Dir: Enzo G. Castellari Cast: George Hilton, Edd Byrnes, Gilbert Roland, Carla O’Hara (Stefania Careddu), Gerard Herter, Pedro Sanchez (Ignazio Spalla) Music: Francesco De Masi
Three men, looking like Clint Eastwood, Lee van Cleef and … Franco Nero (I guess it’s supposed to be him, some say Gian Maria Volonté) ride into town, but they’re not the main characters of this movie. They’re evil gunmen - they’re so evil people quickly close their doors and windows - and someone is waiting for them, a bounty hunter dressed in black. The gunmen meet a gravedigger who’s riding three coffins out of town and find out they are destined for them. The next moment they are shot by the bounty hunter …
Vado, l’ammazzo e … torno (I go, I kill and … I return - a reference to Caesar’s Vini, Vidi, Vici) freely borrows from more illustrious genre examples, but it’s all done with a wink of the eye and without any possible disrespect. In fact, the wonderful opening scene is one of the best in-jokes the genre has to offer, and the rest of the film has problems to live up with it. The bounty hunter (Hilton) accidently witnesses a train robbery, executed by the Mexican bandit he is trailing (Roland). The Mexicans fall out among themselves and Hilton starts to have second thoughts about killing Roland. There’s more money involved and maybe it would be wiser to team up with the guy. After Roland has killed the man who betrayed him, he is arrested and sentenced to death. Hilton saves him at the last moment, but there’s also a treacherous bank employee (Byrnes) who is now in possession of a part of the medaillion that reveals where the gold is located.
With three men vying for a hidden treasure, double-crossing each other almost constantly, the film rips off the famous premise of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Still, with it’s mix of tongue-in-cheek humour, violent action and slapstick approach to the fisticuffs, the film unmistakably bears director Castellari’s imprint. Enzo G(irolami) Castellari, one of the most prolific directors of the genre, is probably best known for the twilight spaghetti Keoma and the Shakespeare adaption Johnny Hamlet (Quella Sporca Storia nel West), but he also added some light-hearted impulses to the genre. Like Alberto de Martino’s Django shoots first (1966) this is an early example of a spaghetti western that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Still, in spite of the spoofy opening and some tongue-in-cheek humour, the first half of the movie is still pretty violent, with a excellently executed assault on the train and some cynical behaviour of the bandits. It’s only halfway that the movie takes its comical turn with a hilarious fistfight between Byrnes and Hilton (in his underwear!). The script takes enough turns to keep our attention, but Castellari has a tendency to over-elaborate the action scenes. A good example is a chase scene on a market place that begins well with some heavy punches launched, but ends up with Byrnes using trampolines to escape from his persecutors. Occasionally sliding off into silliness, the film nevertheless remains enjoyable, due to some great visual moments - the opening scene, Hilton’s near surrealistic appearence against a red background, the avalanche of dollars and the build-up to it - and some good performances. I have never been a great Hilton fan, but the part-of the ever-smiling, nearly immoral adventurer/bounty hunter fits him like a glove; Roland seems an odd choice to play the sophisticated Mexican bandit, but turns in a fine, laconic performance and television actor Byrnes was a pleasant surprise to me as the deliciously wicked white collar criminal with a fifties forelock (the Fonz out West!). I don’t really know what to think of De Masi’s score; it’s not bad and even fits the movie quite well, but it’s also very odd and some parts reminded me of French comedies from the sixties, with Louis de Funès as the gendarme of St. Tropez.
Reviewed DVD: the film is part of a 3DVD/9MOVIES box of St. Clair Vision. You can’t expect too much from these boxes but this film is presented in more or less the original aspect ratio and the image is not bad at all. Moreover it runs 1:37:22, so unlike the official US release it seems to be uncut. Sound is said to be 5.1 virtual surround - whatever that may be - but I didn’t detect much surround activity: it’s a bit crackly and suffers from hiss, but dialogue is always understandable (but not free from lip-sync problems). With quite a few lines spoken in Spanish, some people might deplore the lack of subtitles.