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|44 reviews in total|
I must confess to "umming and ahhing" a fair bit as to whether I really
wanted to see this film. I've got nothing against James Garner, but he
just didn't say "spaghetti western protagonist" to me. He doesn't have
that certain "kill" look in his eye (think Eastwood, Nero, Gemma,
Steffen et el). However, having always respected Howard Hughes'
"Essentials" book, this was one of the few films that he had covered so
far that I had not seen - and his recommendations had generally not
disappointed. I am really glad that I did dispel these initial
reservations, because Man Called Sledge makes great viewing from
beginning to end.
Luther Sledge (Garner) is introduced to us as he enters a bar with one of his cohorts. Leaving his colleague to participate in an ill-fated card game, Sledge reunites himself with his lover Ria (Laura Antonelli). After a night of passion (lucky man!) he is woken by the sound of a gunshot. He returns to the bar to find his partner dead, and forced to defend himself against the killers. An old timer witness (John Marley) confirms that Sledge has merely defended himself.
Sledge and the old timer soon cross paths again, with the former assuming that he is being tracked due to the price on his head. However, it soon transpires that the old man has been spying on a delivery of gold. This gold is transported by a posse of armed guards and stored in a top security prison overnight. The old man recounts how he spent time in the jail, with his cell sitting side by side to the safe.
The lure of the gold is too much for Sledge, and he is soon devising a scheme to get his hands on the horde and allow him to settle down and lead an honest life with Ria. And what better way to get access to the treasure than to find ones self imprisoned in the jail......
A simple yet highly enjoyable idea for a story, with double crossing aplenty and a cracking soundtrack. If truth be told, I am still not completely sold on Messrs Garner and Weaver in the spaghetti genre, but the film itself more than makes up for such minor grumbles. There are some great scenes, with Sledge's wilful imprisonment (with some very shady characters forming his prison mates) a particular highlight.
Highlighly recommended, and grasping at a possible "must view" berth.
Any film with a title as memorable and eye-catching as "Heads You Die,
Tails I Kill You" has a lot to live up to. Luckily this one does....
well, for the first half at least.
The story centres around George Hilton's character named "Halleluyah" (thus the films alternative title "They Call Me Hallelujah"). He has been hired by Mexican general Ramirez (Roberto Camardiel) to steal jewels from the army, allegedly to help fund the revolution.
The beginning of the movie is very strong, as Ramirez is led to the firing line by the army, to Ciprani's fantastic score. Some onlookers are already grieving, but proceedings are intervened when Halleluyah appears with his very novel machine gun. Great stuff.
The plot has more twists and turns than, ummmmm, a very twisty turney thing! It is not just Halleluyah searching for the jewels, but a secret agent disguised as a Nun (Agata Flori), the Russian Alexei (Charles Southwood) and a gang of arms dealers led by Fortune (Paulo Gozlino).
Whilst the movie is a real roller-coaster of a ride, it does reach new levels of stupidity with the introduction of Alexei. As I said at the beginning of this write up, the film doesn't disappoint - it just (in my opinion) has one eccentric character too many. This makes the second half just a bit too farcical to me at times.
Most of the best scenes are based around Halleluyah's interaction with the gang - particularly near the beginning where disguised as monks they successfully steal the jewels (and soon face a confrontation with "Brother" Hallelujah). There is also a hilarious scene in which our hero poisons the gang's food, resulting in much belly ache and diarrhoea enforced swift exists! As far as the cast are concerned, Hilton makes a good leading man for the less serious westerns. Regular spaghetti stalwart Federico Boido is also well cast as the weasel like gang member Slocum.
I would definitely recommend this film (despite my reservations about the Russian!). It is a well plotted, good fun view, with enough double crosses and twists to keep you interested and entertained throughout.
Set in 1830's Texas, Erastus 'Deaf' Smith (Anthony Quinn) is an ageing
but trusted spy for the president, despite the obvious handicap of
being a deaf mute. His friend and companion is the sexually charged
Spaniard Johnny Ears (Franco Nero), seemingly on a constant mission to
obtain another notch on his bed post (or should I say, someone elses!).
In fact, unlike your usual Spaghetti Western hero, he is probably more
likely to be found in bed than in a bar brawl or gunfight.
The two have been sent by the president to halt the uprising down south, where a rebel by the name of Morton is rallying a rebellion to create independence and domination, with the help of German backing.
