California (Michele Lupo, 1977)


(Frank Talby) #1

One of the very last SW along with Keoma and Mannaja. Is it as good? Read on to find out.

California/Michael Random (Giuliano Gemma) and several other Ex-Confederate soldiers are being decommissioned and given a chance to get on with their lives now that that U.S. Civil War is over. Willy Preston (Miguel Bose) an ex-officer tries to befriend California but he seems aloof. This does nothing to dampen the spirits of Willy even if the weather is a downpour. While waiting for weather to let up California is confronted by a couple unsavory ex-soldiers who want to barter for a kitten that he has in his possession. Being the upright man who has not lost his honor even in defeat California denies each of them this defenseless animal. Willy spots this act of kindness and suggests that the two of them go back to the Preston homestead in Georgia where he would be welcomed by all.
But things do not go as they hoped as a bunch of Northern bounty hunters (the leader played by Rupp Whitaker) have taken it upon themselves to collect on some easy bounties of the ex-soldiers. No mercy is shown even when they are unarmed and cornered. Fortunately for our dynamic duo they escape one of the ambushes and continue on their way. The road home is not easy when they run afoul of a few Yankees and steal one of the horses. California continues alone to the Preston ranch and meets the lovely Helen Preston (Paola Bose), Willy’s sister, and her parents played by genre stalwart William Berger and Dana Ghia. He had no desire to stay at the Preston home until he takes a liking to Helen (and who wouldn’t), and the two form a relationship (no hanky panky is shown or hinted at). But this being a SW and there being bounty hunters on the prowl this is not how the movie ends. Thankfully our anti-hero comes to rescue and finishes off the bounty hunters in dramatic fashion.

While not your typical SW this one has more character development than most and has some good interaction between each one. Gemma is on top of his game in it. And while I have not seen either Paola Bose or Miguel Bose before I was enjoyed them on the screen. I was hoping for more screen time for Berger but sadly he had a rather small role. That being said the finale confrontation between Gemma and Whitaker is first class. There’s a great scene of Gemma, Whitaker and a bottle of whiskey which has to be seen to believed. Director Lupo did a solid job and it had the feel of Keoma with slow motion deaths and a very dirty landscape. Gianni Ferrio’s score while not the best definitely fits the feel of the movie. A solid effort all around.

With that being said it is not an easy movie to track down. I viewed this on Franco Cleef’s dvd-r release. Not the best video quality (believed to be VHS sourced) but the audio is clear and crisp. Check it out if you can.


(Søren) #2

Ah but it is easy. Nearly just released by New Entertainment in Germany. Not a perfect transfer but in OAR. People should definitely get that one instead of the Franco-dvdr. We gotta support the official releases :slight_smile:


(Silver) #3

Nice review. It pretty much sums up the way i felt about this film when i viewed it (also the Franco Cleef disc). I gave it a 4 in the poll :wink: Might have to look into this New Entertainment release though.


(Frank Talby) #4

Does it have an English audio or subtitle option?

Thanks and glad you liked the review. I was rather impressed with the movie.


(Bill san Antonio) #5

[quote=“FrankTalby, post:4, topic:947”]Does it have an English audio or subtitle option?[/quote]Yep, just check this:
http://www.spaghetti-western.net/index.php/California/DVD


(Frank Talby) #6

Thanks Bill. I actually did check that page when I first checked out the SWDB. I think I’ll keep my Franco Cleef release as the German release is really pricey (new 25 euros = $37.50 + shipping).


(scherpschutter) #7

I received the NEW DVD last week.
Haven’t yet seen the film, but checked the disc, of course

Image quality is far from great; colours have faded, nearly absent (was it meant to be this way?), and there’s a green shimmering on the right of the screen
The print is widescreen; actually it looks a bit more than the usual 2,35:1
I guess they removed a small strip top and bottom (the parts with most print damage?)

Audio is OK and there are some nice extras: tons of photos, trailer, and best of all an interview with Gemma (in Italian, with only German subs)


(scherpschutter) #8

The film was finally viewed

I have mixed feelings; the film is way above average (so don’t worry), but the first half - with its deliberate pace, feelings of desperation, and sudden outbursts of violence - is so much stronger than then the second - with its standard revenge plot - that you can’t shake the feeling there was more in it. Luckily there’s that grand finale with the bottle.
It says a lot, I suppose, that Frank Talby dedicates his review nearly entirely to the first half of the movie

That is a fine review, Frank, but before it will be loaded up you should change it a little and mention the New Entertainment DVD
It’s not a great DVD (see previous post) but it’s widescreen and has some interesting extras


(Bad Lieutenant) #9

Saw this a year ago or so and found it a tad too melodramatic. Can’t say I remember much else, except an absurd frog catching scene, so it didn’t leave much of an impression. Wouldn’t mind owning it though, but for the sum this one goes I’d rather buy some other stuff.


(Silver Wolf) #10

I don’t think colours are supposed to be that “faded” as on NEW DVD but yes, this film has intentionally “bleak” photography. I have seen two different VHS versions (both good quality) + Franco Cleef project + New DVD and they all have this sort of look. It was meant to me a very melancholic piece of work from the beginning, like funeral march or a bitter farewell for this dying genre, shot in rotting props, lots of mud and mist…

Talby: Franco Cleef project uses Italian Nocturno DVD as master, which (like all their releases?) is just their old VHS on DVD so you are right!


(Søren) #11

Yes, can confirm that. The colors are just as muddy on the Greek VHS tape I got. Fits the movie perfectly though.

