Well I for one think this is an amazing movie, probably my favorite Anthony Steffen role (though Apocalypse Joe and Stranger’s Gundown are hard to top – maybe a 3 way tie?) and one of my favorite overlooked spaghetti western music scores. The gunfights are amazing, choreographed perfectly and some great atmospheric moments.
Steffen reminds me of a Navy SEAL unleashed, some sort of special ops soldier sent behind enemy lines to stir up trouble along the border with a totally unhinged Eduardo Fajardo’s Confederate stormtrooper pistoleros. One of the things I like about the way the film develops is that you truly do get the feeling that Steffen is the only person in the world who has any chance of stopping Fajardo from slaughtering the entire civilized world. Their grudge match quickly becomes personal and Fajardo is downright frightening in his homicidal psychosis, willing to literally kill anybody.
He may not be as smooth as Eastwood’s anti-hero but he’s a more dynamic and even acrobatic gunfighter whom I think is saddened by all the carnage around him, including that which he himself wreaks. He takes no joy in the killings and even seems to regard his invincibility as a curse, or at least a mantle he must bear as a soldier on a mission that for anyone else would be suicidal. It is a physically demanding role, it looks like Steffen did most of his stuntwork himself, and he demonstrates a range of acting (dubbed as it is) going from a sullen, withdrawn mute to his usual unflappable self. He actually acts in addition to shooting people, and nobody looked better as a shabby unkempt slob.
It’s also a film that must be seen widescreened, I have a fullframe Greek tape and the film is suffocated by the pan/scan screen reduction. I have not seen Luminous’ copy but I have Franco Cleef’s restored widescreen English print and it is glorious. The action literally spills across the canvas of the picture frame along with the summersaulting, diving Steffen as he effortlessly blows away about fifty guys in the course of 86 minutes or so. Some of the locations used also look unique or at least unfamiliar and I wonder where some of the outdoor scenes were filmed – it’s not the usual boulder strewn hillsides & walled in hacienda with the arched gateway.
I also come back to the musical score by a little known composer named Gianfranco Di Stefano (BROTHER OUTLAW and SHERIFF OF RED SPRINGS are his other two big spaghetti scores), mixing traditional American martial flavored choral themes with folk rock sounds in a manner that is also pretty unique, and demonstrates once again that quite often it’s the musical score that really gives a film it’s edge. In this instance it lends the film an air of authenticity: it’s not just really cool music, but the only music possible for the subject matter. A twanging guffawing Morricone/Niccola score would have been totally out of place here.
In any event I can’t recommend the film enough, Stranger’s Gundown is probably Steffen’s most important spaghetti but this may be his most dynamic. Totally worth the $17 or so to acquire a copy, but it really should be properly restored by it’s rights holder immediately or I will PUNCH THEM IN THE NOSE!!@