Pistoleros / Ballata per un pistolero (Alfio Caltabiano, 1967)


(scherpschutter) #1

When two gunslingers are on the track of a notorious bandit for different reasons, it’s anybody’s guess that the film is merely a poor man’s For a Few Dollars More, but this might change when you here the following lyrics:

Do not weep for the dead, who lie there, lifelessly
But for those who kill them
Cause they will be lifeless forever, eternally

Like Petroni’s Death rides a horse and and Valerii’s Day of Anger, Pistoleros combines the older man/younger man theme with a vengeance tale. While not as good as either of those movies, it’s a very interesting genre entry. Its strong religious undertones even make it an almost unique spaghetti western.

As said two gunman are in pursuit of a bandit and his younger brother for different reasons. The first, a younger bounty hunter (Infante), is after the reward, the second (Ghidra) is an older man with a personal account to settle. When the younger man proposes a partnership, the older one refuses, not - like Eastwood in Leone’s film - for financial reasons, but because he doesn’t like bounty hunters. Despite this refusal, Infante stays on Ghidra’s track and even saves his life at a few occasions. Ghidra’s behaviour changes when he sees that Infante wears a hanger in the shape of a pistol. It’s also at this point that the mood of the film changes. Instead of tongue and cheeck and violent, it becomes more serious and almost placatory in tone. When Ghidra finally kills the man he has been chasing for years, he does so reluctantly, and after he has revealed his identity to Infante and has explained his scorn for bounty hunters, the latter makes a decision that seems contradictory to all the genre stands for.

Of course, being an Italian genre, religious symbolism is omnipresent within the spaghetti western genre. Still, film like Se sei vivo, spara! (with a hero who rises from the grave and is crucified later), Il ritorno di Ringo (with Gemma’s resurrection in the middel of a sand storm) or Una pistola per cento bare (with Peter Lee Lawrence as a Quaker who becomes an avenger) can hardly be called ‘religious’. Instead, many spaghetti westerns, with their priests/gunslingers, are rather profane and virulently anti-clerical, like many Italian (left-wing) films of the decade. Pistoleros is positively religious and unmistakably emphasises this position. This must have been a personal choice of writer/director Caltabiano and as such it is defenitely a polemic film. Like Corbucci in Il grande Silenzio and Giraldi in Un minuto per pregare, un istante per morire, Caltabiano seems to disapprove of Leone’s depiction of the bounty hunter. Caltabiano makes clear it was a dirty job and the ones who did it couldn’t keep their hands clean. He also seems to be questioning the way collateral damage is depicted within the genre: there’s one very powerful scene (easily the best of the film and one of the most incisive I’ve ever seen in a spaghetti western) in which Ghidra pays his respect to the dead when he witnesses a funeral ceremony held in the streets after a bloody bank robbery.

The film is not without flaws. There’s a barroom brawl that is completely out of sync with the rest of the movie and more in general the film veers too much from violent action to tongue in cheeck humour and melodrama to be totally succesful. But its assets outweigh its shortcomings. The gunplay is very convincing and especially Ghidra’s ‘shot behind his back’ is impressive. Both Ghidra and Infante turn in excellent performances and their characters are far more interesting than those of the avagerage revenge western. Even Caltabiano’s villain is not stereotyped: he kills dogs and beats women (and beats them very hard!) but he’s still concerned about his younger brother (Novelli, also in a great performance). The script often seems a bit choppy, but most seperate scenes are well-executed and the finale is particularly fine. The familiar Almeria locations are substituted by the Split area, also used for several Karl May westerns. The score, by Marcello Giombino, is very nice too. It’s mainly a quirky guitar and a more dreamlike trumpet.

Reviewed DVD: Wild East
Those Wild East guys did a fine job. Colours are strong and there is little print damage. The indicated aspect ratio of 2,35:1 seems more like 2,20:1 to me, so trimmed a little left and right, but this is only a problem in one scene, very late in the movie, when Ghidra and Infante, while taking their distance from each other, are in danger of walking out of the movie! The LPCM soundtrack (apparently uncompressed) is very strong, but several lines spoken (in Italian I suppose) by Ghidra and Infante are totally absent. Luckily this doesn’t harm our comprehension of the action.
Don’t expect a For a few dollars more or Death rides a horse, but otherwise: Don’t miss it![


(Sebastian) #2

nice review
why didn’t you publish it in the database, though? want me to put it in there?


(scherpschutter) #3

[quote=“Sebastian, post:2, topic:891”]nice review
why didn’t you publish it in the database, though? want me to put it in there?[/quote]

You can, if you wish (add a photo, please)

I’m also working on reviews of the Karl May movies
Already published two here on the forum (Der Schatz im silbersee and Winnetou 1. Teil)
If you like those, you can put 'm in the DB too (feel free to change or add something)


(Phil H) #4

Yeah, good review Scherps. This definitely belongs in the DB.


