I have referred to this film as Vengeance for Vengeance - that is the title on my print (taken from a ‘Home Video Affair’ video). It’s widescreenish, (you know I don’t understand this numbery-stuff), but looks a little compressed … very good print/ pretty good sound/ Greek subs.) I realise that others have referred to this as Revenge for Revenge.
I knew there was a reason that I wanted to revisit this, I remembered it as being very good and … by Jove - it is.
(Jove (Jupiter), however, is probably the wrong God to evoke here with his association with laughter.) Despite our protagonist getting a chance for some chuckling towards the end, there isn’t much cause for anybody to have much to laugh about. This is yet another unhealthy slice of dark, moody and violent spaghetti-pie.
We begin the film with our anti-hero Chaliko (John Hamilton), all squinty-eyed and rugged, rolling his own and smoking it to whistles and the sound of a dog barking. Hamilton makes for as good a carbon-copy-Clint as you want. There’s enough of the original, but there’s his own ‘charm’ as well that comes through. He’s certainly more gritty that Tony Anthony doing The Stranger…, for instance. We recognise the territory now and we know that we’re in for a goodie…
Well of course there are no ‘goodies’ - only those great spaghetti characters painted in shades of black and grey, with a dusty coating of gold (literally). Chaliko’s nemesis-to-be is introduced and it’s an evil Major - this time magnificently and broodily played by John Ireland. Their first stand-off is great, and goes along these lines …
(Major) “What’s your name?”
(Major) “What kind of name is that?”
(Chaliko) "It’s mine."
The dialogue is sparse throughout the film (which is good as the reasonably obtrusive Greek subtitles are the only annoying thing about this print). There is tension created in the gaps, and we are also treated to Leone-esque close-ups which are also used to good effect and help to build the mood. Other great characters in this include a sadistic reverend (oh my!! - who uses a spur as a torture weapon at one point), a magnificent leather and lace narcissistic gunslinger and a cool Mexican (Pico) amongst the Major’s gang. Pico is the only character, (maybe against the convention) who shows any sense of loyalty and is not mainly motivated by the gold that has everybody else double-dealing for.
Our protagonist does seem to be honour-bound, when revenge is called for on behalf of Loredana Nusciak’s character - but even then, these two were both after the gold (and a bit of rumpy along the way).
The conventions are there - there’s a sort of flashback - but, it’s more of a recent reminiscence by the Major to replay to us the violent whipping of Clara (Loredana) by one of the Major’s gang. We find out that the Major is actually Clara’s husband and married her to find out the information that would lead to her father’s gold, but he’s pretty pissed off as well, that she’s been dishing out her other charms to Chaliko. (Lucky bastard!) The ‘flashback’ is played against the party atmosphere at the Major’s hacienda and her brutal whipping (hasn’t she learnt from Django?) is contrasted with a gypsy dance and flamenco music. It is more for enhancing the menacing mood in this, than it is for storytelling - as it is in many other films - FAFDM being the most obvious.
There are more good lines here - The barkeeper and his beautiful daughter infiltrate the party under the guise of bringing tequila (along with their own agenda), and she goes off to ‘look around’. Having established that the Major takes 30% of the bars revenue as ‘protection’ - the barkeeper says “I’d better go and find Sandy.” The Major replies "Yeah, why don’t ya? - Before somebody takes 30% of her."
Despite a couple of inconsistencies - for a man they think is their only link to the gold, it seems stupidly innapropriate to ambush him and fire at will into the shack where they think he’s hiding … and despite a couple of cliched fillers - a protracted fist fight in a river, for instance … this remains a very good movie. The obligatory barroom fist fight is suitably short and gritty (and does not include our main man at all).
Weisser gets much of his review wrong (surprised?) - he has the women mixed up and the ending altogether different (don’t read it if you don’t want to know) - unless there is another version out there that matches his?
He is right however, with his first line … "An amazingly nasty, bitter film …"
I was hoping this might be another El Puro, but I don’t think it will set the forum as alight as that beauty did … but it’s up there. Top 25 I reckon. I know a lot of forumites like their spaghettis in this kind of dark and sparse mold.
So, highly recommended - I’ll keep the ‘burner’ on standby.
[Edit: Two lovely lacy-collared shirts and Loredana’s smashing blouse (a whipping don’t do a lot for the silk, and that blood ain’t gonna come out easy) got ruined in the making of this. A high price to pay I know, but I have to say - IT WAS WORTH IT!!]