Ramon, a peasant farmer, is suffering under the thumb of the greedy land baron Mr. Barrett. He has been beaten and run out of town by Barrett’s henchmen. Worse, he has seen his family farm burned; his elderly father killed. On the outskirts of town, he comes across the solitary hitman known as Django, another man with no place in Barrett’s town. The two strike up a friendship, with the elder gunman teaching Ramon the ways of the gunslinger. Eventually, will each man settle a score with Barrett … and possibly with each other?
This modestly-plotted western by Joseph Warren/Giuseppe Vari features some nice dramatic action at the beginning and end of the film; with a long, deliberate middle section detailing the grudging friendship between the two outcasts. Despite a simple story, the film is engaging and brisk, a solid “programmer”-type picture.
Ramon is played by George Eastman, a tall, lanky Italian who bears more than a passing resemblance to Tomas Milian. Ramon is a generally decent, gentle but proud peasant who resorts to violence not as a matter of course, rather, only when he is pushed to his emotional limit by cruel, evil men. Probably safe to say that by 1967, when this film was made, the “Tomas Milian” type was already emerging as a western archetype, and Eastman plays to that standard. That said, Eastman’s depth of charisma and ability to channel emotions, while passable, cannot match the natural ability of Milian. Much like every squinty-eyed loner was compared to Eastwood; every peasant turned violent would be matched against Tomas Milian.
As the gun-toting loner Django, we have Lorne Greene look-alike Anthony Ghidra. Ghidra’s Django is not the miserable black-clad outcast as is often seen; the character here is a handsome, well-kept loner with a stiff upper lip and stylish neck scarf. The portrayal is that of a resigned, world-weary soul that would rather stroll the streets of his hometown than commit murders-for-hire. Ghidra is good in the part. He spouts the philosophies and axioms of the Gunfighter’s Way in a sincere fashion; a lesser actor might have sounded ridiculous saying this dialogue, but Ghidra pulls it off with straight-faced charm. (Apparently the name Django was added to the character after the fact for marquee value – in the original Italian version Ghidra’s character is called Rezza. That explains the un-Django-like mannerisms and wardrobe.)
Daniele Vargas as Barrett provides the film with its villain, and he is a good one, all smug and cowardly as greedy land barons all seem to be. On hand as Barrett’s love interest and the girl from Ramon’s past is Dana Ghia as Lola, strikingly attractive and effective in her small role.
Director Giuseppe Vari, billed as Joseph Warren, keeps the slow middle section of the picture engaging despite little action. Notable is a series of “Karate Kid”-style training sequences in which Ramon learns to handle a gun. During the initial “in-town” setup of the story, Vari utilizes a few quick zooms and cuts here and there to increase dramatic tension; at other times (the “outskirts” scenes) he languidly captures some nice wide vistas. The look of these latter scenes is great, with especially bright blue skies and green trees laid bare.
The score, by Roberto Pregadio, is particularly unmemorable. In fact, as I type, I cannot recall a single theme or musical motif. Guess that’s better than a terrible score.
The film is in public domain, and is readily available to view in full on YouTube and other similar sites. As a run-of-the-mill “programmer”-type of Eurowestern, with no real star power to boost it, THE LAST KILLER is still pretty good. It is never boring, is ably acted and directed, and is pleasingly photographed. 7/10 stars.