First things first.
To avoid confusion for further viewers it must be said that in my english 86 min version (83 min Pal), sourced from a scandinavian (swedish?) VHS, the parts from minute 35 to min 53 should be watched after min 70. This must be wrong unless this is also that way in the original version, in which case the film marks even more clearly the stamp of producer Demofilo Fidani. At least I doubt that what happened between min 53 and min 70 was intended to be a flashback.
But the film makes a cut impression anyway, and maybe Fidani (or whoever) tried to make the film more commercial by recutting it, and ignoring thereby the film’s structure.
Christian Kessler has written in his SW book that Pray to God and Dig Your Grave could have been Mulargias best western but is instead his worst.
That’s not true, because the film is much better than the routine bore Brother Outlaw, because here are good looking scenes and angles along the way, but this time without giving in to an interesting whole.
Mulargia shows somehow that he was capable to make more than simple shoot’ em alls, that he had the potential to make another SW like his masterwork El puro, but here his directing is as unfocused as the whole film by mixing in an unmotivated way scenes of political talk, with typical SW action, with intended (but unfinished) character development.
Indeed this is a rather confused film with a script, which starts to tell several different stories, but fails to bring them together. Some story lines are not even finished, some others are muddled together in a strange way, and what in the beginning seems to be the main story, a political story about a social motivated uprising, ends in a way which Kessler made so angry while watching it, that he nearly had destroyed his TV.
The end of the film makes the beginning a joke.
The landowner who has misused his privileges in the beginning, who towards the end has started hanging innocent peones for the kidnapping of his daughter, this landowner pardons Fernando (Robert Woods), who was just prior to the kidnapping trying to organize a revolution. All of Don Enrique’s crimes are now forgotten by the film’s happy end, which brings the daughter back to the arms of her lover. The cinematic convention of the happy end now justifies the death of the innocent. Fernando seems to accept the pardon (why?) in a resignative way, but that’s not enough after all what had happened before, that’s not breaking cinemtic rules, that’s only chaos out of inability.
Instead of following the early premises the film tells in the second half about a disappointed friendship between the returned Fernando and his former friend Cipriano (Jeff Cameron).
Fernando had left for Texas because of his resignation about his passive compatriots, Cipriano had turned into an ordinary bandido. The conflict between them turns the film into a more typical SW, and turns, by constructing this false happy end, the intended message about the overcoming of resignation into a film which ends in resignation, but a resignation which isn’t justified by what was shown before, which is arbitrary, which makes the hastily end look like a bad joke.
And there is a friend of Fernando, who joins him for his political motivated revenge, who starts to develop his own ideas, who starts to become a real revolutionary, who starts to deviate from his sidekick role, only that his character is also dropped towards the end, so that his inner development remained unfinished, so that the possibilities of his development for the ongoing story remained unused.
It’s maybe somehow fitting for this film that an uncomfortable looking Robert Woods gives his weakest SW performance, whereas of all people Jeff Cameron in his best role steals the show by showing an unexpected charisma.