The whole emphasis of the story is the great bond between Nero and Quinn, which is quite enjoyable throughout. Comically, Johnny Ears is constantly throwing stones at the laid back Smith in order to get his attention. Ears' relationship with the luscious local whore Susie (Pamela Tiffin) is also a fine display of character play, as their interplay changes from flirtation to sexual tension, and from lust to love. Hell, by the end, Ears seems willing to quit his womanising ways and settle down with the blonde beauty.
There are entertaining one-liners throughout (all obviously left to Nero, who is in fine comic form). As for Quinn, the whole idea that a deaf gunhand can survive and be held in such esteem is entertaining in itself (as he walks away completely unaware of the explosions metres behind him, and sneaks up on opponents oblivious to the fact that the bells on a whores garter - given to him whilst he awaited the return of the promiscuous Ears from the local brothel - are jangling together).
Aside from these highlights, the film is fairly average fare. At times Smith's inability to communicate can be as frustrating to the viewer as it must be to Smith himself. The Director does however highlight this disability to some effect, with silence at any time when the story is shown from Smith's eyes. Too much weight is also placed on the final action-packed climax, which goes on for an age with a maximum explosion count (although it does contain a priceless moment when Ears is unable to operate the enemies' machine gun - a skill mastered to great effect by Nero's Django).
In summary, this is an entertaining little film, high on cheese but low on substance. And there are days when that is exactly the sort of "popcorn" movie that you want to watch. If you are in that mood (I was) you will probably enjoy it (I did!). But it is definitely more "watchable" than "recommended".
Directed by one time film critic Carlo Lizzani, "The Hills Run Red" is
a welcome addition to anyone's spaghetti western collection.
The film begins with ex-confederates Jerry Brewster (Thomas Hunter) and Ken Seagall (Nando Gazzalo) fleeing by stagecoach from soldiers following a successful heist. They agree that the only chance for escape is if one of the partners bails out with the cash. To decide who should get away the two draw cards, with Brewster the unlucky loser. Seagall promises to look after Brewster's family before leaping from the stagecoach. He successfully hides with the money, whilst Brewster is captured and imprisoned for five years.
On his release, Brewster returns to his now derelict family home. He finds a diary from his wife, and learns that she has been living in poverty during his absence, struggling to bring up their son alone. Seagall had shunned them, keeping the money himself and starting a new life under the name Ken Milton.
Brewster screams out his intention for revenge, and is soon faced by gun-hands sent by Seagall. Luckily for him, an ageing gunman Winny Getz (Dan Duryea) is on hand to help out - a mysterious character that is never fully explained (although some assumptions can be made that I won't spoil here!) but acts as Brewster's "guardian angel" throughout the film.
Learning that his wife has died and his son is missing, Brewster decides to settle his score with Seagall. On beginning his search he discovers that Seagall is attempting to drive out the local inhabitants of Austin, and in particular the leading light and saloon owner Brian Homer (Geoffrey Copleston). Aided by the demented Garcia Mendez (Henry Silva) and his gang. To confront Seagall and get his revenge, Brewster is forced to infiltrate the gang.
"The Hills Run Red" certainly has some interesting characters. Silva plays Mendez as a black clad demented psychopath. Hunter's lead role is not too far behind in the madness stakes (presumably bought on by that five years stretch, which appeared quite a gruelling and cruel imprisonment). Lets just say that both have some serious issues!! Of the two, Silva is particularly convincing, and his is the stand-out performance of the film. Hunter meanwhile could be accused of over acting at times here, although it is still an enjoyable display. Duryea's portrayal of the mysterious Getz also merits much applause.
The love interest is provided by Nicoletta Machiavelli as Seagall's sister Mary-Ann. Constantly having to dismiss advances from Mendez, her attraction to Brewster is immediate.
Music is courtesy of one Leo Nichols (better known as Ennio Morricone to you and I). In truth it is not one of his better scores, but still adds great atmosphere to the film, as one would expect from the master. It just does not have anything to make it unique, and is not as memorable as his more heralded efforts.
All in all "The Hills Run Red" makes for a great viewing. At times it can be quite brutal (such as the saloon massacre). And how I winced as Brewster's tattoo is cut from his arm whilst he is awake! But it is a gripping story, well directed and well worth watching.
"Ah aha aha ahaaaa - they call him Captain Apache".
