Movie Fan Man: Cinema Connoisseur

Traditional, Artsy, Genre-Within-Genre: A Little Something for Everyone

Obscure, but Shouldn’t Be So:

The Fox and the Hurricane

by Tony Nash

(A Spoiler Free item)

(All opinions are of the author alone)

Related image

El Ojo del Huracan (aka La Volpe dalla Coda di Velluto, In the Eye of the Hurricane, The Fox with the Velvet Tail) (1971) *****

Analia Gadé: Ruth

Jean Sorel: Paul

Rosanna Yanni: Danielle (as Rossana Yanni)

Tony Kendall: Miguel/Michel

Maurizio Bonuglia: Roland (as Mauricio Bonuglia)

Julio Pena: The Police Inspector

Mario Morales: Droguero (as Marco Morales)

José Félix Montoya: Criado (as Félix José Montoya)

Written by: Rafael Azcona, José Maria Forqué (as Jose Maria Forque), and Mario di Nardo

Directed by: José Maria Forqué

Synopsis: When she leaves her loveless marriage to Miguel (or Michel, depending on the language track being viewed) for adventurous playboy Paul, heiress Ruth has seemingly started afresh. When accidents begin occurring, Ruth is certain Miguel is out for revenge or to gain her inheritance. Things get even more complicated when a mysterious woman named Danielle takes up residence next door to Ruth and Paul. Who is playing what role in this strange affair?

Image result for el ojo del huracan 1971

(Just to clarify for people who might get confused, this is a pure Mystery Thriller and not a Horror film.)

What immediately sets this film apart from the majority of Giallos is that it’s a Spanish Giallo, not Italian. While featuring a score by Piero Piccioni, known more under its Italian title and appearances by actors Tony Kendall (stage name of Luciano Stella) and Maurizio Bonuglia, the crew and cast were all Spaniards. This twists and turns galore with a hint of the psychedelic Thriller is truly well plotted and has the viewer constantly guessing as to what’s really going on, and who everybody really is and what they want. The Love Triangle and Revenge stories get a nice revamping with this film, and the ever-changing direction into what the truth is harken back to writers like Agatha Christie, Dashiell Hammett, and Mickey Spillane. Director and screenwriter José Maria Forqué does an excellent job in giving the audience just enough material throughout that the plot moves along steadily, but at the same time have it complex enough that the audience doesn’t know or can figure out more than the characters.

Image result for the fox with a velvet tail

The performances of French actor Jean Sorel and Argentinean actresses Analia Gadé and Rosanna Yanni are the standouts of this film. Sorel, who comes off as a poor man’s Alain Delon, oozes that same exoticness and mysteriousness that Delon was known for, but what separates them is Sorel’s ability to be completely unattached and unscrupulous, whereas Delon understood the concept of honor and ethics. Also unlike Delon, Sorel couldn’t evoke coldness in his baby blue eyes, but makes for this with a kind of detached indifference that can go from warm and genuine to manipulative and cruel. He’s absolutely a treat as Paul, who at first seems charming and caring of his new love interest, but is clearly hiding something about himself. Sorel knew how to play the dubious Sidewalk Romeo bad guy well, but was equally capable of being the nice guy, the cuckolded lover/husband, and the devoted friend. That he’s playing a character who may or may not be a good man of character doesn’t diminish his appeal, but in some ways adds to it.

Image result for the fox with a velvet tail

Related image

Analia Gadé, a capable and lovely Argentinean leading lady and character player is excellent as the mouse, and later the cat, target central figure. Like Sorel, Gadé gave off a sensuality and exoticness that had audiences always looking at her in a scene and leaving the feeling there was something she would rather forget about herself and not want others to know. Her conveyance of emotion is amazing and while audiences knows exactly what she’s feeling, at the same time are also aware she’s in complete control and not the helpless damsel as is the usual case in the Giallo genre. Her use of wits and wills toward the end is really a fine piece of acting and writing. Rosanna Yanni, another Argentinean actress who found success in Spain, is equally good as the mysterious and eventually ominous Danielle. The first half of the film sees her without any dialogue, which adds greatly to her characterization. Audiences won’t learn until later what her intent is, and just seeing her gaze upon Ruth and Paul has viewers constantly thinking what her interest in the couple is. By merely seeing her face and not hearing her speak at first was a nice touch by Forqué because it adds to the mystery of the piece. Like with her costars, Yanni oozes sensuality and mystique, and it truly serves her well in the film. Mostly known for Horror and Exploitation films as either the doomed woman, or object of the protagonist and antagonist, a devilish femme fatale turn for Yanni was a good break for her, and probably something she should’ve got a lot more of in her career.

Related image

The only downside to the film is the less than stellar editing of one “romantic” scene. Now while it’s an actress’s prerogative to whether she’ll show off her body or not and if she’ll engage in more erotic content or not, Catherine Deneuve is certainly a good example of an actress glittering with appeal with her clothes on, Forqué’s editor could’ve done a better job at hiding that Gadé utilized a body double. This scene toward the end clearly shows in certain shots it’s a stand in double for Gadé, and sadly a double who can’t hold a candle to Gadé’s beauty.

Image result for el ojo del huracan 1971

Sometimes slow, for the feeling of effect, but always intriguing, a dull moment is never apparent or seen. The twists and turns are consistent and well done, the audience not sure who to trust and who to be suspicious of. The acting is fine especially from Sorel, Gadé, and Yanni, and even Tony Kendell, who sometimes was up and down on his level of acting. The atmosphere and setting are perfect as the cast stays primarily on the island area, only leaving for short periods of time which adds to the tense feeling Forqué had intended for the piece. Certainly not the normal fare of the Giallo genre, this film does stick to the roots that Mario Bava had laid down with his film La Ragazza Che Sapeva Troppo (The Girl Who Knew Too Much) and offers a rare European glimpse into the subject of infidelity and matrimonial homicide. A rare gem worthy of mainstream rediscovery.

