Gringo Hud and I have something in common: we both love this movie.
It’s currently n° 7 on my Top 20, so (to me) the best non-Sergio (Leone/Corbucci/Sollima);
Of course this ranking is all a bit arbitrairy, but I think this is one of the three SWs you should recommend to those who think that, as far as SWs are concerned, the name Sergio serves as a litmus test for quality, along with DA UOMO A UOMO/Death rides a horse, and I GIORNI DELL’ IRA/Days of Anger.
A train is assaulted by a gang and all passengers but one are killed because the gang’s leader (Venantini) doesn’t want his face to end up on walls. The only passenger who’s life is saved (Salerno), apparently because Venantini recognised him, is mutilated so severely that he won’t ever be able to hold a gun. To make a living, he starts a Wild West show, preparing at the same time his revenge by educating a young man as a sharpshooter. The plan seems to work, but the young man has his own reasons to chase the bandit. And it is all related to the assault on the train, so the lyrics of the main theme tell us.
BANDIDOS was overlooked for a long time, probably because nor director Dallamano, nor the three leads were familiar names among western fans. Ironically both Dallamano and Salerno had worked with Leone: Dallamano had been his cinematographer for FFOD and FAFDM and Salerno had dubbed Eastwood in the italian versions of the Dollar trilogy (by the way: I didn’t know he was first choice for Morton - thanks Hud).
With such a man in the director’s chair, it’s no wonder the film looks gloriously. Like Hud has indicated, one tracking shot clearly influenced Leone for a similar scene in OUATITW.
Unless you’ve read the outcome somewhere, the film keeps you guessing what is the exact relation between the three leads. All three turn in a magnificent performance. Salerno looks like a dandy before he gets mutilated, so we don’t worry too much about him, but later, when we witness his gradual degradation into a crippled man, both physically and emotionally, we start to care about him. Venantini is presented as a ruthless killer but remains human nonetheless. Ultimately Bandidos is a film about betrayed friendship, not revenge, and we realize that the outcome will be tragic, whatever it may be.
Need I say that the score is one of the finest non-Morricone scores of all SWs? The main theme, istrumental during the credits, sung in the movie, will stay for you for days.
I can’t do much more for the film.
The DVD to go for is The New Entertainmet World DVD; two absolutely minor scenes are missing, but it’s presented anamorphically in an aspect ratio of about 2,00:1. The image is not razor sharp but colours are vivid and print damage is reduced to an occasional vertical line. It looked fine on my 32’’ TV, but might cause some problems on those elephantine screens. The audio comes in three different languages, English, Italian and German (DD 2.0); all three soundtracks do the job perfectly; Venantini has been given a rather shrill voice in the English dub, so personally I preferred the italian one. The main theme is sung in English on both the English and German track, in Italian on the Italian track.