1966 – Aka: The Man from Nowhere – Dir: Michele Lupo – Cast: Giuliano Gemma, Corinne Marchand, Fernando Sancho, Roberto Camardiel, Andrea Bosic, Nello Pazzafini, Andrea Bosic, Rosalba Neri – Music: Francesco de Masi
The villain Gordo Watch wants to rob the bank of Blackstone Hill, but attacks the state prison first because he wants to draft new gang members. The prisoners are branded with the S of Scorpio to bring them to obedience. But one of the prisoners is the famous gunmen Arizona Colt, who refuses to join the gang. When one of Gordo’s men kills the daughter of a saloon owner, her father hires Arizona Colt to track him down. He manages to eliminate the murderer in a fight, but is severely wounded afterwards and left for dead. One of Gordo’s men, Whiskey, saves his life and the two men hide in a recluse church. Gordo is outraged because Whiskey has also stolen the money from the bank robbery, and holds the entire town in hostage. Eventually Arizona Colt and Whiskey ride into town to face the bandits …
Clearly modelled after No Name from Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars (1964) and Ringo from Tessari’s A Pistol for Ringo (1965), Arizona Colt, the character, is as lethal as No Name and as clean-shaven as Ringo. One of the nicest inside jokes of the movie is Giuliano Gemma ordering a glass of milk, like Ringo would do, but quickly changing to beer when the man standing next to him makes a remark. But while Ringo from was a sympathetic rascal, Arizona Colt is a mean, lean bastard. His motto, in Italian, is “Ci devo pensare’ (I‘ll have to think about that). He has to think about nearly everything and comes up with some bizarre answers: When he’s asked by the saloon owner to bring in the murderer of his youngest daughter (Neri), he asks not only money in return, but also a night with the man’s other daughter (Marchand)! In another, particularly uneasy scene, he seems totally unmoved when the bank is robbed and numerous people are massacred. But his character is slightly redeemed in the final part of the movie, when he complies with Marchand’s request to help the town of Blackstone Hill, terrorized by Sancho’s gang. In the final reels, just before riding off, he even seems to show some real affection for her, in an almost touching scene, completely contrary to the tone of the rest of the movie.
With most victims shot when unarmed and defenceless, it is a very violent film, with at least one gruesome scene in which Gemma is shot in both arms and legs. On the other hand some scenes tend towards comedy, or even parody. Gemma’s obsession with clothes and hygiene is clearly a burlesque reference to No Name’s indifference in those departments, and when his side-kick Whiskey orders a double whiskey, he demands two bottles; this guy can also literally smell money, like the infamous Mr. Mooney in The Lucy Show. The main characters all have names of a slightly goofy nature: Gemma is from Arizona and uses a Colt, Sancho is called Gordo (= fat) and has a watch he’s very fond of, and Whisky, well, he doesn’t drink milk. Finally there is a sequence including singing cowboys that is so downright silly you’ll be flabbergasted.
Sometimes called Ringo III, Arizona Colt is easy to enjoy, but – in my humble opinion - falls a bit short in being one of Gemma’s very best movies. The combination of quite extreme violence and silly humour often works confusing and I found Gemma a little irritating in some parts. He seems to be looking for new ways without giving up the old ones, so to speak. It was Lupo’s first spaghetti western, but he had previously made a parody with the couple Franchi and Ingrassia, Per un pugno nell’ Occhio (1965), so maybe he was responsible for those burlesque elements. In the more serious parts, it becomes clear that the first two dollar-movies are his model, with an occasional wink at Django as well (the wounded hands, the execution of the singing cowboys). The film’s running time seems longish, but it’s never dull or even sluggish. Good use has been made of the Almeria locations and the action scenes are very fine, with several interesting camera angles and keen editing. They work best as long as Lupo doesn’t try to copy Leone: the characteristic Gemma-Pazzafini fistfight is a standout, but the finale, very similar to the final shootout between No Name and Ramon in Fistful, can’t live up to the expectations. There’s an explosion that announces Gemma’s arrival in town, there’s the line-up of Sancho’s men and Gemma’s walk towards them, and there’s the sudden outburst of violence … but was is totally lacking is Leone’s style in the ritualistic built-up to the inevitable climax.
The actors mainly do what they were hired for: Sancho (looking like some oversized drummer boy!) gives his usual impersonation of a sadistic Mexican bandit and Camardiel plays his part so enthusiastically you’re tempted to believe that hangovers are synonymous to happiness (but I won’t try that trick with the two bottles at home). Originally intended as a coproduction with Spain, the Spanish connection withdrew when Lupo and Gemma refused to work with several Spanish crew members. A French production company was brought in, but now Lupo and Gemma were forced to accept French actress Marchand as Gemma’s love interest (Ida Galli/Evelyn Stewart was their original choice). Her part is very interesting: she sees through Gemma’s tricks, refuses to be his one night stand (after having agreed with it first) and starts to have feelings for him when it’s too late. Marchand, an actress favoured by François Truffaut and Agnes Varda, and known for her subdued acting style and ice-cold beauty, simply seems out of place in a western setting. Moreover she has been given a coiffure that’s not really flattering. De Masi’s moody score is very atmospheric and the song He came out of Nowhere, sung by Raoul, is as deliciously cheesy as they come in the genre. The only one way to get it out of your head is listening to another Raoul song.
Reviewed DVD: The Wild East disc most of use will have, is not great, but at least it’s uncut: even two scenes, originally cut to avoid an ’18 rating’ in Italy, have been restored (those scenes are: a) a freed prisoner who doesn’t want to join Sancho’s gang is shot in both hands and between the eyes, and b) a priest kills a bandit and asks God to forgive him). A new release (a double feature with Arizona Colt returns) was announced but apparently withdrawn again. Recently both a German and a French DVD have been released, but I haven’t watched them yet.