"Well any film that provides you with an opportunity to hear Lee Van Cleef singing not just once, but twice has got to be worth a viewing" I thought to myself. "I'm sure it can't be as bad as I've been told". Well in truth it IS that bad. But it doesn't make it unwatchable! Lee Van Cleef plays an Apache Captain within the Army that is sent to investigate the murder of a Commissioner, and discover the meaning of the dying man's last words "April Morning".
It plays like a murder mystery in a western setting, with numerous characters introduced throughout that appear to have heard the phrase "April Morning", but are either attempting to solve the riddle themselves, or are shot before they can speak. These include gunrunner Griffin (Stuart Whitman), the blonde temptress Maude (Caroll Baker) and the equally teasing Rosita (Elisa Montes). And from a plot perspective, that is pretty much it (well, without solving the mystery that is!). Yes, it sounds very simple, but in actual fact the story is quite convoluted.
The soundtrack is hysterical - the title track in particular being so bad that you just love it - with Lee Van Cleef narrating to a tune so catchy that it would put professional purveyors of pop to shame! And you still get his rendition "April Morning" at the end of the film to look forward to.
Whilst it is quite poor Spaghetti Western fare, and a perfect example of the deterioration of the genre during the seventies, it does have three main factors that make it quite watchable :
1 - Lee Van Cleef himself - although this is a real LVC by numbers effort, the man has a screen presence that can rescue even the worst of films.
2 - The afore-mentioned theme tune.
3 - Caroll Baker and Elisa Montes (thats just the male hormones working! And anyway ladies, you get the bonus of a near naked Lee Van Cleef, so no accusing me of gawping!).
Aside from this, there are some really good moments (Captain Apache insulting the two twins, the death of the Mexican General (played by Jose Bodalo) and a handful of other scenes that I chuckled at at the time but have since left my mind). At times the editing between scenes was quite poor (at one point jumping from Captain Apache in bed with Maude, to them discovering the hanging body of the key witness). Well hung!
Don't let me put you off watching it, because it is an example of a film being so bad its good. I would never have imagined however that Lee Van Cleef crooning would be the highlight of a film!
Ah, such beautiful music!
This film opens with a classic sequence. A stagecoach is attacked by a gang, with all the passengers brutally massacred. Cue Morricone's haunting soundtrack as the camera focuses on the dead, and in particular the face of a blonde girl. A hand brushes the dust from her face,and the camera pans up to show the sorrowful face of Billy (Giuliano Gemma). A truly moving scene, but made particularly so because of Morricone's music.
In a way, this opening sequence is quite out of place with the remainder of the movie. The rest is a light-hearted affair, based around the partnership of Billy and Larry (Mario Adorf). Billy is a smart, world-wise man, whilst Larry is not gifted with the greatest amount of intelligence. This is a perfect foil for Billy, who is a convincing conman and successful in getting the better out of his gullible partner throughout the film (including robbing him of his entire life savings).
The action really hots up when the character of Roger Pratt (Federico Boido) is introduced properly (until this stage, he is purely the face of the gang leader from the opening ambush). He is a brutal man, tracking down Billy on behalf of his father Samual Pratt (Anthony Dawson). The second half of the movie concentrates on this pursuit, with Samual also arriving on the scene and proving to be as barbaric as his short-fused offspring.
Director Giulio Petroni (of "Death Rides a Horse" fame) adopts a similar style to the one used in his later Milian cast "Life is Tough, Right Providence?". It shares its episodic structure, and "clever man/thick man" partnership. Anyone that has read my other reviews will probably have noticed that I do not generally like the more light-hearted westerns. However, I did very much enjoy most of this particular film (the same could not be said of "Providence" incidentally).
Gemma does not look as comfortable with the more comedic role as he does to that of an angel-faced gunman. But he still looks and acts the part - as likable in this film as ever. Adorf meanwhile is suitably oafish (in a role that would have been perfect for Bud Spencer), as Boido and Dawson are villainous.
A particular highlight of the film is a superb scene as Billy cons his way into the house of a beautiful Widow (played by the frankly gorgeous Magda Konopka). Another very beautiful Spaghetti Western actress, part sorrowful and part sexually teasing.