This is my favourite Gemma-western apart from Return of Ringo… So bleak and melancholic and a fitting title tune…


(Frank Talby) #12

[quote=“Silver Wolf, post:10, topic:947”]I don’t think colours are supposed to be that “faded” as on NEW DVD but yes, this film has intentionally “bleak” photography. I have seen two different VHS versions (both good quality) + Franco Cleef project + New DVD and they all have this sort of look. It was meant to me a very melancholic piece of work from the beginning, like funeral march or a bitter farewell for this dying genre, shot in rotting props, lots of mud and mist…

Talby: Franco Cleef project uses Italian Nocturno DVD as master, which (like all their releases?) is just their old VHS on DVD so you are right![/quote]

Thanks! Glad everyone enjoyed the review and yes the 2nd half is really just straight revenge - there’s not much character exposition or insight going on.


(Bluntwolf) #13

Concerning the poll: How come there’re 4 voters but 9 votes ??? Still a “SD” thang (leftover) ???


(scherpschutter) #14

If so, the problem is the number of votes for '1 star’
This is not the greatest of films, but 1 star is ridiculous, must be the result of some enigmatic aversion for Gemma, Lupo or so-called twilight spaghettis)


(Stanton) #15

Yes it is!
I’ve just checked another poll which was “ennobled by Cowgirly and her merry men”, the voters are not counted anymore, unfortunately the votes still are.
Isn’t there a way to change this by a deputy?

But this 1 star vote is somehow surprising, cause a SW which isn’t a Spencer/Hill comedy, should be automatically an alltimecultclassiclovedbytrillions…


(Sebastian) #16

i can reset the poll, but I can not interfere with the results (very democratic)


(YourPallbearer) #17

It’s the end of the American Civil War and confederate soldier California (Gemma) has been released from a Union prison camp. He begins to make trails to no where imperticular when suddenly a younger ex-confederate soldier named Willy Preston (played by singer Miguel Bosé) runs into him and wants to befriend him. At first California wants nothing to do with Willy but they soon learn to bond after realizing Mercenaries are after the price on freed confederate prisoners’ heads (that includes them!). After dodging a fearsome and sadisitic Bounty hunter by the name of Whitaker, the two companians reach a ghost town where they are ambushed by Confederate hating Northerners. The Vigilantes shoot and hang Willy leaving California no choice but to make trails to Willy’s home in Georgia to tell the bad news to his folks and older sister.

After California tells of the grim news to the Preston Family he is welcomed to stay at the farm for as long as he likes. Willy’s sister Helen (who is played by Miguel Bosé’s real life sister Paola) predictably falls in love with California and the two share a budding romance… that is until Helen is kidnapped by the mean, nasty, terrible, ghastly and all around bad bounty hunter Whitaker.

California must saddle up and search for Helen even if he must side with the enemy to do it.

my take:

The film very much feels like three movies in one. You have the half hour relationship between California and Willy(which feels like the first part of a buddy movie), you have the sappy romance segment in the middle of the film and then you have the search party (which consist only of one man) stuff for the thrid act. Needless to say the movie rambles here and there and perhaps it’s a little too long for it’s own good but it’s a well crafted film with some very well done action sequences.

The fist fights are particularly excellent (Which is saying something in a genre that has some of the worst fist fights ever put to celluloid). During a scuffle you can be sure that wood planks, fences and even brick walls (!) will be destroyed to make way for the competitors to further duke it out without breaking a sweat or getting exhausted. It’s all good fun until somebody is beaten to death or impaled by a stake, then it just becomes down right COOL.

The gunfights are equally nice, always taking place in some deserted ghost town with buildings that crumble at the firing of a bullet. I must point out that set designer Carlo Simi did his best work for this movie. All the ghost towns are especially spooky with muddy streets and ram shackled buildings. One set even includes craters on the town street formed by cannon fire during some recent battle.

Gemma is great as the loner known as California. He seems to have some sort of past that he wants to desperatly put behind him but we never quite find out what that past is (shades of his character in “and for a roof a skyful of stars”) and we don’t need to. It’s not important. He tells us all we need to know about him through his performance.

William Berger has a small role as Willy Preston’s father. For you Berger fans out there don’t expect him to be shooting anybody or even take part in any action sequences. Fair warning.

The soundtrack is mostly mood music although there is an attempt to have some memorable score with the main title theme but it is an utter failure in the memorable department (shucks).

Director Michele Lupo made five other spaghetti westerns besides this one (three starring Gemma ). I have seen three of the five and so far this is his best effort. An enjoyable film, one of the last (if not THE last) good spaghetti westerns before the genre was buried on Boot Hill.


(Col. Douglas Mortimer) #18

I have a question about this movie.

The DVD-R I have is somewhat flawed and a few seconds of the end is missing, so I didn’t fully get what was going on.

From what I can gather, the girl, who seemed drugged or something reveals to California that she is pregnant with their child.

Am I correct?


(Phil H) #19

[quote=“Col. Douglas Mortimer, post:18, topic:947”]I have a question about this movie.

The DVD-R I have is somewhat flawed and a few seconds of the end is missing, so I didn’t fully get what was going on.

From what I can gather, the girl, who seemed drugged or something reveals to California that she is pregnant with their child.

Am I correct?[/quote]

That’s not the ending I saw on the NEW disc. Unless I nodded off, which is unlikely as I thoroughly enjoyed the film. What version have you got?


(Col. Douglas Mortimer) #20

I have a DVD-R. It might have been a rip of the Franco Cleef version, but I’m not sure.