Cowards Don’t Pray / I vigliacchi non pregano (Mario Siciliano, 1968)

1968 – El Vengador del Sur (E) - Dir: Mario Siciliano – Cast: Gianni Garko, Ivan Rassimov (Sean Todd), Elisa Montes, Roberto Miali, Lorenzo Robledo, Luciano Pigozzi – Music: Manuel Parada (?), Gianni Marchetti (?)

Probably less known than any other spaghetti western starring Gianni Garko, this film has a small but loyal cult following of people who think this is Garko’s best performance as well as director Mario Siciliano’s best film.

In the aftermath of the Civil war the fiancée of Brian, a southern war veteran (Garko) is killed by Northern vigilantes who represent the law. Thanks to his friend Daniel (Rassimov/Todd) Brian survives the attack and when his wounds are healed he starts looking for the killers with the help of Daniel and his brother Robert. This all sounds familiar, but if you think this is a straightforward revenge movie, you’re wrong. Very soon there are indications that the story will take another turn: Brian, suffering from amnesia, is growing more frustrated everyday, because he doesn’t remember the faces of the killers. Finally he starts killing people at random and both Daniel and Robert turn their backs upon him. In the meantime the authorities are trying to re-install law and order in the post-war society, and both brothers accept a job as sheriff. Of course, this is a notice of the third, even more radical turn the story is about to take: every time Brian sees an object in the form of the star, he is reminded of the fatal night of the attack, and during an incident, he kills Robert by accident, thinking he was involved in the crime …

With an avenger who eventually becomes the hunted, this film may well be unique within the genre of the revenge western. Contemporary critics seem to have preferred a quasi-freudian reading of the story (accredited to three screenwriters, but mainly written by Ernesto Gastaldi); in this interpretation Daniel becomes the father figure who realizes – by hunting Brian down - everything the frustrated Daniel was striving after. Revenge not as a dish served cold, but as a violent sublimation of the libido, the absence of fulfillment making a man – understandably – insane. (This reading becomes particularly funny if you know the French gave it a title with Django in it). It was also read as an Italian retelling of the story of Billy the Kid versus Pat Garret, the aftermath of the Civil War replacing the range wars in which William Bonney mad his name. Anyway, Brian is quite a complicated character, and Garko reportedly has admitted that it was very difficult to play him convincingly. I like the film, but I do not agree with those who think this is Garko’s best performance. His history as a stage actor seems to work a little against him here: stage actors have a tendency to show things instead of suggesting them; in the opening scene Garko literally clenches his fists out of suppressed rage and later he underlines the mental breakdown of his character with an increasingly mad laugh, every time he is reminded of the fatal night.

The film falls apart in two considerably different halves: a action oriented first and a more restrained, psychological second. Although the action scenes are competently staged, the second part is by far the best. The description of the confusion in a post-war society, often a concern of Italian directors and screenwriters, is particularly fine here, with the underrated Rassimov giving a first rate performance as a desperate man who accepts the work as a sheriff more out of confusion than conviction, but who gradually becomes aware of the fact that the work he’s doing, is a necessity in the process of building up a post-war society. The end, set in railroad tunnel, and at first glance more appropriate to a horror move (like some other scenes), is both harrowing and exciting, with a well-prepared and well-executed ‘twist ending’ that I won’t give away.

Overall this is an intriguing western, probably not convincing in all departments, a bit slow-moving from time to time, but with an above average story, describing the threadbare revenge story from an original angle. The score was also a nice surprise to me: choral chanting alternated with a languid guitar and triumphant orchestral outbursts, it serves the film very well. There’s some confusion about who composed it: Manuel Parada’s name is on the credits, but CD releases mention Gianni Marchetti as composer. The greatest problem might be to find a decent copy of the movie. The only official DVD is a French release from the infamous Evidis label and as far as I know there are no reconstruction versions in circulation. Shobary mentions a Dutch VHS, called Taste of Vengeance, no idea if that is still around.

Okay, this DVD from Evidis, a label famous for its ultra cheap releases (usually of hard to find movies) with only French audio, no subtitles and no extras, not even a menu. Because some titles are really hard to find, sometimes crazy prices are asked for their releases. I saw this one offered for over 25 € on the Net. To begin with the good news: the image, although not anamorphic, is quite good. Colours have faded considerably, but print damage is reduced to some specks and vertical lines and sharpness and contrast are more than tolerable. The problem is the sound : overall dialogue sounds either dull or hollow, but occasionally it falls down to a volume level where it becomes totally incomprehensible, even hardly audible; at the same time ambient sounds are quite loud, causing some deafening surprises when you had the brilliant idea to put up the volume.

There is a fan version of the French disc going around which has english audio.

That’s the one I’ve got - Taste of Vengeance. English language (version by C.D.C. it says) with Dutch subs, Directed by Marlon Sirko(?), widescreen and a good print. ;D 96 mins. And it says Manuel Parada for the music.
Great review again scherp. Great film in my book.