(There aren’t enough words to express how highly I recommend this Italian/Spanish Mystery/Thriller. The pacing is well done even if it seems a little slow and deliberate and the story and characters are well thought out and executed with grace and elegance. The whole vibe is just one constant guessing game that keeps the viewer enthralled,  The US Mondo Macabro Blu Ray and UK 88 Films Blu Ray are both excellent looking and offer great transfers and crisp audio with translated English subtitles)

All images  courtesy of Google.com/Google images and their respective owners

For more information

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0067520/?ref_=nv_sr_1?ref_=nv_sr_1

Grindhouse Database/Lusty Lovers

https://www.amazon.com/Fox-Velvet-Tail-Blu-ray/dp/B073LJR24F/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1538157318&sr=1-1&keywords=the+fox+with+a+velvet+tail&dpID=61a50jl5z9L&preST=_SY300_QL70_&dpSrc=srch

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Eye-Hurricane-Blu-ray-Anal%C3%ADa-Gad%C3%A9/dp/B0748YH94S/ref=sr_1_1?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1538157500&sr=1-1&keywords=eye+of+the+hurricane

 

 

Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview

Blog News #1

Hello to all my subscribers, those I’m subscribed to, and all interested WordPress visitors.

A little News for future content, content updates, and upcoming  series/specials.

Item #1: Western Wednesdays will be going on a brief hiatus for the month of October. It shall be returning in November and will again go on break in December, returning again in January till the following October.

Item #2: The month of October will be dedicated to my first special The Month of Hammer Horror, wherein I’ll be discussing my favorite Horror films of the famed British studio. I’ll also include some special write ups as so far I only have seven Hammer films to write about. Expect the first article sometime on October 1. I’ve been debating whether to include for the specials any of The Simpsons Tree-House of Horror episodes. If any of you would like to see that, please mention so in the comments below.

Item #3: My last item before The Month of Hammer Horror begins will be my first Giallo Mystery Thriller write-up. I plan to have a weekly or bi-weekly series like with Western Wednesdays for this sub-genre come January.

Item #4: Also in January I plan to start a once a month or bi-monthly write-up on the Poliziotteschi sub-genre as there are a few films I’ll be ordering towards the end of the year.

Possible other Series: I’ve started viewing the Edgar Wallace German Crime films, but I’m unsure if it’s something I would like to dedicate the occasional write-up to. There’s no immediate yes or no thought process, but it is something I’ll seriously consider at a later date.

As always, if you have suggestions, please feel free to leave them in the comments section or in my About page comment section. Like before, this will be for suggestions only. Please remember the guidelines I listed earlier in the month and please be considerate and fair.

 

Filed under: Annoucements

Cain and Abel in The Old West:

Familial Problems in Bury Them Deep

(A Part of Western Wednesdays)

by Tony Nash

(All opinions are of the author alone)

(Some spoilers may be present)

(This review is of the Italian language version)

Image result for all'ultimo sangue 1968

All’ultimo Sangue (To the Last Drop of Blood, Bury Them Deep) (1968) *** ½

Craig Hill: Captain Clive Norton

Ettore Manni: Ted “El Chaleco” Hunter

Giovanni Cianfriglia: Billy “The Gun” Gunn (as Ken Wood)

Francesco Santovetti: El Cordero

José Greci: Consuelo

Luciano Doria: The Union Colonel

Ruggero Salvadori: The Union Lieutenant

Giuseppe Sorrentino: Jim “Double Whiskey”

Written by: Enzo Dell’Aquila (as Enzo Dell’ Aquila) & Paolo Moffa (uncredited)

Directed by: Paolo Moffa (as John Byrd)

Synopsis: When outlaw Billy “the Gun” steals a payroll belonging to the Union Army, the local area Colonel sends tough as nails, willing to break the rules Captain Clive Norton to bring him in dead or alive and recover the money. Norton asks that disgraced soldier Ted Hunter, known in Mexico as outlaw El Chaleco, be released to aid him in the hunt. Problem is Hunter is set to be executed by hanging for his crimes, which prompts Norton to arrange his old pal’s escape. Hunter’s connection as Gunn’s estranged older brother will help Norton to flush the elusive outlaw out. Complications arise when Mexican bandit Cordero learns of Gunn’s heist and wants the money for himself.

Image result for all'ultimo sangue 1968

One of the lesser known, but no less good, Italian Westerns of the late 60’s, All’ultimo is a story that mixes action and drama well and offers a different and interesting plot. Family angst and a cat-and-mouse game between two criminal gangs and the Union Army for a cache of money is an unusual but effective combination that really does have the audience wondering who to believe and root for. The journeyman aspect that Clive and Ted go through is a rare plot element in the Italian Western, though there is a similar feel one between Blondie and Tuco in Il Buono, Il Brutto, Il Cattivo (The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly), that duo doesn’t gain the camaraderie that Clive and Ted do. Another rarity is the more dramatic tone the film takes. Most Italian Westerns were action oriented with occasional moments of pathos, the drama aspects normally associated to Sergio Leone and Sergio Corbucci, All’ultimo having the rare honor of being a drama action Western done by neither of the two titans of the genre. This offers a nice and welcomed differentiation in the genre and shows what direction the Italians could’ve steered more towards as the genre began to cannibalize itself on ideas and the slow decline into comedy. Granted what they were doing already was a big change from popular Hollywood film fare and the emergence of Television Frontier Dramas like Gunsmoke, Bonanza, The Rifleman, and The Virginian were taking away from the Westerns novels of Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour, it would’ve been interesting what these Westerns could’ve been with more character driven pieces.

Image result for all'ultimo sangue 1968

An interesting note to this Western is the subplot of the blood feud between El Chaleco and Billy Gunn. Hinting a little at the ages old Biblical story of Cain and Abel, these are two men whose smoldering hatred of each other can only lead to violence and death. To make things a little more interesting to this idea is that this time it’s the younger brother tired of being in the shadow of his older sibling. More of a case of one brother wanting what the other has is the catalyst and powder keg for the events that eventually play out. The showdown that’ll happen sooner or later between the brothers will be devastating, but interesting to see play out at the same time. Whether this two men can really kill each other in spite of how much they hate each other is the real question that needs answering.

Image result for all'ultimo sangue 1968

Related image

Craig Hill, an expat American character actor most noted as the “One-Hit Wonder” of the Desilu produced series Whirlybirds is excellent in the role Capt. Norton. Hill plays Norton as a straight-talking, no-nonsense, doesn’t trust anyone type of individual, but is willing to give the benefit of the doubt. It’s because of all these traits that he’s asked by the Army to find both Gunn and the Army payroll. He’s not without redeemable qualities as he gives Chaleco the opportunity to set things straight, even warning him that he has to help bring in his own brother. Ettore Manni, a familiar face to Italian cinema fans in Peplums, Westerns, Crime, Drama, etc, until his bizarre death in 1979 does quite well in the role of Ted Hunter aka El Chaleco. His double-dealing and double life having finally caught up with him as the Army planned on executing him as a traitor, Hunter really begins to re-examine his life as he journey’s with old friend Norton. When he finds out it’s his brother he’s chasing, he doesn’t seem to mind too much, showing early on there’s bad blood between the two. He also shows affection for his brother, but at the same time can never forgive him for a past offense. This duality of wanting to destroy his brother, but at the same wishing to reconcile and aid him makes for an interesting conflict for the character.