As my review closes, I must dwell further on that opening sequence. The background to this massacre is never fully explained - perhaps those killed have been unfortunate acquaintances of Billy, and suitably punished by the Pratt gang. I don't know. And, in its serious nature, it perhaps feels like a scene that doesn't really belong in this film. But... if you watch it for no other reason, then watch it for this powerful prologue (even close your eyes just to hear Morricone's score). I am also quite confident as you sit through the whole film that you will find other scenes that you will enjoy.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Tony Anthony returns in his "Stranger" guise, in a film that totally
eclipses the qualities of its predecessor, "A Stranger in Town".
To the sound of Cipriani's superb score, the Stranger rides horseback (astride the interestingly named "Pussy") through the desert, protecting himself from the sun's rays with a pink parasol, and greeting a passing traveller. The sound of gunfire alerts him to a nearby ranch, where he finds the traveller lying dead. A great gunfight scene ensues, and three dead bodies later he learns of a bandit gang's gold heist plot.
The gang, led by En Plein (Dan Vadis) are known as the Treasure of the Border, on account of the size of the bounties that rest on their heads (although quite how some of his goofy comrades manage to generate such a vast reward is beyond me). They successfully ambush a stagecoach, which is soon revealed to be made of solid gold. The Stranger tracks down the gang, in an effort to claim the bounty, assisted by a deranged local preacher with a pocketful of fireworks.
The story itself is very simple, but delivered in a great style. Like the other films in the Stranger series (well, those that I have seen), it combines the feel of the Leone films (in its poncho clad protagonist and its morricone-mimic soundtrack) but injects an extra dosage of humour. This humorous side is particularly well crafted (such as the enjoyable scene at the beginning of the movie, when the Stranger is forced at gunpoint to dig a grave both for the dead traveller and himself). "Returns" does not borrow so heavily from the Dollars trilogy as "A Stranger in Town", but still its clear where its influences lie. And why not - it does it very successfully and makes for great viewing.
Anthony is never going to exude the same level of cool as Eastwood's Man With No Name, and therefore deliberately plays the role in a more clumsy comical fashion. But there is still no denying his character's appeal - or his fast-draw and accurate gun-play. The supporting characters also really add to the enjoyment, with Vadis particularly well suited to the role of the merciless gang leader.
Perhaps the highlight of the film though is Cipriani's score which, as mentioned earlier, owes more than a passing nod to Ennio, but aptly captures the mood and feeling as the action unfurls. It's one of those soundtracks that could make even a bad film worth watching.
Anthony's Stranger series eventually collapsed into the medieval farce that is "Get Mean". But this particular episode of the Stranger's adventures is a truly enjoyable and highly watchable western. And one that nearly reaches the highlights of Anthony's finest hour - Blindman. "Returns" is the best of the Stranger films that I have seen, and one that I would definitely recommend.
Confederate soldier Gary O'Hara (Guiliano Gemma) and his brother Phil
are released from a prisoner of war camp following the end of the civil
war, the barrels of their guns removed by their captors. Gary returns
home to his wife Judy (Evelyn Stewart) whilst Phil is not ready to live
such a quiet life and heads off west.
Gary soon decides to follow his brother to the town of Yellowstone, and to find work to support his family. On arrival, his combat prowess is soon put to practice, which brings him to the attention of local banker McCory (Pierre Cressoy). McCory offers him a ranch and money if he can kill local outlaw Blacky, which he agrees to do. Gary is taken to the local saloon and advised that Blacky is the man at the bar with his back to him. On confrontation, Blacky turns around, firing his gun - and revealing himself to be Phil O'Hara. McCory and his men open fire, leaving both brothers dead.
By a stroke of good fortune, Gary survives the ambush, his life saved by the single silver dollar in his pocket. He sets out to discover why McCory wanted Blacky dead, and to aid the local villagers that are suffering at the hands of a group of marauding bandits. Meanwhile, Judy O'Hara travels to Yellowstone in search of her husband, and soon finds herself in the unwelcome company of McCory.
As with Gemma's role in his two Ringo films, the character of Gary O'Hara would sit quite comfortably in an American made western. This is no bad thing, and he does always make for a likable hero. The same point could be levelled at the film in general - it is a likable flick, with a true old American western feel. That said, Ferrio's enjoyable whistled score clearly sits within the euro-western genre, and it does share a level of violence with its fellow Italian movies.
