I had really high hopes on the film, this all most recent talk about it, created the feeling that I’d been missing something big, is not by chance that a film gets put side by side with Once upon a time in the west. After seeing I got a little bit disappointment but only because the expectations were maybe too high, I still believe that Dallamano is an underrated director, let’s face it if Sergio Martino gets more recognition than him, why does not Dallamano.
Visually is a wonderful film, this was something that always got my attention in his films, the scenes are so well filmed, the angles are use in a very creative way, and the light balance is always great, among the best SW for sure in that aspect. Some scenes and details called my consideration in special, the one in the train (was it the same one they used in Navajo Joe?, I saw Dino de Laurentiis name in the opening credits) that I notice best was the aspect of the yellow chicks, even more than the dead lovers hand to hand in death, a more banal thing after all, also the scene with the card construction was very strong, the shootout inside the saloon was also high point, made with clinical precision.
The story itself is quite good the plot is complex just the enough, Juan Cobos who got the writing credits, was reasonable well known writer in Spain best known for is work for Industrial documentaries and was connected to the petroleum Spanish Industry, but he did a good work, I really liked the reason for Ricky Shot (Jenkins) to tag along with Salerno character, was a nice twist, when you were expecting some more traditional revenge plot thing (killed his parents, wife, sons dog, cat etc.). The only thing that maybe was missing was a more strong female part, but that was possibly asking too much.
And maybe I’m getting confused after so many films, but this was one of the good SW I’ve seen, that had more connections with the traditional American western, even if there wasn’t an US actor on it, the saloon shoot-out reminded me of Shane, the carefully use and correct distinction of guns (they even reload the guns), I just couldn’t help to avoid that felling, its funny but to me what makes a distinctive point in SW is to have an US actor in a main part.
The acting was a bit uneven, Salerno is a good actor and was perfect in his part, funny I only remember seeing him in some obscure Italian flicks, but he surely must have some good performances although in lesser known films, Venantini is also a more or less obscure face perhaps more, even if with more film credits on his bag , but he was also very good as the bad guy (strange he didn’t made more westerns he had the perfect bad guy looks), on the other hand Jenkins was a low point, he didn’t had to do much, but even with a similar face to Nero (and consequently Terence Hill), during the first half of the film he tried to be and look like Eastwood, but never convinced me (clearly a non actor) even worst with the other protagonists going so well, also a surprise was Chris Huerta, really haven’t seen many films from this fellow compatriot, but this was surely the best one I’ve seen so far. Of course the cast reflects real well that this was a low cost production even for SW standards of the time.
So we got a SW with an above the average story for the genre, amazing photography work some fine cutting edge scenes, what’s missing then? Well a few things, first character development there’s none of it, apart from maybe Salerno (and that most certainly because he was the best actor of the bunch), then there’s the actors and charisma or lack of it, for instance a film like Death rides a Horse, that losses visually in my view for Bandidos, and also got a bad actor (John Philip Law), got charisma in Lee Van Cleef, and let’s face without charisma you real just can’t get there, I guess the lack of a major star of the time or at least one that had became one later in his career is not a major fault, but the difference between being footnote or being a success, it’s a silly thing but while watching the film I couldn’t help thinking actors for Jenkins and more unfairly to Venantini parts.
In any case to me there’s no comparison to Leone films or Django for instance, or The Big Silence, or even Cemetery without Crosses, it’s a good SW visually strong with a good story that raises above over the majority of the films in the genre no doubt, but that can’t surpass its own weak points and more important it’s low budget, to me there’s no way it can be compared with Leone masterpieces, it might be that its really unfair to compare things cause we are comparing very different stuff, a team with a great budget, and other having to pick the players carefully in the second draft.
In any case I think Dallamano made a good job again with what he just had in hand, the film certainly better than the middle-of-the-road, or at least makes a real difference, and that its not something to forget. The thing I like most in his films is that he can raise above the genre, I’ve not seen all of them, but his sex comedy with Fenech is so much better and smarter than most, and we are talking of a genre Italian Sex comedies that doesn’t have fame of master works coming out of it, his Giallos/Horror/thriller films are also above over the most Il medaglione insanguinato for instance is a very smart film, Cosa avete fatto a Solange? is one of the best Giallos around, La fine dell’innocenza is one of the best if not the best of the Emanuelle type flicks, as it is Venus in furs, so the man clearly had the capacity to make good films in every genre and that is something that we can’t say about Corbucci for instance.
I gave it 4 stars in the pool