The Hellbenders / I crudeli (Sergio Corbucci, 1967)

I just watched the Anchor Bay disc of The Hellbenders. This is a different kind of spaghetti. More thriller than usual western based on action. Not among Corbucci’s greatest films but still good one including the familiar dark mood accompanied by Morricone score.

I love the ending of this film even if it’s not a big surprise but is very beautifully done. And Corbucci has a gift of making best ending scenes.

Joseph Cotten is especially good in it as a fanatic renegade soldier and Al Mulock does a hilarious part as a beggar.

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DATABASE PAGE: Crudeli, I - The Spaghetti Western Database (

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‘I crudeli’ is among the first 10 SW I’ve watched ! It’s been some time since I’ve seen it but I rember it well. I liked it very much, great acting, the dark mood Bill mentioned and a great ending !!!

i haven’t watched this for a good 10-12 years so i will rewatch it before i vote.

But what i remember it doesn’t seem like a Corbucci western at all.

That’s because it’s not really a Corbucci SW. I think it’s more dominated by the producer A. Antonini alias Albert Band, who also co-wrote the screenplay.

It was conceived to be a psychological drama, but the characters are much too flat to make the drama work, and the acting is likewise . Thanks to Corbucci the film looks a bit more like a SW than Antonini’s similar The Tramplers, but in the end it works neither as a SW nor as the intended drama.
Not fish, not flesh. An indifferent film.

Morricones main theme is nice.

Well made SW, as usual by Corbucci.

But I agree, not one of his top films.

Isn’t the story more like a Hollywood western? Like all Corbucci’s SWs before Django I think.

Johnny Oro/ Ringo and his golden pistol is also like this, pretty Hollywood-influenced story despite being a post-Fistful of Dollars SW.

Yes, it belongs to the early phase of the SW (Fistful up to Django), in which the italian directors were not so sure about what to do with the new ideas Leone has brought to the genre. Most of the films were cheap imitations of american B-Westerns, with using some of the new possibilitys of filming violence as the only difference to the even more naive pre-Fistful films.

In a typical SW, and even more in a typical Corbucci, in all the situations in which the secret of the coffin is about to be revealed, the situation would be solved by a shoot-out.
Also missing in I crudeli is the typical weapon experienced shoot them all SW gunfighter, the classic SW loner.

The film bears little resemblances with the other Corbucci SWs.
I can’t even see much of Corbucci’s style.
But it’s a much better film than Corbucci’s first collaboration with Antonini. In Massacre at Grande Canyon (co-directed by Antonini) you’ll find nothing which looks like it could be made by such a talented director like Corbucci was.

I have a question with spoiler warning.

I was never sure how the end was to be meant. Cotton was obviously dead, but what about the Julian Mateos character and the girl?
Both are in bad shape, Ben was badly wounded and Claire suffers from a lung disease, but there is no image which shows them clearly as dead.
I would like to think that they survive, because they are the positive characters, but on the other hand it’s also possible that this was conceived as one of the everybody’s dead endings.

What do you think about it?

I’ve always felt that they’re all gonna die in the end. It’s Corbucci film anyway.

But I think the ending its left open on purpose in similar way as in Navajo Joe or The Specialist where you can’t really say if the hero is going to survive or if he’s just riding away to die alone.

I think it’s not a Corbucci film. As I said above, I think he only directed it as a job.

In contrast to Hellbenders in both of the other films I have no questions about the meaning of the end.

Just watched this one. Definitely not a typical Corbucci western but he stills works the tension angle really well and keeps it going right to the end. Joseph Cotton plays the role of the obsessed confederate colonel well too. Obviously crazy but not overacted.
For what it’s worth, I think Ben and Claire live but it could be read either way.

It felt to me like it was a Corbucci spaghetti western. Although I do agree that it isn’t his best.

i’ll watch and review it this weekend…

wow, great film!

Nice review Sebastian and I’m glad you liked this movie after waiting so long to see it.
The version I have of this is in full screen. I enjoy it anyway but I think I will upgrade to widescreen now based on your recommendation of the Anchor Bay edition.

yeah it’s a decent dvd. no extras but good quality

That’s cool. Extras are nice to have but I’m more interested in the picture quality of the actual film to be honest. Whenever you see a widescreen version of a film you have only ever seen on full screen video before it’s like seeing it for the first time again. So much better seeing the film as it was meant to be seen.

A new film in the top 20 for you Seb?

good question Silvanito, good question :slight_smile:

I never cared for this film. This is one of those love it or hate it films. The same goes for the music and I don’t care for it either. Too much drum and low trumpet, which I know is on purpose for the military aspect of the film. The film just goes from one obstacle to another and the ending just comes on suddenly. The family is on their toes the entire trip and then let themselves get into trouble by trusting the begger and then Indians come out of nowhere. Corbucci’s done much better films than this. 2 stars at best.

The DVD is fine, but like mentioned before no extras except a poor quality trailer.

Watched it last night and happy that I did. About all I can say is it was interesting.

The first thing I noticed were the costumes. The hats looked like those cheap hats you’d buy for a kid in a battleground gift shop. They were awful! The story is rambling and highly violent, but it keeps you on the edge of your seat every time the outlaws are stopped by a posse or by Union troops.

The treatment by the Union troops toward men still in Confederate uniform shows that none of the people involved in the film apparently had any indepth knowledge of the War. They’re always allowed to pass, unmolested, in sparkling clean Confederate uniforms, fully armed.

By that time, no one had nice uniforms and the hostility between the two groups was still high. No way they would have been able to travel like that, especially with bushwackers still afoot, with friendly apologies and pats on the back.

Poor old Al Muluck. Enjoyed his role and Aldo Sambrell, as well.

I rate it 2 1/2 stars out of five.

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