Often presented as a “Spencer-without-Hill” comedy, the film must have created a lot of frustration among fans of the Trinity movies. Oggi a mé … domani a té / Today it’s me … tomorrow it’s you, producer Cervi’s only spaghetti western as a director, was made a few years before Enzo Barboni turned the genre upside down and is a typical revenge western, bloody and violent, in the Leone tradition, with a few winks at Hollywood as well. It uses the Leone technique to illustrate the central conflict by means of a flashback (filmed in black and white), while the avenger Bill Kiowa (Brett Halsey) assembles a small army of specialists in true Hollywood tradition (The Magnificent Seven, The Dirty Dozen) before marching up against his arch enemy Elfego (Kurosawa actor Nakaday) who has surrounded himself with Comancheros, half-breeds of Comanche and Mexican descent.
We understand very soon who is the avenger and who is the villain in the picture, but the explanation of what exactly causes Kiowa to seek revenge on Elfego is postponed, like in Fistful of Dollars. The first half hour, in which Kiowa assembles his gang, is rather dreary but once we’ve found out what crime Kiowa was framed for by Elfego, the film takes its real start. Once again Elfego tries to frame Kiowa for a crime but this time the latter is saved by his gang members. The two gangs finally meet in a forest, in a protracted finale that is by far the best part of the picture. Before Kiowa and Elfego meat each other face to face, Elfego’s men, stalked by Kiowa and his associates, are killed one by one, in rather gruesome fashion. It was one of those spaghetti western that met with censorship; in most versions - among them the one reviewed here - one scene that was cut during the flashback is still missing. You’ll notice the cut easily and will understand why it was made.
Apart from the members of the two gangs the film is remarkably underpopulated and the sets look almost laughably poor, but the film manages to hide its low budget rather well. It was beautifully shot in the Lazio hills around Rome, and really looks awesome with those autumnal colours. The slow thirty minutes put aside, the script - co-written by horror specialist Dario Argento - is excellent; Angelo F. Lavagnino’s score isn’t exactly memorable, but it’s very serviceable, combining typical Italian and American influences. The supporting cast is first rate, with Berger outstanding as a homosexual, card-playing gunslinger. I wasn’t impressed by Hallsey (here playing as Montgomerey Ford) but Nakaday lends a certain melancholic aspect to his downright perverted and sadistic character : a rare and interesting combination. But there’s a problem concerning this character: is he supposed to be Japanese or Mexican? His name is usually written as ‘Elfego’, which doesn’t mean anything in Spanish as far as I know. If it’s read as ‘El Fuego’ it would mean ‘The Fire’, but this villain does not burn his victims to death, but uses a sword instead. This sword is however not a samurai sword like some critics have maintained, but a machete. Maybe the man is a half-breed too, like his men and probably even his opponent: the name Bill Kiowa seems to indicate a mixed descent too.
This brings me to my last remark: Oggi a mé … domani a té is good revenge western, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was more in it. The story as well as the characterisations offer the opportunity to say something about things like racial hatred, betrayed friendship and the thin line between justice and lawlessness in a post-war society, instead Cervi goes for a straightforward revenge movie. But I won’t be too critical about his effort: if you like your spaghs gritty, violent and with a sense of style, this is a film for you.
Reviewed DVD: Dutch Film Works (DFW) - The film is presented in 1,85:1, which seems to be the correct aspect ratio. Video quality isn’t very great; print damage is reduced to some lines and scratches, but the print is very grainy, something even a bit smudgy, and colours are on the brink of over-saturation. The English DD 2.0 audio is okay. It’s not a must have, but it’s very cheap (I bought it for about 5 €) and if you don’t own a widescreen version with English audio, it certainly is a good bargain.
Note: Dario Argento is mentioned as co-director in the Database, but in all other places I only found Cervi listed as director.