Related image

Image result for ken wood in all'ultimo sangue 1968

Giovanni Cianfriglia, better known to Western fans as Ken Wood and as Steve Reeve’s stunt double, is quite good as Billy Gunn. A bad guy through and through, Gunn also has points of compassion and humanity. Even though he’s stolen a woman very precious to his brother Chaleco, he did his best to avoid harming her at all cost. He too has affection for his brother, but living in his shadow his whole life has him doing what he can, including betrayal, to prove he’s as good as or better as Chaleco. This wanting to keep from ending up back as a poor imitation of his brother will eventually lead to his downfall. In a surprise one time only role is Francesco Santovetti as Cordero. Unknown if he was an aspiring actor or a spur of the moment replacement for an actor originally hired who had to back out for whatever reason, Santovetti is really good as the smiling and devious Mexican bandito. An old acquaintance of Billy Gunn whom he at some point cheated, Cordero is looking to take both Gunn and the Union Army unit out of the equation for the gold shipment. Nobody, not even Norton who makes a deal with Cordero, trusts this guy and he likes nobody trusts him. Like Gunn, he’s out for himself, but is a little more ingenious in how he handles his enemies.

Related image

Some Italian Western enthusiasts have argued that this film uses a little too much stock footage from other classics of the genre, but the film is edited so well it’s not noticeable and maybe even nonexistent (This reviewer doesn’t believe in the stock footage theory). While average in its execution of story and action, All’ultimo is still an entertaining and somewhat dark Italian Western that offers the thrills the genre was rightfully known for. The combination of sibling rivalry drama and heist action mixes well and offers a rare change-up in the generic plotlines some of the later period Westerns were noted as having. Not original by any means but still very well executed and done differently enough it feels like a breath of fresh air. The cast is very good and each actor does his/her best with the material given to them, offering sympathy and hatred for whatever the character is doing or feeling. This is one of the few that varies in tastes, some will like it, others will hate it, but what is certain is that the film deserves to be checked out regardless and viewers can decide themselves whether it’s worthy of repeat viewings or not.

(I still recommend this one even if it doesn’t offer the standard action pieces the Italian Western normally offers. The film is a fun watch, even when it gets a little dark at times and offers good performances, especially by the four male leads. The German Blu-Ray/DVD combo is the best quality release thus far of the film and though some of the English audio is missing it’s still worthy to check out.)

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google images and their respective owners

For more information

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0062652/?ref_=nv_sr_1?ref_=nv_sr_1

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bury_Them_Deep

Spagfhetti-Western.net/All’ultimo Sangue

https://www.amazon.de/Den-Geiern-zum-Frass-Westernhelden/dp/B071Z8FC5Y/ref=pd_bxgy_img_3?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=B071Z8FC5Y&pd_rd_r=113bd2e8-c1b3-11e8-b944-47341c499627&pd_rd_w=v00Uy&pd_rd_wg=ls2bx&pf_rd_i=desktop-dp-sims&pf_rd_m=A3JWKAKR8XB7XF&pf_rd_p=e9a9f514-44b1-4b88-8615-23c3307b713f&pf_rd_r=4D2Z0AK48ADB4M1YJ96Z&pf_rd_s=desktop-dp-sims&pf_rd_t=40701&psc=1&refRID=4D2Z0AK48ADB4M1YJ96Z

 

 

 

 

 

 

Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics

British Slapstick Meets French/Euro Slapstick:

The Brain

by Tony Nash

(All opinions of the author alone)

Related image

Le Cerveau (The Brain) (1969) **** ½ PG-13

Jean-Paul Belmodo: Arthur Lespinasse

David Niven: Col. Carol Matthews

Bourvil: M. Anatole

Eli Wallach: Frankie Scannapieco

Silvia Monti: Sofia Scannapieco

Trevor A. Stephens: John, Matthews’ Valet/Butler (as Trevor Stephens)

Jacques Balutin: Commissaire Pochet

Jacques Ciron: Commissaire Duboeuf

Tommy Duggan: Superintendent Cummings

Fernand Guiot: Inspecteur Mazurel

Frank Valois: Bruno (as Fernand Valois)

Written by: Marcel Jullian, Gerard Oury, & Daniele Thompson

Directed by: Gerard Oury

Synopsis: A plan to heist a fortune in NATO funds is complicated by two separate interested parties: dashing gentlemen thief Colonel Matthews, funded by exiled Mafia boss Frankie Scannapieco, and 2nd story crook Arthur Lespinasse, accompanied by his pal Anatole. Things get even more complicated when Scannapieco decides to double cross Col. Matthews after catching him seducing his sister Sofia. When both parties run into each other the day of the heist, all comedic mayhem and hell burst out.

Image result for le cerveau film

A unique international comedy featuring a quartet of popular stars is a very entertaining and funny piece. French sex symbol Jean-Paul Belmondo gets to share the spotlight with British sex symbol David Niven as two thieves who inadvertently take on the same job of stealing millions in NATO money. That neither knows of the other’s interest in the job makes for great laughs as it’s a constant wonder as to who will find out about the other first. The combination of British and French physical slapstick comedy is an interesting one as it equals to a laugh out loud riot in many scenes. Not the first heist comedy ever made, it’s one of the more ingenious affairs as while it takes itself seriously to an extent, the dialogue exchanges and situations the characters find themselves in are completely off the wall and hilarious like something out of a Tex Avery or Warner Bros. Looney Toons short, sans the impossible gag spectacle. That the actors speak their lines and handle said situations with completely straight faces makes these moments and quotable lines all the more funny. Not as madcap as Monty Python or manic as Fawlty Towers or as sophisticated as French Satire, this unusual mixture of various comedic styles offers a 100% potent cocktail for hours of enjoyment without boredom.

