Dir: Giuliano Carnimeo (Hugo Fregonese). Cast: Jeffrey Hunter, Pascale Petit, Daniela Giordano, Piero Lulli, Gianni Pallavincino, Adolfo Lastretti, Reza Fazeli, Nello Pazzafini. Music: Gianni Ferrio
An American geologist and his wife have located an old goldmine in Mexico but are attacked by members of Chato’s gang. The scientist manages to kill the bandits by using dynamite, but this causes a landslide and he gets pinned under a wagon. His wife (Petit) undertakes a journey to a nearby hamlet where she meets an outcast Confederate officer (Hunter) who is now living south of the border, selling guns to bandits. He reluctantly complies with her appeal for help and composes his own gang of Mexicans. When they arrive the husband is murdered - after having been brutally tortured - and the gold stolen. Moreover, the men who had promised to help the woman aren’t much better than her husband’s murderers …
Joe, cercati un posto per morire! was entirely filmed in Italy, the exteriors done in the Manziani area, that was used more often for spaghettis, but hardly ever to represent Mexico. But cinematographer Riccardo Pallotini makes the best of it, calmly panning his camera over the green slopes and moss-grown rocks of the Lazio hills north-east of Rome. Although the script is an adaptation of the Henry Hathaway movie Garden of Evil (1954), the film has the baroque visuals of the Italian western, as well as an emphatic anti-clerical undertone, typical for a lot of Italian movies of the era (not only westerns, think only of Pasolini). On their way to the mine the group is joined by a pretended priest, who not only handles a six-shooter very well but also knows a lot about torture. We’re permanently confronted with ruins of religious buildings, creating an atmosphere of decay and despair, and giving the film a distinctive look among the spaghetti westerns.
Carnimeo is listed as director but he was supervised by Hugo Fregonese. The film is well-paced but rather short on excitement. A little more could have been done with the assortment of characters Hunter assembles for the mission, like a superstitious pimp/gunslinger (played by Iranian actor Reza Fazeli) who shoots vultures because they are messengers of death and a good-natured blockhead who can’t controll himself when Petit takes off her clothes. Chato’s gang is told to be so ferocious that even the bravest men start to shiver when they hear the name, but when Chato is killed and the murderer says he is taking over the gang, only one member raises his voice, all others accept their new boss without any problem! The action scenes are well-staged but the added-on ‘shootout’ is laughable. The best scene is set in an improvised saloon, built within the confines of church ruin. A prostitute, played by former miss Italy Daniela Giordano, plays the guitar and sings the title song, find a place to die, with Jeffrey Hunter humming some backing vocals, or groans. It’s a wonderful scene, sweaty, sultry and sexy, and the rest of the film looks cold in comparison. Carnimeo would later direct several Sartana movies and it’s clear he felt more at ease in a more relaxed context. Joe, cercati un posto per morire! has non of gimmicks of the Sartana movies and is certainly not meant to be funny. With it’s predilection for torture it’s even a bit mean-spirited.
Jeffrey Hunter is best known among western fans for his part in The Searchers (1956), where he accompanied John Wayne in the search for a young girl kidnapped by Indians. Once considered to be one of the most promising actors in the business, his career soon went downhill. He already had serious drinking problems while making this film, but Giordano told in an interview that he never drank on the set. He died the next year of the consequences of a skull fracture, caused by a bad fall after a having suffered a stroke. Both Petit, as the widow, and Giodano, as the singer/prostitute, have surprisingly active roles in the movie. The former may even flash a bare breast. Gianni Ferrio’s score is very fine and fits the melancholic mood of the movie perfectly. As a singer Daniela Giordano was doubled by Jula de Parma.
Reviewed DVD: VCI Entertainment. The film is presented in 1,85:1, which seems to be the correct aspect ratio. Unfortunately it’s a rather poor release; there’s an awful lot of grain, colours have faded and the image is very dark. Sound quality isn’t bad though, with clear dialogue and only minor background noise.