The Hellbenders / I crudeli (Sergio Corbucci, 1967)

Great review! It is a ‘thinking man’s’ spaghetti western. Corbucci and Sollima were good at these. The moral ambiguity of the characters does make it compelling viewing. I would recommend it to people who are interested in Spaghetti westerns but I don’t think It will be on by top 10 list.

1 Like

Seem to remember it being a lot better than Navajo Joe but I’ll have to revisit that one

This is my 5th favourite Corbucci, behind Great Silence, Django, Mercenary & Companeros.


1 Like

Hellbenders would probably be my fifth favourite Corbucci also.

In Corbucci territory I crudeli is for me only # 8 or # 9 of his dozen, with a solid 5/10 rating.

1 Like

It’s probably not your typical Corbucci Western but I really enjoyed it. Joseph Cotten is a vicious bad guy and the action scenes are quick but brutal.

Wondering what everyone here thinks of this flick?

There is a thread for it.

1 Like


On Yugoslavian poster Cotten is misteriously MIA and the movie has become an “american western”:

Translation of the title is: Dead Men Have Free Pass.

Also re-watched this a couple of nights ago via the new Blu Ray. Really enjoyed it a lot…I remember thinking it was pretty mediocre when I last saw it maybe nine years ago, but this time I really enjoyed Joseph Cotten in the lead, as well the different feel for a Corbucci film, a bit like Minnesota Clay. Also liked the focus on less action Some of the ways the gang get lucky (like the ex-solider being blind) are pretty convenient, but all in all it’s a good Corbucci western.

1 Like

Just a note on the language options and subtitles on the upcoming Koch Films disc: the English subtitles don’t seem to be totally accurate in relation to the Italian audio. The German subtitles seem to be a more literal translation. The German dub, for those who want to know, is of course criminally liberal in its interpretation of the plot :slight_smile: I need to recheck the English dub where it stands, but it might go together with the English subs, presumably.

For the sake of argument, here are some counterpoints to consider and discuss (feel free to correct me):

  1. Script structure of confederate soldiers riding around and running into large groups of union soldiers whom they are able to easily dupe with their coffin ploy. Two things make this a little more believable. The civil war is over by the time this story takes place, and the story unfolds in the south. There is therefore no reason why the soldiers would automatically consider someone wearing a confederate uniform with greater suspicion than others. It is likely that some of the citizens in the towns the protagonsists visit fought for the south in the war and that even some of the cavalry soldiers they encounter were former confederates themselves (?). The protagonists’ cover is that they are travelling back from Nashville, Tennessee to the Hondo River in New Mexico, so for that to be a believable, their route is likely travelling through former confederate states and territories with split allegiances (e.g., New Mexico).

  2. the crazy son (Jeff) killing and raping the Indian girl. No questions that it is an incredibly stupid (and evil) thing to do, but he does have precedent doesn’t he? it is perfectly in-line with the very little that we know about this character, including killing the first “widow” and attempting to rape the second one (Claire). This event is also set up when they first travel through the village and you can see him focusing on that woman.

i don’t necessarily disagree with you that things are not always very believable, but suspending or even expelling disbelief is a stable of the SW genre (as someone else mentioned here, there is little room for logic in SWs).

New Polish review by @DocMarlowe


Very well done. I had to use Google Translate to read the review since I don’t speak Polish, but it was a pleasure to read.

I didn’t like The Hellbenders too much when watching it (quite some time ago), but I’ll do as proposed in the final sentence of the review: I’ll give it another chance


Watched this again last night. Not sure what number viewing I am on, but have seen this several times now, and was among the first spaghs I ever watched. I really loved it on first viewing, but somehow my opinion goes down on each viewing after, maybe because of the more thriller elements which are not as effective on repeat views. I found myself disengaged during much of the movie, but then the night time scene in the rainstorm towards the end really pulled me back in - what a great scene stylistically, very Corbucci.

It also got me thinking about Spaghettis with prominent rain scenes as I’ve watched a few lately - this one, Death Rides a Horse, A Sky Full of Stars for a Roof…

Love Joseph Cotton in this. It was the first film I saw him in after Citizen Kane.

Maybe slightly off topic … but this film, which I too enjoyed has the cheapest, crappiests hats I’ve ever seen in a SW or any other production - Joseph Cotton has a ‘real’ chapeau … the rest of the gang are wearing nasty, ‘Made in China’, fancy dress shop hats … wtf?

Apart from this and Cotton’s equally crappy looking CSA tunic, it’s a pretty good looking little movie.

1 Like

I’ve seen this movie many many times. I’m not sure why do I like it so much? It’s a great nihilistic road movie full of clever characters and nailbiting situations…maybe that’s why I have also watched it so many times.


@Phil_H and @Carlos have upgraded this movie’s page in the SWDb to the new “SWDb 3.0” format .
Please have a look and let us know if there’s something you can add (information, trivia, links, pictures, etc.).