One of the very first hit Spaghetti Westerns, directed by a co-scripter of A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS. The very likeable and attractive Giuliano Gemma stars as Ringo (“Angel Face”, as he is nicknamed), a milk-drinking pretty-boy that also happens to be a ruthless mercenary.
Gemma is sprung from prison to help the sherriff capture a band of bandits holed up, with hostages, at a nearby ranch. Much time is spent on the setup and planning of various raids by each side, and on the drama between two women (one hostage, one bandit) and the men that fancy them. Ringo eventually connives and conspires his way through the story and eventually produces the desired result, netting himself a nice payday in the process.
I liked the great contradiction of the Ringo character: so nice and handsome, polite, well-dressed… yet also a deadly pistol shot, a wisecracking sarcastic SOB, a cutthroat negotiator. Gemma is gifted at bringing the laconic, edgy charm this character needs to come alive. He is great at acting with his body, whether in dramatic scenes that show his cockiness, or the slam-bang stunts that require his full athleticism.
As for Sancho, the head bandit, played by Fernando Sancho, I don’t get it. Sancho (the actor) is renowned for his great charisma and charm as a thug in dozens of Western features, but he has never won me over. Yes, he is usually poorly dubbed in a cartoonish voice, he can’t help that; it’s his wildly flailing reactions to every punch, every gunshot… he strikes me as a big, floppy, rowdy buffoon that is incapable of any dramatic subtlety. Sancho (the character) here shows himself to be undisciplined, hot-tempered, dumb, not at all like the ringleader of a successful gang. A poor performance by (in my opinion) a poor actor.
The picture features fine widescreen photography, and also a nice score (with dramtic stings at appropriate moments) by the great Ennio Morricone. The color schemes of the sets and costumes are, however, a little gaudy and stagy, not the usually grime-and-grease look one associates from this genre; it makes the film feel a little more “Hollywood” than other Italo-westerns.
This is, overall, a good early-cycle Spaghetti. A little slow and stagy, maybe, but enjoyable. Gemma’s performance is the best thing about the pic. 6/10 stars.