Image result for le cerveau film

Jean-Paul Belmondo, a boxer athlete turned actor, and a sex symbol from the 1960’s to the 1980’s is a blast as Arthur. Showing he was equally adept at comedy as he was at drama, Belmondo is a series of smirks, one-liners, and physical comedy stunts. It’s easy to see this was a fun project for Belmondo as he moves through his scenes with ease and is clearly having the time of his life with jokes and the like. A small time crook with ambitions to be set for life, Arthur, in true comedic fashion, decides to use an ostentatious means of escape when he only had four days left on his sentence. His ambition and greed so high, Arthur has no idea the hornet’s nest he’s run into, and Belmondo portrays this naivety to great effect. Belmondo’s background in sports allows for great physical stunts that the actor does all himself (a feat he continued well into his 50’s), and harkens back to the time of great physical comics like Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd and was possible inspiration for Jackie Chan. A good bit of his dialogue has him going fast and telling puns and jokes almost a mile a minute and Belmondo does it well, almost better than his dramatic outings. All this zaniness makes for great comedy and Belmondo plays every bit of it to the hilt.

Image result for le cerveau film

David Niven, the suave British leading man/character actor proved he was still in fine form as the dashing Colonel Matthews. Similar to his role of Sir Charles Litton in The Pink Panther franchise, Niven as Matthews is a gentleman with a penchant for elaborate thievery. Unlike Litton, who had to gamble on his lifestyle keeping people from thinking he was a crook, Matthews is able to utilize his place as a Colonel in the British Army to cover his involvement in crime. Niven plays up Matthews as a man who loves the excitement and danger of the job more than the payoff he gets later on. A nice comical feature Niven adds that gives spice to the character of Matthews is that his incredible brain, the result of a birth abnormality, is at times unable to support his head and neck, and forces his head sideways, particularly in moments of tension. This defect is the only clue to his character’s identity, something that also differs from the Litton character. Niven, like Belmondo, is clearly having fun with the role, and takes every moment he can to take his character’s personality and traits to the hilt in comedic thrills, spills, and buffoonery. In true Niven fashion, the Matthews character, even when faced with utterly inane situations and jokes that would have anyone else thinking they were losing their minds, manages to always maintain his composure, sanity, and class. Even more characteristic of Niven in his older years was to fall for a beauty who was 15 years his junior, and he does that with even more ease with Silvia Monti’s character than with every other leading lady he had previously. What makes Matthews just as likable is that he doesn’t have a superiority complex like Litton in that it offends his vanity to have people knowing his secret, but still wishes to maintain his dual identity. Niven, who reached an age for character parts, still has appeal even at his age and does it well as always.

Image result for le cerveau film

Eli Wallach, one of the few non-ego inflated character actor graduates of the Actor’s Studio is a riot as Frankie Scannapieco, the Mafia Don behind Col. Matthews NATO plans. Wallach plays Scannapieco as a very “old-school” Italian who’ll kill any suitor who would take his sister’s virginity without marrying her and would kill his partners even if their schemes and deals were on the level. Wallach adds a level of the neurotic to the character in that Scannapieco is so set on keeping on the old ways that it’s made him practically paranoid to anyone who so much as looks at his sister. Granted a Mafia Don in real life wouldn’t go so far as to try to hijack a NATO funds trunk, but since the film goes into the realm of absurdity, works very well with the character’s paranoia. He’s a double dealer like any other organize crime figure, but his temper and attitude is what ends up being the character’s weakness and downfall when he tries  Wallach has just as much zaniness in his role as Belmondo’s does, but while Belmondo plays it up for laughs, Wallach tries to keep his character as straight and realistic as possible. His role as Tuco will always be his best, but Wallach as Scannapieco is just as funny with a bit more craziness.

Image result for le cerveau film

The only flaw with the film is the accents of Niven and Wallach. While he speaks good French, Niven utilizing his natural British accent makes him seem like a foreigner trying to fit in. While indeed the film does take place abroad, the whole of Niven’s dialogue delivery sounds a little funny and uneasy, and while that may certainly have been the intention of the filmmakers, to viewers unfamiliar (this reviewer isn’t one of them), with how language is spoken in other countries it might be off-putting. Eli Wallach’s Brooklyn accent doesn’t do him much favors here in that he’s supposed to be a born-and-bred Italian native in exile. Wallach’s dialogue delivery in French and the occasional Italian is very good, the lack of an accent might make it a little hard for newcomers to take him seriously, though viewers familiar with this type of film work will get the feel of it. This doesn’t hinder either Niven’s or Wallach’s work, but can easily be misinterpreted to novices who may want to do their research just in case.

Related image

It might have plot flaws and some of Niven and Wallach’s dialogue may be stiff and wooden at times, this is still a good film that’s loads of fun and can be enjoyed by anybody. The physical comedy, along with the gags, and even some the jokes are easy to catch and are worth a chuckle or two. The plot mechanics are quite good, and even with some items that would be impossible in real life is interesting and exciting to look at. All the cast, even the bit players, are excellent and play their parts well. An all around good time will be had by all with this one.

(Even if you’re not a fan of European comedies, this one comes highly recommended and is a fun time. The humor won’t go over anyone’s heads and the sight gags harken back to the classic period of the comedy teams. The Blu Ray or DVD is well worth looking at and while it’s a bare-bones release, the lack of extras isn’t a bad thing.)

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google images

For More information

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0064146/?ref_=nv_sr_4?ref_=nv_sr_4

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Brain_(1969_film)

https://www.amazon.com/Brain-Blu-ray-Jean-Paul-Belmondo/dp/B008U3PHJI/ref=sr_1_16?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1537738495&sr=1-16&keywords=The+Brain+blu+ray

As a bonus, here’s a YouTube upload of the title song by 60’s rock band The American Breed (later known as Rufus) (this was one of their last minor hits before they changed their name)

 

Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview

Odysseus Goes to The US-Mexico Border:

Ringo Returns

(A Part of Western Wednesdays)

By Tony Nash

(All opinions are of the author alone)

Related image

Il Ritorno di Ringo (The Return of Ringo) (1965) ****

Giuliano Gemma: Capt. Montgomery “Ringo” Brown (also as Montgomery Wood)

Fernando Sancho: Don Esteban Fuentes

George Martin: Don Francisco “Paco” Fuentes

Nieves Navarro: Rosita, Fortune Telling Saloon Girl

Antonio Casas: Sheriff Carson

Lorella De Luca: Hally Fitzgerald Brown (as Hally Hammond)

Manuel Muniz: Myosotis aka Morning Glory (as Pajarito)

Victor Bayo: Jeremiah Pitt, Saloon Owner

Tunet Vila: Mimbreno, Apache Medicine Man

Monica Sugranes: Elizabeth Brown

Written by: Duccio Tessari, Fernando Di Leo, & Alfonso Balcazar (dialogue for Spanish actors)

Directed by: Duccio Tessari

Synopsis: Believed to have been killed in the Civil War, Union Army Captain Montgomery Brown comes back incognito to his hometown and discovers many changes. Racist Mexican bandit brothers Esteban & Paco Fuentes have taken control of the town and have killed all able men who’d stand up to them. Worse still, Paco has forced Capt. Brown’s wife Hally into marrying him or harm will come to their daughter Elizabeth. Initially thinking his wife unfaithful and the citizens having given up without a fight, Capt. Brown decides to let the town rot, but upon learning certain truths, decides to take on the Fuentes brothers and their gang of desperadoes.