The story itself has a few clichés (for one thing, a fair few screen characters have been saved over the years by an inanimate object conveniently placed on their person) but does that really matter? Clearly not. And there are some great scenes, particularly both the opening (great gun-play as the brothers are released) and final sequence. From a personal perspective, I was also intrigued to note a great visual likeness between Evelyn Stewart and my own girlfriend!!! Not that that should be of any real relevance to this write up.
In summary, this is one of those nice easy to watch movies (legs up on the sofa, with a wine or beer for company), and certainly worth a few silver dollars of anyones money.
Now, there are many euro-westerns that would fit into the "weird"
category, but woh this one is weirder than most!
The story starts with Whity Selby (Thomas Hunter) being confronted by a solicitor whilst leaving a saloon (inside which he has just thwarted an attack by killing all three opponents with one blast of his three barrelled pistol - one of many gimmicky weapons in his arsenal).
The solicitor advises Selby that his father, who had died ten years ago and he had never met, had left him his goldmine as part of a will. The document is accompanied by a picture of a young girl. Selby travels to Laredo to reclaim his father's legacy, and to identify the identity of the girl.
On arriving at the goldmine, Selby encounters two men on a similar mission - Etienne Devereaux (Nadir Moretti), a man of french origin with magical powers of magnetism (honestly!) and Lester Kato (James Shigeta), a kung-fu kicking oriental. As the three men fight it out for what they consider rightfully theirs, they are accosted by an old local man, and it soon becomes clear from the ensuing discussions and matching wills/photos that the three are unlikely brothers. Their father enjoyed the company of women, and many of them!
The men are informed that their father fought bitterly to retain his land, but had been forced out of Laredo by powerful landowner "Julius Caesar" Fuller (Enrico Maria Salerno) - a man obsessed by the history of the great roman leader, likening him to the power that he himself possesses. Fuller is quite possibly the strangest character of all the euro-westerns that I have seen - he lives in a replica palace, has a penchant for young girls, surrounded by scantily clad ladies from around the world as his lolls about in his toga. He is guarded by a gang of pistoleros all clad in black (reminiscent of the equally bizarre Django Kill which, incidentally, I believe this film predates).
All in all "Death Walks in Laredo" makes for quire compulsive viewing! Not just because of its unique and bizarre take on the genre, but also for its interesting story with its subtle twists and turns. Thomas Hunter is pretty convincing in the main character role, but not as enjoyable as Salerno, who hams his Caesar role in a style reminiscent of Jack Nicholson.
There are also some moments of great humour - with some priceless dialogue as the old man explains why it has taken ten years for the wills to reach the brothers. The confrontation between the two ladies is also very pleasing on my male eyes!
Can I recommend this? Well, of course! But there is probably as much a chance of you hating it as loving it. Personally, I had a love in.
The Five Man Army are "The Dutchman" (Peter Graves) and four colleagues
from previous escapades - Mesito (Bud Spencer), a big brute of a man
that can knock out an opponent with a big thump to the top of the head
(so, the usual Bud Spencer character then!); Samurai (Tetsuro Tamba), a
ruthless sword bearing oriental; Captain Augustus (James Daly), an
expert with dynamite; and Luis Dominguez (Nino Castelnuovo) an acrobat
turned outlaw and the "baby" of the group.
The Dutchman has gathered the clan with the promise of a $1,000 reward if they can successfully carry out a robbery of a train (bearing gold to the value of £1 million) on behalf of the Mexican Revolution. The catch is that the train is heavily guarded by soldiers, with the military posted at regular intervals along the journey to resist any attempted theft.
This film is an Italian/American co-production, and it does bear traits of both nations particular western styles. It is at times highly entertaining, mostly pretty dumb but always very watchable. The highlight of the movie is the contrasting characters, who are all very likable (albeit fairly clichéd). James Daly in particular has a good role as the ageing Captain Augustus, constantly doubting his (and his colleagues) ability to carry out the heist.
The actual robbery itself takes up nigh on half an hour of this movie, with very little dialogue. The scene is well filmed though and does not drag too badly at all. It also features a great scene where the bodies of the armed soldiers are waved about frantically as a signal to the nearby patrolling military that all is well.
Ennio Morricone's score is rousing (of course), but does sound like a muddled jigsaw of many of his other works. It fits perfectly, however.
It may sound like I am being critical of this film, and I guess that there are a few shortcomings with it. But if you ignore its occasional predictability and just take it for what it is - a highly entertaining yet simple western - you are pretty much guaranteed to enjoy it from beginning to end. I know I did.
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