Dir: Giorgio Ferroni. Cast: Giuliano Gemma, Sophie Daumier, Dan Vadis, Angel del Pozo, Jacques Sernas, Nello Pazzafini, José Calvo
Music: Ennio Morricone, Gianni Ferrio
Like its predecessor Un Dollaro Bucato and Tessari’s Il Ritorno di Ringo, Per pochi dollari ancora is set in the aftermath of the Civil War. But this time around Gemma is not an avenger but a saviour. With an unbiased depiction of Union and Confederate soldiers it is a rather unusual spaghetti western. With its elaborated script - based on Jules Verne’s Michel Strogoff - and fashionable look (the costume designer really did a fine job here) it is also one of the more sophisticated.
The Civil War is over but one company of seemingly die-hard Southerners threaten to attack Fort Yuma. Due to the strong defence of the fort, this would inevitably lead to a massacre. A Confederate POW is sent to the fort with a despatch; he is escorted by two Unionists, a rude but basically good-natured sergeant (Pazzafini) and a well-mannered but slimy officer (Del Pozo). When they are attacked Gemma is severely wounded, but he’s nursed back to life and with the help of a veteran of the war against Santa Anna and a beautiful saloon-girl called Connie Breastfull (!) he manages to fulfil his mission.
Many Italian directors have used the aftermath of the Civil War as the setting for a spaghetti western. Having fought on ‘the losing side’ during WW II, Italian moviegoers found it easier to identify wirh Southerners. For people on the Italian South - were spaghetti westerns initially were more popular than in the North - there was an additional element of identification. Like the Confederates they strongly felt that they were forced into a unification they never desired (the Risorgimento, the historical movement towards the unification of Italy in 1870 originated in the North and was unfavourable to the rural South; the first capital of the united country was Turin). For this reason Northerners are often depicted as harsh and repressive in spaghetti westerns. But director Ferroni uses the Civil War background for a less politicised, more romantic action film.
As usual Gemma’s character is less cynical than the average spaghetti western anti-hero: he is not after personal gain but devotes himself to the general interest and gets the girl in the end. No less than seven writers contributed to a labyrinth script that manages to hide the story’s contrived turns rather well. The first half - which contains one of the most elaborated saloon brawls in history - is rather light-hearted (and sometimes even a bit silly), but once the suicidal attack on the fort becomes imminent, the film takes a more serious turn, with Gemma finally confronting the three main villains in a deserted mine.
Gemma has hardly ever been better and there’s chemistry between him and French actress and comédienne Daumier, but the villains are near stereotypes. Especially muscle man Dan Vadis, a veteran of many a peplum movie, seems out of place here. Gemma’s close friend Pazzafini, who usually was invited for one or more fistfights with him, has a more sympathetic (but still rather short) part here; this made their famous skermishes impossible, so instead they unite in a very funny scene in which they save a place in the stagecoach for the lovely Daumier. The score is credited to Ennio Morricone and Gianni Ferrio, but apparently some existing material of the maestro was used to justify his name on the credits (Note that by this time Morricone’s name was supposed to attract moviegoers, just like the use of the term ‘dollaro’ in the title). Anyway, it’s a lovely score, the use of the harmonica even anticipating Morricone’s (and even Leone’s!) use of the instrument in C’era una Volta il West. Although bursting with action, the film is not particularly violent, making it almost perfect family viewing. Still it is labelled VM 14 in Italy (unsuitable for persons under the age of 14), apparently because of one protracted torture scene in which Gemma is nearly blinded.
Reviewed DVD: Wild East. This region free DVD is good but fails to be outstanding. Despite a high bit-rate of some 6.8 Mb/s the transfer is a little soft and lacks contrast during the darker scenes. I also spotted some minor ghosting, but there’s no reason to call for the ghostbusters. The DD 2.0 English audio is very strong but has some indistinct background noise - as if your ears are tingling - but dialogue is comprehensible throughout.