Image result for the return of ringo (1965)

Initially thought of as a sequel to Duccio Tessari’s hit Western Una Pistola per Ringo (A Pistol for Ringo), Il Ritorno di Ringo is a completely different film with a totally different story and atmosphere. While the first film had a fun and lively atmosphere and tone, Il Ritorno is serious and dramatic piece, where the heroes are flawed, nothing is black and white, and everyone plays for keeps. Here the story focuses on a weary Civil War Vet who believes the community he loved so much has willingly submitted under the tyrannical thumb of Mexican bandit brother despots who’ve killed the Vet’s father and made second class citizens of the European settlers. Already disillusioned from fighting his own countrymen, the Vet assumes the surviving citizens did nothing to save his father or the town and decides to only see if his wife has remained loyal and save her, leaving the others to their devices. Issues of fighting and loyalty come up throughout the film and many characters wonder if the stigma of the recent War Between the States have zapped their ideals and concepts of right and wrong are blurred. When many things begin coming to light, and realizations some things are worth fighting for whatever the reason, the Vet decides to take on the outlaws and give the town another chance at life.

Image result for the return of ringo (1965)

An interesting plot point that Tessari adds in to give his story an extra zest is a play up of reverse racism. Here it is the Mexican bandits, particularly brothers Esteban and Paco,   who are anti-White and take much pleasure in degrading the citizens of Ringo’s hometown at every turn. By having their take-over of the town be based on Xenophobia and Aryan like pride gives the Fuentes brothers and their gang an extra villainy as it makes them no better than the Spanish Conquistadors who conquered the Aztecs, Incans, and Mayans so long ago. That it isn’t just about reclaiming territory for Mexico, but about treating the settlers like dirt, even giving stray dogs better treatment, show it’s gone beyond preserving culture, but just plain tyranny and cruelty. Tessari isn’t making any form of statement with these characteristics but rather is turning a common plot point in many American Westerns on its head, showing a different side to the spectrum of the Frontier.

Related image

Another interesting point of note is that Tessari and co-screenwriter Fernando Di Leo loosely based the story on Greek Poet Homer’s classic epic The Odyssey. Changing the setting from Troy and Ithaca in Greece to the American West and US-Mexican border, Tessari has the characters living in what could be viewed as a ghost town, overrun by bandidos. Odysseus (Ulysses in the Roman version) is now Ringo, the Greek Gods of Olympus become the Fuentes brothers and their gang, Penelope is now Hally, Ringo’s wife, the Sybil becomes Saloon Girl Rosita, and the various other characters make up soldiers and citizens. Much like Odysseus, Capt. Brown has been away for some years, and is believed to be dead. Also like Odysseus, Brown must find out if his wife has been faithful and to prevent lecherous enemies from trying to make her a bride. Unlike Odysseus, Brown hasn’t been cursed to wander and is in the midst of racist Mexicans keeping a small hamlet in the throes of fear and terror. There are quite a few similarities to the story, but what separates it into its own form and vision is the sometimes melodramatic, which once or twice borders on the heavy, moments in the film where Ringo is torn between what is right, and what is easy, including personal revenge. Tessari and Di Leo do Homer’s tale a good bit of justice in their translation of it to the Old West, and while it’s not 100% faithful, gets the major elements and themes across very accurately.

Image result for the return of ringo (1965)

Tessari reunites the majority of his cast from the first film. Giuliano Gemma once again showcases why he was a good actor in the role of Capt. Montgomery “Ringo” Brown. The complete opposite of the original Ringo, Capt. Brown is a man scarred by war and uncertain of the future of his community after learning his father has died. Gemma still maintains his essence of never backing down from his enemies, but is somewhat hesitant because of his experiences in the War. Gone is the fun-loving nature of the original character; this new Ringo is straight-faced, flawed, and full of anger. At first only wanting revenge for his father’s death and his wife being stolen from him, then going to bitterness at the town’s failing to keep the order his father wanted to finally realizing he has seen the whole situation wrongly, Gemma goes through a bevy of emotions that make the Italian Western Heroes and Anti-Heroes the favorites they are. Gemma also shows he was more than a pretty face with great dialogue delivery, facial expression and emotions, and stunts. Not overtly complex in nature, Gemma’s other Ringo offers an early glimpse at how some soldiers felt returning from Vietnam, and the difficulties they had readjusting and, in many cases, making sure their ideals didn’t die with what they saw in combat.

Image result for the return of ringo (1965)

Image result for george martin the return of ringo (1965)

Fernando Sancho, the great Spanish actor of the Italian Western genre, is once again in fine form as bandit leader Esteban Fuentes. A little more sophisticated this go around than in his previous role, Sancho still maintains that laughing, smiling menace that made him so popular amongst fans. By making his character a racist, Sancho gets to add an extra layer of meanness as he gets to play a truly despicable fellow who’d like to eradicate all whites from lands that once belonged to Mexico. That he walks around like a king throughout the majority of the film adds to this. George Martin, another noted Spanish actor of the genre plays the equally evil and bigoted Paco Fuentes, Esteban’s younger brother. At times even worse than his older brother as he kills and maims without discretion all while hiding under the guise of a devout Christian, Paco just seems to want to be the Zeus, Caesar, and Emperor of the little hamlet, and take as his woman, the wife of a man he despises. Martin shows here the underscored merit of his abilities as an actor as in the previous film he played a kind and just sheriff, and in the 2nd film playing a despot, two completely polar opposite characters.