[quote=“Reverend Danite, post:3, topic:1076”]That’s the one I’ve got - Taste of Vengeance. English language (version by C.D.C. it says) with Dutch subs, Directed by Marlon Sirko(?), widescreen and a good print. ;D 96 mins. And it says Manuel Parada for the music.
Great review again scherp. Great film in my book.[/quote]

Marlon Sirko was a ‘Amaricanized’ name used by Mario Siciliano, I probably should have mentioned that
I usually don’t mention names like Bob Robertson, Stanley Corbett, Gary Hudson or Montgomery Wood because we know those guys as Leone, Corbucci, Garko and Gemma - but I mentioned Todd for Rassimov.
96 minutes seems to indicate it’s the same version I saw, the French DVD was 1:36:something (don’t remember that exactly)

I’m not a real expert on soundtracks, I found both names, don’t know if there’s a history of disputing each other over the rights on the music or something like that.

Edit: Sirko doesn’t sound ‘American’, more Serbian; maybe he was aSerb or Croat who wanted to sound Italian

Great review. It pretty much sums up everything i thought about this movie, except i find Garko’s performance great. I think it’s good when actor shows feelings of his character sometimes, some people do that and ain’t acting supposed to reflect real life to some degree? I loved the fact that that the vengeance is never conducted, guilty guys got hanged midway through the movie but Garko’s character doesn’t even know this. A brilliant idea! 8/10

Just recently listened to the soundtrack to this one, in which I find elegant.

Decided to the view the film again. Garko’s wife is raped and murdered and Garko is shot, but of course soon recovers as this is a film. Garko then goes on to kill and steal, and starts to get crazier and crazier as the film goes along. Garko is very interesting to watch, and such a different role than his Sartana type roles.

Viewed the fandub version of the French disc, which is a vast improvement over my VHS copy.
My favourite Garko western.

I enjoyed this film and i think Garko’s performance was a great one. It’s a quite dark spaghetti with a seemingly usual plot, but as it is already said, things become more complicated as the story unfolds. Very interesting development of Brian’s (Garko) character, the dude gets more and more violent, nastier and insane as we are heading towards the end. In one particularly violent scene in a saloon, Garko shoots in cold blood a man who has already raised his hands, a pretty disturbing moment! Nice perfomance by Ivan Rassimov as well. My big complaint is the inappropriate score which i felt was totally out of place and it didn;t fit with the dark and hateful atmosphere of the movie, sounded more like a soundtrack of a Zapata western to my ears.

I hope it meets a proper english dubbed DVD release one day. 8/10

I got now an english audio version which runs 98 min Pal (102 min cinema). That’s rather short cause Bruckner claims for the italian version 119 min! Shit, probably only a torso.

Picture quality is good (for a VHS or TV source), but it’s only fullscreen, and for unknown reasons it’s not an open matte version, so it’s cropped at the sides from 1,66:1 (maybe even from 1,78:1).

I’ve never heard about a version wich takes longer than 96 minutes,except in Bruckner’s bible.I’d like to know,how he gets this long runtimes,it’s not the only one,wich makes me wonder.
Where do you see the two minutes more,maybe count the hiss after the movie ;D :wink:

Then 96 and 100. Will watch it tonight or tomorrow.

Phil, what’s the runtime in your “bible”?

Unfortunately the “bible” only adds to the confusion. It lists 3 different run times. 101, 119 and 82 minutes but gives no explaination for any of them.

Is this film really that mucha character study as Weisser says? Character developement is something not seen in most spaghettis.

I assume that 119 min is the italian, 101 the international version. (82 min is the “better avoid” version, maybe for the Vatican special edition)

After watching about 30 min I would say that this film indeed makes a cut impression to me.

The 119 min version probably fills some small plot holes i noticed in the 96 min version i watched. The 23 more minutes have opened my appetite, i’d really like to see this film being properly released uncut and remastered in all its glory.

Your version has 100 min with the Pal speed up, then still 19 min missing.

This is my third watching of this film this morning. It really gets better every tie so far. I’d like to comment on an earlier post about the score. I think it fits the film perfectly. It really is a beautiful score and an overall tear jerker. If you get into it. I reallly love Garko’s charcater in a bad way. It is very satifying to see a 3 dimensional character as a villain. To see him develope. And this makes it all the more satifying to see him shot. But he is not totally unsympathetic character. He is really pretty muc sypmathetic till the end even if he totally deserves the bullet he gets. He becoms hunted like Cuchillo in the Big Gundown. Great characters. Rassimov has the perfect face for an anti hero but here, he is pretty much white hatted. Mostly a hero. A believer in law and order and prefering fists over guns. I have to be hones, I felt a little choked up at the end. It really is a very pesimistic film. The ending is also rather downbeat. His brother is dead and Daniel has just killed his inly friend. He has given up his job as sheriff and his life seems pretty much destroyed now. Very good movie. Gets better with every waching.

I have the 96 minute version too.

I know someone who has the 118 min italian version …

Does that version have an English dub with it or at least subtitles? I just watched the trailer and noticed some scenes not in the film. I don’t remember Rassimov looking at Garko’s wanted poster or him shooting the gun out of soemone’s hand. Who is this guy who has the elongated version Stanton? Is he or she a member of the forum? I would like to get my hands on a full version.

Only italian audio from a TV showing, or maybe a VHS. So the picture quality will not be too good but it probably is in 1,66 or 1,78:1.

This guy has not even a PC, so his forum membership is a bit unlikely.