films on the super-cheap, ply-board and tack hammer made sets made by genre star Gordon Mitchell near an old sand lot with his own money & time. In the roughly 3 years in which the sets were used, I'd say about thirty films were shot in and about the ramshackle buildings and back lots, which when filmed from one angle became a homesteader's ranch or from another, a saloon on main street. This one was directed by Luigi Batzella, others by Miles Deem, Joe D'amato, Frank Kramer, a few others who's names escape me, but they all have a similar look, similar casts, similar stories, and similar music.
The all have a similar feel too, which is decidedly flimsy or slap-shod when compared to the arty grandeur of a Leone or Corbucci. Most were filmed on budgets that couldn't have been more than $20,000 or $30,000, with friends and friends of friends pitching in with some crew work here, a bit role there. From nothing, they created these films. Often brand names like Sartana, Django and Hallelujah were used in conjunction with the productions (as English versions, at least) and had zero to do with the movies which invented those characters. They were cashing in, but to the converted that is half of the appeal.
I love how damn cheap looking the films are, with the actors wearing Levis jeans and their own designer boots, the gun belts and firearms studio props borrowed for a weekend rather than personal items of specific characters. The people in the films exist as shorthand sketches: This one is a gunfighter, this one his brother who was murdered, this one a saloon girl, and that one the Marshall. The Italian actors who play them are for the most part anonymous to most contemporary viewers, but that too sort of heightens the cult appeal. PAID IN BLOOD has a rather distinguished group of ladies in it's cast (Batzella regular Esmeralda Barros and cult favorite Krista Nell) but is really no better or worse than other examples (TRINITY IN EL DORADO, A BOUNTY KILLER FOR TRINITY, ONE DAMNED DAY AT DAWN DJANGO MEETS SARTANA) and exists at a level that is immune to conventional critical review. The film is what it is, take it or leave it, and that attitude is also part of the appeal.
This is somewhat advanced viewing as far as Spaghetti Westerns go, without any standout names or distinguished performances or even notable music. It is a sort of disposable entertainment, here one week on a double bill with something else, and next week there will be two more just like it. On that level, they are sort of comforting, and relaxingly stupid in nature. The tacky costumes and sets just add to the mix: It's not "camp", more sort of kitsch like in nature, celebrating it's awareness of what poor taste the film is in, and how with nothing they just ate up 90 minutes of time. And once you get down to brass tacks, it wasn't that bad.
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