Image result for antonio casas the return of ringo (1965)

Image result for the return of ringo (1965)

Antonio Casas, still another Spaniard who made his name in the Westerns plays the Sheriff. Sheriff Carson, unlike most Italian Western lawmen, still has a conscious, though the sadness and terror he’s witnessed the Fuentes inflict upon the town have reduced him to a drunken mess. In spite of being a coward, Casas still imbues Carson with a sense of responsibility to aid Ringo in giving the town a second chance at life, and in the process gives the character a sense of redemption and salvation. A very interesting performance that often goes unsung in the film is that of Spanish actress Nieves Navarro in the role of Rosita. The Italian Western version of the Greek Tragedy Sybil, or mystic, Navarro plays her role as a woman who doesn’t like what the Fuentes have done to the town, but at the same time wants to survive, and in the process, falls in love with the elder Esteban. Realizing her lover isn’t the man she thought or hoped he’d be, decides to give Ringo guidance and aid in making things right. A wonderfully, though sadly underrated, talented actress giving another fine performance.

Related image

A little more depth and drama may be in the mixture, but this second Ringo film is still a lot of fun and really good watch. Characters with well thought out back-story and dimension and a finely tuned story with a nod to the great Poet Homer help the viewing experience be that much more enjoyable. One of the final attempts by Italian filmmakers and producers to re-create the American-style West over in Italy and Almeria Spain before the genre finally found its own voice shows early signs of Sergio Leone’s influence in the wake of the first two Dollars films, particularly with the brooding characters and the harsh imprint of life and experience seen all over their faces. A very unique and interesting film.

(It might have some heaviness and depth, but I still recommend this Ringo film as a template for what the genre would eventually become great for. I myself prefer the first Ringo film for its whimsy like nature, but the sequel’s uniqueness and different approach makes it as much a watch as its predecessor. Arrow Video’s Blu Ray double bill release of both films sports a wonderful transfer and nice extras as well as Italian with English subtitles and English dub audio options.)

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google images and their respective owners

For more information

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0060903/?ref_=nv_sr_1?ref_=nv_sr_1

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Return_of_Ringo

Spaghetti-Western.net/Return of Ringo

https://www.amazon.com/Pistol-Ringo-Return-Tessari-Special/dp/B07895XF4D/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1537391569&sr=1-1&keywords=Arrow+Video+Ringo&dpID=612gE8g1fVL&preST=_SY300_QL70_&dpSrc=srch

For the UK and Region B areas

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pistol-Ringo-Return-Tessari-Blu-ray/dp/B078FFX8HW

 

 

 

Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT #1

Hello to my subscribers, those I’m subscribed to, and anyone who may come across my writing,

I thought it would be fun and different to open-up a suggestion space for films, actors/actresses, filmmakers, and special topics you all out there would like to see me talk about.

I do have a set of criteria I would like anyone interested in this to follow: Films between 1915 to 1985 are what I’m most interested in, my favorite all time Blu Ray labels are The Criterion Collection, Arrow Video, Arrow Academy, Eureka! Masters of Cinema, Eureka! Classics, Studio-Canal, Koch Media, X-Rated/ELEA, 88 Films, and Shameless Screen Entertainment, my favorite genres are Classic Genre Cinema, Italian Westerns, Comedy, Giallos, French Neo-Noir, Japanese Samurai, Japanese Gangster/Crime, Italian Polizioteschi, some Musicals, and some Horror.

Some things I’ll talk about on occasion if I find the subject interesting enough are Sci-Fi, Martial Arts, and Eastern European Cinema.

What I absolutely won’t talk about is: Gore Horror and all its subsidiaries, sleazeploitation, most exploitation type films (I will accept some titles as long as they have some class), stoner comedies, teen comedies, and material based off video games.

To keep this fun and exciting I encourage you all to think of some more obscure, boutique type of films that not many people know about and should. I really want to bring a lot of films back from the dead and give them the exposure they should be getting. I do like mainstream stuff for those who are curious to know, but I want to keep this blog unique and different, so let’s try to avoid material everyone already knows about please.

I have two region free Blu Ray players so I can view any Blu Ray and DVD from anywhere, and so most suggestions are plausible.

Please keep suggestions reasonable, realistic and within the guidelines I’ve placed above if possible. Keep in mid there are some I’ll have to turn down because I don’t have access to them or have seen them and didn’t like them. I’m on a budget so right know I’m focusing on Birthday/Anniversary/Holiday gifts for my family and friends. Not everyone will have their suggestions picked, but rest assured I’ll look at them all.

This is a suggestion page only and any and all negative replies will not be tolerated. Repetition of this will lead to this page’s comment section being turned off. Let’s be fair and considerate everyone.

Anyway, please have fun with this, and let’s shake things up with new and exciting films to talk about.

MOVIE FAN MAN

Filed under: Annoucements

Una Grande Attrice Italiana dalla Spagna

A Look at Nieves Navarro

by Tony Nash

(All opinions are of the author alone)

Related image

The 1960’s saw many Spanish actors and actresses coming to Italy for the creative freedom they couldn’t get in Franco run Spain. The Western genre was the most prolific for these performers, and once this genre played out and lessened in popularity, many of these actors and actresses went back to their native land. One actress who managed to survive the burnout of the Western and leap to the Giallos, Horror, and Sex Comedies was Nieves Navarro.

Related image

Though born in the Southern part of Spain, Navarro’s look was different to her heritage, which allowed her to be cast in various non-Hispanic roles, along with playing traditional Spaniards and Mexicans. Unlike most Spanish actresses, Navarro somehow managed to get offers from Italian producers and made the decision to relocate to Italy. Starting out in a comedy with Italian comic Toto, Navarro initially started out playing the seductive foreigner who was on the side of the hero. This was unusual even for European films as most actors/actresses in these roles were often depicted as having wavering allegiances, usually playing both sides for their own benefit. Even in these early stages, Navarro showed herself as a capable actress, holding her own with top-notch talent. While leading lady roles were few and far between for her, Navarro would get to show romantic interest in her male co-stars, though rarely did it go into anything substantial, but when it did, it was really beautiful.

