Si quieres vivir… dispara (1975, José maría Elorrieta)
Written by José María Elorrieta (story) and Manuel Sebares (screenplay)
Photography by Emilio Foriscot
Music by Javier Elorrieta
James Philbrook (Sam), Frank Braña (Kramer), Alejandro de Enciso (Jimmy), Paula Pattier (Moira), Francisco Nieto (Roy), José Canalejas (Tex), Maribel Hidalgo (Sarah), Clara Urbina (Lucy), María Nevado (Mary), Rafael Corés (Alex, saloon owner), Dan Forrest (Sheriff), Rafael Vaquero (John), José Alonso Vaz (Reverend), Antonio Almorós (Murdered gambler), Gilberto Moreno (Gambler-Informer), Gonzalo Tejel (Barman), Cristino Almodóvar (Deputy), Francho Bruño, Sally Puertas, Romualdo Oliva
Dubbed at Cinearte
Dubbing director: Simón Ramírez
Dubbed voices [uncreditred]: Julio Núñez (James Philbrook), José Guardiola (Frank Braña), Simón Ramírez (Alejando de Enciso), Josefina de Luna (Paula Pattier), Javier Dotú (Francisco Nieto), Eduardo Fajardo (Dan Forrest).
This slightly slow-moving curiosity was Joe Lacy’s last western, not legalized, let alone shown, until shortly after he died while shooting the vampire spoof Las alegres vampiras de Vögel (1974), which was finished by Julio Pérez Tabernero, its sole credited director. Although identified with a multilingual plethora of titles, Si quieres vivir… dispara appears to have been viewed by very few people as most online summaries I’ve come across are cribbed from Thomas Weisser’s completely (and characteristically) made-up description in the corresponding entry of his book. The film I’ve seen has nothing to do with greedy land barons: three fifths of it are taken up by a drama on relationships, while the remaining two fifths function as a sadistic thriller on street gangs that happens to be set in the Wild West.
While James Philbrook is given top billing, the film is actually dominated by the adequate but not particularly charismatic Alejandro de Enciso (of M:I. Bonns’s The Naked Killers), who plays Jimmy, a man unjustly wanted for murder in Arizona. Although he has escaped to California, outside the Arizonian jurisdiction, he still has three vicious bounty hunters (Frank Braña, Francisco Nieto and José Canalejas) hot on his heels. After finding employment at a farm owned by the elderly, drunken Sam (James Philbrook), Jimmy is able to lie low, but finds himself desired by Moira (Paula Pattier), whose affection he refuses to return as he is grateful to the old man for offering him shelter. Jimmy, besides, has also caught the attention, this time requited, of the reverend’s pretty daughter Lucy (Clara Urbina), but Moira, tired of her husband’s drunkenness and inattention, won’t give up.
A love triangle could hardly have been what patrons had paid their money for from so belligerent a title (“if you want to live…shoot”) so the filmmakers, in seeming compensation, intercut the main story with the subplot involving Braña, Nieto and Canalejas, who remain hovering around the area while searching for Jimmy, occasionally pausing to brutalize strangers that come their way, seemingly for the hell of it. The complacent, long-drawn-out set-pieces illustrating the trio’s evilness include no less than two “home invasion” numbers, which is more David Hess’s territory than Frank Braña’s, as well as a little hell-raising at the local saloon, even running to a vague anticipation of the card game in Ruggero Deodato’s House on the Edge of the Park. At one point, José Canalejas’s mute, deranged thug elicits a smile from a saloon girl by holding up some paper currency, then proceeds to hold her head and shove the bill into her mouth. This being a 1975 Spanish film, however, such scenes are pretty toned down from the American or Italian equivalent and rape, although repeatedly threatened or promised, is kept from actually happening. (SPOILERS) Elorrieta, moreover, makes quite an unexpected structural decision by having the hero’s showdown with the three bullies, inevitably culminating with the villains falling to their deaths, occur when the film is a mere 60 minutes long, after which the remaining twenty or so minutes return to Jimmy’s business with Sam and the two women. (SPOILERS END).
1970s film fashions are not only acknowledged in the violence but also in the overall look and production. The aesthetic owes less to the classical or the Spaghetti western than to the oaters being produced concurrently in the USA, a policy that Italian filmmakers were also to observe in the likes of Apache Woman or Keoma, and this extends to Javier Elorrieta’s music for guitar, harmonica and voice. The low budget, in this respect, is well used and the trio of goons are physically well characterized.
Reportedly, Si quires vivir… dispara was given a presumably minimal American release as If You Shoot…You Live!, but the Spanish-language version (itself post-synchronized, as was the norm at the time with most of the country’s films) is the only one to claim any level of availability and contains the voice of Eduardo Fajardo, dubbing the sheriff character played by Elorrieta regular “Dan Forrest” (Ernesto Vañes). Other than Vañes, the three leads and the two speaking villains (it is hard to tell if José Canalejas’s grunts were provided by himself), the cast are largely self-voiced. All in all, one doubts, given the year of production, that Elorrieta would have attempted another western even if he had lived longer. For the record, both the title and some plot elements appear to have been taken from Segio Garrone’s Se vuoi vivere… spara (1968), which was never shown theatrically in Spain, although it was to later to surface on home video and TV under the almost identical name of Django; si quieres vivir, dispara.