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![