Not a perfect, but a very interesting spaghetti western.
Alex Cord is an outlaw on the run who hears rumours about the governor of New Mexico offering people like him a pardon (and 50 dollars to make a new start) in the town of Tuscosa. But bounty hunters are gathering in the town of Escondido, organizing manhunts and ambushing runaways on their way to their redemption.
With outlaws as victims and bounty killers as ruthless murderers, the film seems a companion piece to Corbucci’s Il Grande Silenzio. Like Trintignant, Cord has a handicap: he suffers from paralytic seizures (and fears to be an epileptic) which make him, the fastest gun around, temporarily defenceless against his enimies. All people who help him are killed and in the end the governor has to team up with him to fight off the bounty killers.
With the presence of Alex Cord, Robert Ryan and Arthur Kennedy, the film has an unmistakenly American feel, but the outrageous violence, including extended torture scenes and the killing of a priest and a women, mark it as a spaghetti western. The presentation of upholding the law as an uneasy combination of idealism and merely legal (and eventually illegal) butchery reminded me of some of Eastwood’s work, especially HANG 'M HIGH (released the same year, so it seems unlikely that it was influenced by this one) and UNFORGIVEN. There are a few flashbacks that even reminded me vaguely of HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER.
I saw a DVDr from Cine City. It runs 99 mins - so I guess the MGM R1 version was used as source material - and has the alternative ending (5 mins) added on as an extra. Video quality of the DVDr was acceptable, but not great. The image was quite sharp but not completely stable, notably during pans. The added on ending was taken from an inferior source, most certainly a VHS. This ending is closer to the ending of our reverend’s El Puro, allthough far more sadistic.
With a total running time of some 104 mins still some 10 or 15 mins are missing, leading to abrupt transitions, both in video and audio. I was pleased by most performances; the three leads are excellent and Mario Brega has one of his finest hours as the leader of the human predators. I wasn’t impressed by the score, even though it was signed Bruno Nicolai.