The Hellbenders / I crudeli (Sergio Corbucci, 1967)


I loved this film. LOVED! For many reasons, but ill touch on a few.
First I want to take note of two cast members. We have Joseph Cotton is determined to get home, and continue the civil war. The gunning down of Union troops,the ability to lie his way out of situations, his death at the end,its all here. its Corbucci doing what Corbucci does best. Presenting a nihilistic, dark western hero (or antihero) depending on who you are cheering for. (I for one was cheering for Jonas) in a win/ lose scenario.Norma Bengell plays Claire, a real witch if you ask me. A double crossing, back stabbing, witch.
Second is the score. A great, memorable, score. Fits in perfectly with the opening scene. its a bit moody as well. It has a nice military sound to it.
Lastly, I thought the plot was enjoyable, and despite what others have said I didnt see the death of Jonas and his sons coming. I will rewatch it a few more times, but Im pretty sure I will have to update my favorites list, as this will be going on it.

(Martin) #122

I don’t think that Clare is a “double-crossing, backstabbing witch.” She’s the only character in the movie who has the moral integrity to oppose Jonas’s evil, hare-brained plans and to expose the hypocrisy behind his disguise as an ‘idealistic’ southern gentleman who still believes in the ‘Lost Cause.’ Through Clare, Ben becomes progressively aware of his father’s and his half-brothers’ despicable character traits (Jonas: superbia; Nat: avaritia; Jeff: luxuria).
Some further thoughts on I crudeli (in German).

(Stanton) #123

Hmm, how else could the film have ended if one expects a typical ending of a genre film?


Well, I thought the film would end in a dark manner, but also one that left the viewer to deicide to what happens to “the hellbenders” (Corbucci does this in Navajo Joe, Johnny Oro,)
I expected Jonas and his sons to reach home safely, Ben marry Claire. I did expect Jeff ( the one who raped the indian girl) to get what he had coming to him. I thought for sure his death would greatly impact Jonas. The best way I could describe what i thought was going to happen is a scene similiar to Navajo Joe, or Johnny Oro, where the future of the protagonists is somewhat certain, but still left up for debate. I did predict that Jonas would not be successful in his attempt to restart and win the civil war. I loved this movie, they sure don’t make them like this anymore. Joseph Cotton is one excelllent, excellent, actor.


I can see why many thought the hellbenders would be killed off, but I didn’t expect Jonas and Ben to die. I did expect them to come to conclusion that they could not defeat the Union army and that their fate was left up for debate.

(Stanton) #126

[quote=“UglyOne427, post:124, topic:578, full:true”]The best way I could describe what i thought was going to happen is a scene similiar to Navajo Joe, or Johnny Oro, where the future of the protagonists is somewhat certain, but still left up for debate.
But the protagonist of Navajo Joe is very dead at the end, so it’s very different from Johnny Oro.

The ending of I crudeli is the one to be expected for Jonas and his evil sons. Only the good son and the girl could have survived in any other director’s film.
Though the ending is here unclear, and I assume that some footage was cut out, so that we don’t see both dead. But I think the way it is directed was meant for both to die, but we actually don’t see it. Unlike in Navajo Joe where we don’t see it either, but where it is very obvious that he dies, in I crudeli it remains unclear.

How do you interpret the ending?


I like your analogy but i’m optimistic for Joe and I want to know what you thinkk of the following: Since we don’t see Joe die on screen, the sign he has some life in him is for sure clear when he sends the money back to the people in horseback. Perhaps he does die after that, and we do see him wounded, but not dead. Was it a one hundred percent fact that Joe dies at the end? I think Corbucci’s intention was to leave it up to us. But, their is strong evidence to suggest like you said, that Joe does die at the end and he may very well have. Myself I think hes only wounded, since we dont see him die on screen. We see Silence die on screen, Minnesotta Clay die on screen, Corbucci clearly shows us those, but he dosent show us Joe’s death. Now, I interpret the ending of the hellbenders like this: the good son and the girl live, Ben maybe not so much, But the girl is clearly not mortally wounded. If anything I think she would help Ben, or leave him. If she leaves him, im sure he’d die. I can’t see her doing that. Her actions reminded me a lot of the women who really liked Silence, and stood by him until his death. Same with Minnesotta Clay, the women never deserts him and with him until his death. Nancy is alive, but Clay is dead. (although ive heard their are multiple versions of this ending). So I guess to conclude, the girl remains, alive, but it more of a toss up of ben. I think the girl sticks with ben though, because that beggar could easily have killed both of them. If not the beggar, then the indians for sure.

(JonathanCorbett) #128

Lots of spoilers in recent posts… :slight_smile:

(Phil H) #129

As I’ve said elsewhere I’m always left feeling a little confused with this one. Stylistically I mean. In some ways it feels like an American western, in others strictly Italian. I understand there was a lot of interference from the producer during production so maybe that is why. Either way, and despite all this, I always find the film very enjoyable. Norma Bengell is the stand out for me and the theme music is terrific. Doesn’t challenge Corbucci’s very best films but sits very comfortably for me in the upper echelons of this second tier.

(Martin) #130

The casket’s itinerary in I crudeli – “That feller in the coffin, he’s better off than me. He’s got a roof over his head. Anybody kicks him gets a sore foot.” (Al Mulock, the beggar)


This wasn’t quite as good as I remembered. I forgot just how unspaghetti-like it is. Far from Corbucci’s worst though!

(Stanton) #132

Isn’t it quite easy to be far from Corbucci’s worst?

The other way round it is also easy to be far away from Corbucci’s best …


Words of wisdom, Stanton my man. Words of wisdom.

(The Man With a Name) #134

This is a very good film. It’s a lot closer in spirit to American westerns but that’s not a bad thing.

(autephex) #135

Any opinions on the German or Italian DVD releases of this film?,_I/DVD