Related image

Related image

Related image

Her real break through in films was when the Italian or “Spaghetti” Westerns were beginning to become popular in Europe. Usually set in towns that were on the border between the US and Mexico, many Spanish actors and actresses were sought for the roles of Mexican peons, bandits, and well-to-do’s. Navarro’s debut in Una Pistola per Ringo (A Pistol for Ringo) had her playing a role that was unconventional even for Italian Westerns: a gun-packing female bandit. While a supporting role, Navarro did get the opportunity to enjoy a romantic attachment to fellow Spanish actor Antonio Casas’s character Major Clyde. Her performance was so good she was asked to come aboard for the in-name only sequel Il Ritorno di Ringo (The Return of Ringo) a year later. In spite of playing a more traditional, non-interesting saloon girl part, Navarro’s beauty and talent is still on great display. Her only other major parts in the Westerns were in La Resi Dei Conti (The Settling of Accounts/The Big Gundown) and Una Nuvola di Polvere… un Grido di Morte… Arivva Sartana (Cloud of Dust.. Cry of Death… Sartana is Coming/Light the Fuse, Sartana is Coming) as The Widow and Sra. Belle Manassas respectively. The majority of her roles in these films were usually just as eye candy for the hero, but in the four films just mentioned she got to play characters with depth and substance that went beyond the norm of most Italian Westerns. Not used as much as many other Spanish actresses of the time, Navarro with her sultry and exotic looks were able to leave a valuable and lasting impression that still resonates today.

Image result for Nieves Navarro

Image result for Nieves Navarro

Related image

It was during the shooting of the Ringo films that Navarro would meet and fall in love with Italian screenwriter/producer/director Luciano Ercoli, and later marry him. He catapulted her to fame with an important supporting role in his first Giallo Le Foto Proibite di una Signora per Bene (Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion). By this period she’d become a naturalized Italian citizen from her marriage to Ercoli and was fluent in the Italian language, but her strong Spanish accent required voice dubbing for her roles. With the advent of Crime Dramas, Crime Action, and Giallo films Navarro found herself having to adopt the American pseudonym Susan Scott, sometimes spelled Susanne (or Suzanne) Scott, but audiences still knew who she was from the Westerns. Looking more like a native Italian than Hispanic, Navarro was able to transition with ease to the new trends of cinema in Italy. Her center roles in her husband’s most famous Giallos La Morte Cammina con i Tacchi Alti (Death Walks on High Heels) and La Morte Accarezza a Mezzanotte (Death Walks at Midnight) cemented her status as a powerhouse player in the genre and well showcased her acting talents. Another great, though more of a supporting role in the genre was in Sergio Martino’s Horror mood effort Tutti i Colori del Buio (All the Colors of the Dark), playing fellow sex symbol Edwige Fenech’s sister.

Related image

Sadly, by the mid to late seventies, Navarro soon saw her talents being wasted in exploitative horror films and comedies. Realizing tastes were changing in cinema and that she was getting older, Navarro decided to head back to her native Spain and try to re-ignite her career there. While she made a couple of films, her being away from Spanish cinema (even though many of the Westerns were filmed in her native Almeria) for the majority of her career and not being immediately recognizable to audiences past and present, had Navarro realizing her time as an actress had passed, though she was totally willing to play matriarch type characters. With the support and love of her husband, they both relocated permanently to Spain as Ercoli had long retired from filmmaking at this time after receiving a considerable inheritance from a late distant relative. They remained together until Ercoli’s death a few years earlier.

Image result for Nieves Navarro

While many of her roles had her playing the damsel in distress or the object of a killer’s obsession, Navarro always played her characters with a sense of independence and intelligence, very often strong-willed and fiery. Navarro may not have gotten the same acclaim as some of her contemporaries or the more internationally recognized actresses of the time, but its clear fans always enjoyed seeing her were captivated in one way or another by her. Having no regrets of where her career took her and still enjoying the admiration it brought her, Navarro still talks about her career in films today and has happily offered to do recorded interviews for various DVD and Blu Ray releases of the films she appeared in. Not an immediately recognizable name when asked of, her face is one fans, new or old, will never forget and will always be happy to see. A character actress all the way, she had that rare mixture of talent and beauty that took her far and wide. She could’ve easily made it as an important film actress and leading lady, but clearly loved the Western, Giallo, and Comedy roles she was being offered to her. An actress that certainly deserves and needs more recognition, but the Italian Subgenre category has a very loyal and devoted fan base.

(I highly recommend most of Senora Navarro’s pre-1976 films as those are her best work. She’s one of my favorite actresses and I’m thankful to companies like Arrow Video and Shameless Films for bringing her back to the public in the form of Blu Rays)

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google Images and their respective owners

For more information

IMDB/Nieves Navarro

Wikipedia/Nieves Navarro

Spaghetti-Western.net/Nieves Navarro

 

Filed under: Film: Actor/Actress Spotlight

Never Pay Someone to Kill a Man…..

Unless You’re Paying Sartana!!!

(A Part of Western Wednesdays)

by Tony Nash

(All opinions are of the author alone)

(Some spoilers may follow)

Related image

C’e Sartana…Vendi la Pistola e Comprati la Bara! (I Am Sartana…Trade Your Pistol for a Coffin) (1969) PG-13 ****

George Hilton: Sartana

Charles Southwood: Sabata the Sabbath

Erika Blanc: Trixie

Piero Lulli: Samuel Spencer

Nello Pazzafini: Mantas

Carlo Gaddi: Baxter

Luciano Rossi: Flint Brand (as Lou Kamante)

Federico Boido: Joe Brand (as Rick Boyd)

Aldo Barberito: Angelo

Luigi Bonos: The Posada Bar Owner

Marco Zuanelli: Dead Eye Golfay

Linda Sini: Maldida, Mantas’ Woman

Spartaco Conversi: Emiliano

John Bartha: Sheriff

Written by: Tito Carpi

Directed by: Giuliano Carnimeo (as Antony Ascot)

Synopsis: Bounty Hunter/Gunman Sartana witnesses a stagecoach robbery as he awaits the arrival of outlaws to collect reward money on. After surveying the goings on at a ghost town, Sartana discovers a plot between Mexican bandito Mantas and crooked bank manager Samuel Spencer to cheat the mining town of Appaloosa out of the gold they discovered. Teaming with Saloon owner Trixie and ally Sabata the Sabbath, Sartana begins to play Mantas and Spencer against each other. Complications arise when allegiances are uncertain of being compromised and questions of who can be trusted quickly become reality.

Image result for C’e Sartana…Vendi la Pistola e Comprati la Bara!