(Romaine Fielding) #5

Scherps, I agree wholeheartedly.
I liked Ghidra a lot in this one. I thought the director, Alfio Caltabiano, was impressive in this one in his role as the chief villian. As you said, he was a really evil guy with a soft spot for his brother. I thought he was a great looking villian as well. He has some bad ass looking eyes when he stares. Really menacing.
I mentioned this movie a couple of days ago in a thread related to opening sequences/credit sequences. Mario Novelli is terrific in a short pre-credit sequence in which he shows off his bandito “skills”. And, as you said, the score is very nice.


(AceHigh) #6

Watched this one last night. Ditto on all you say, RF. Ghidra is good in everything I’ve seen him in. I really thought Infante had some serious “style” in this one. Good cast, good flick.


(Frank Talby) #7

A solid film. Ghidra was excellent in it. I’ll revisit it again soon.


(Dorado) #8

I watched this one yesterday and I agree with what others in here have said namely that the film is solid and Ghidra is excellent.


(Phil H) #9

This was my morning’s viewing today. I thought about writing a review but what’s the point? Scherps has already written it and said everything I was likely to say.
I actually like this film a lot. Ghidra is always great value and Caltabiano is excellent in the role of the villain. Not perfect but very solid stuff indeed in my book.


(scherpschutter) #10

[quote=“Phil H, post:9, topic:891”]This was my morning’s viewing today. I thought about writing a review but what’s the point? Scherps has already written it and said everything I was likely to say.
I actually like this film a lot. Ghidra is always great value and Caltabiano is excellent in the role of the villain. Not perfect but very solid stuff indeed in my book.[/quote]

Oh, but I still like to read your vision on it

It’s a very likeable film, yes. I return to it from time to time, without being one of the true greats, it somehow seems to have those elements and qualities I like in a spaghetti western, a bit like Cervi’s Today it’s me, tomorrow it’s you. Even the silly barroom brawl is enjoyable in its own way.


(Phil H) #11

[quote=“scherpschutter, post:10, topic:891”]Oh, but I still like to read your vision on it

It’s a very likeable film, yes. I return to it from time to time, without being one of the true greats, it somehow seems to have those elements and qualities I like in a spaghetti western, a bit like Cervi’s Today it’s me, tomorrow it’s you. Even the silly barroom brawl is enjoyable in its own way.[/quote]

The brawl is the only real low point for me. I really can’t fathom out why they so often felt that a fistfight should descend into comedy in films which are not comedic in any other way. Having said that, the brawl does have a couple of nice touches. They just belong in a different film.


(autephex) #12

Definitely a great scene. I was watching this last night and was thinking about cutting that scene out for a youtube clip, but couldn’t decide if it would work as well outside of viewing the whole film.
I also really liked the first scenes and the credit sequence.

The brawl seemed to go on forever. I did not mind it at first, but it just kept going… but all in all, don’t really have any complaints with this one. Excellent spaghetti.

The Wild East disc is the best out of the batch I’ve recently bought. Picture looks nice and is free of ghosting and any other weird artifacts.


(p.pereira) #13

Does anybody knows if there is a trailer of this one available somewhere?
My search in youtube only gets song theme…

My review was posted here:


(Frank Talby) #14

the same happens in Those Dirty Dogs even if that movie is lighter than this one. The addition of silly sound F/X is weird.


(scherpschutter) #15

[quote=“p.pereira, post:13, topic:891”]Does anybody knows if there is a trailer of this one available somewhere?
My search in youtube only gets song theme…

My review was posted here:
http://por-um-punhado-de-euros.blogspot.com/2009/10/ballata-per-un-pistolero-1967.html[/quote]

Can’t remember I ever saw the trailer, don’t think it’s around somewhere


(korano) #16

Does anybody know anything about where this film was filmed? It looks to be North of Madrid right around where they shot the later parts of GBU. I love the scenary.


(Stanton) #17

According to the Bruckner book it was shot in Yugoslavia.


(korano) #18

I’d havemy doubts on that. He doesn’t seem to be as right as people say. Looks way too dry for Yugoslavia and Idid see some Spanish names and faces.


(scherpschutter) #19

According to Giusti it was (ex-)Yugoslavia too. He quotes an interview with Caltabiano, who talks about his experiences in former Yugoslavia.

Personally I think too it was filmed overthere, the town looks like those towns in the Winnetou movies and Yugoslavia can be quite dry. The entire region (South-East Italy, Croatia, Albania) is known for long, dry periods, alternated with periods with a lot of rain. Furthermore it’s an Italian-German coproduction, there’s no Spanish involvement. Yugoslavia was the German Wild West, so to speak (the Indians were immigrant workers)


(Stanton) #20

There are always by such a amount of data errors, errors maybe of the type where you know that e.g. it’s Spain but you write nevertheless Italy or Yugoslavia in a condition of overfatigue.

But generally he has visited many of the locations, and someone who has a great interest in locations will not make much mistakes. And the usual locations of Yugoslavia are easily to set apart from Spain or Italy.
Generally said, I’m sure you can trust him. When he does not know or isn’t sure there is no location given in the book.