The third film in the Sartana series is a little different from the first two, and the next two to follow. For starters, George Hilton replaces Gianni Garko as the lead and the film takes on a more lighthearted approach to its storytelling. This doesn’t take anything away from the film nor does it detract the popularity of its predecessors, if anything it gives the film its own voice and allows it to be just as fun as well. In a strange way the change of lead actor helps the filming style a great deal as Hilton was equally adept at playing straight roles and humorous roles well, and the lightheartedness and one liners of the character suit Hilton’s style well, something that would’ve been out of place with Garko. The film keeps the concept of the Sartana character looking to put a stop to a gang of baddies trying to outwit people in some way or another out of their money, though this go around is a little more straightforward, without the twists and turns that made the first two so unique. It’s still fun though to see Sartana working his magic with trickery and gunplay, staying one step ahead of his adversaries, keeping the audience wondering what he’ll do next. Sadly, the gadgetry is not on display in this one, but it makes the film so much more entertaining to see Sartana work with what’s only readily available to him.

Related image

George Hilton, a Uruguayan actor who some believed overplayed everything in his roles, is quite excellent and entertaining as the replacement Sartana. The character is still out for himself for the majority of the film, but Hilton offers viewers a brief glimpse into the softer/gentler side of the character in a scene where he accepts a boy’s job offer to free his mother from bad guy Mantas’ men but doesn’t take money for it, even giving the grateful pair part of his earnings from a previous job to start life afresh in Mexico. Not all Italian Western characters went to this degree, but it wasn’t uncommon to see them do just one task simply because it was the right thing to do, without earning a dime from it. Hilton delivers some of the best one liners, and even lines in general in this film, showing that Italian Western Anti-Heroes were capable of dry humor, not the gallows humor normally associated with the genre. The character is not a comedic one by any means, but Hilton mixes enough seriousness with lightheartedness that it makes a perfect blend that allows Sartana to maintain his stoic mysteriousness, but at the same time remind viewers this Sartana is different from Garko’s.

Related image

Charles Southwood, another of the many American actors who went to Italy to get their start, is a scene stealing amazement as Sabata the Sabbath. While only appearing towards the end of the film, for about 35 minutes in total, his automatic attention grabbing performance is not one to forget. A little like Clint Eastwood in his use of stares and body gestures, what makes Southwood’s role interesting is that the character is very proper, dresses all in white and grey, and has a love of reciting poetry. Like Sartana, Sabata has agility in keeping his enemies guessing as to where he is and how to get him. He may not be a trick shot, but he has enough stealth and ingenuity to be a proper ally, competition to Sartana, and offers an interesting solution to handling a group of banditos by hooking up a group of rifles to his horse reigns. Like Sartana, Sabata the Sabbath is a mysterious figure whom very little is known, except he’s a gunman and has encountered Sartana in the past. Unlike Sartana as well, Sabata the Sabbath is soft spoken, but when he speaks, it’s always neat to hear what he says. The duo constantly keep people guessing as to of they’re friends or enemies with profound respect and admiration for each other.

Related image

Image result for C’e Sartana…Vendi la Pistola e Comprati la Bara!

Italian Western regulars Piero Lulli and Nello Pazzafini delight as supporting player villains Spencer and Mantas respectively. Lulli does the educated slime ball baddie and Pazzafini does the uneducated, but street smart bandito baddie. This contrast of villainy is similar to the one between William Berger and Fernando Sancho in the first Sartana film, but what separates the two is that Sancho and Berger had an uneasy alliance, while Lulli and Pazzafini have no alliance at all. Pazzafini’s wanted bandito is taking all the risks while Lulli’s slimy banker can keep his respectability without his partnering with Pazzafini being made public. Their predecessors were content with just double crossing and killing their partners while these two play up taking the money and running, leaving the other holding the bag to get hung. A nice touch is that Pazzifini had one of his first bigger roles in films, as he normally held secondary roles to the main villains. Here he gets to shine with good character development and show he was just as good an actor as others. Lulli has his usual good fare as the cowardly Easterner trying to survive in the Wild West.

Image result for C’e Sartana…Vendi la Pistola e Comprati la Bara!

It should be noted that Gianni Garko only turned down the film because he thought the story and how his character was to be portrayed was too silly. Now it’s understandable that Garko would see the character a particular way, having played him twice already and of course there’s a more humorous feel to the film, so no one can really blame Garko in the long run. Garko did have a little humor in the roler, but he felt the character was better suited to being straightforward with a little humor thrown in to ease the tension. The fact that he returned for the fourth film of the Saga shows he didn’t mind some lightheartedness, just that the particular story of the previous film didn’t work for him.

Image result for C’e Sartana…Vendi la Pistola e Comprati la Bara!

The third Sartana film has been argued about whether it should be canon in the Saga among Italian Western fans, but it’s still a fun and entertaining spectacle that everyone who’s a fan of the genre should see. George Hilton is no Gianni Garko by a long shot, but he’s not playing Garko’s Sartana, he’s playing his own interpretation of the character, which works very well for him and is believable. It is a different film after all, but works well either way. The cast is excellent, the camera work is cool to look at, and the whole vibe is just fun. It’s a playful film, but doesn’t go too far in the silliness or make light of any of the character’s situations. It’s not really fair to call it a Comedy Western as it doesn’t make too many attempts to be intentionally funny, though Sartana has some good dialogue worthy of a chuckle and some amusing music that works well in the scenes they’re used in. Sartana might not be the mysterious loner he was in the other films, but he’s still a wondrous enigma that keeps piling the surprises of his ingenuity and skill.

(Like with the first two, I highly recommend this film, in spite of many Italian Western fans citing it as an unofficial Sartana film. It mixes action and comedic styling well enough that it works on every level. Look to my writings on the first film if you wish to purchase the boxset.)

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google Images and their respective owners

For more information

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0065509/?ref_=nv_sr_2?ref_=nv_sr_2

Spaghetti-Western.net/Sartana’s Here, Trade Your Pistol for a Coffin

Wikipedia/Sartana’s Here, Trade Your Pistol for a Coffin

Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics

When Imitation Has Advantages:

The Stranger’s in Town

(A Part of Western Wednesdays)

by Tony Nash

(All opinions are of the author alone)

(Some spoilers may follow)

(This review is of the Italian language version)

Image result for un dollaro tra i denti

Un Dollaro Tra I Denti (A Dollar Between the Teeth/A Stranger in Town) (1966) *** ½

Tony Anthony: The Stranger

Frank Wolff: Aguilar

Jolanda Modio: El Chica

Gia Sandri: Maruca Pilar

Raf Baldassarre: Corgo

Aldo Berti: Marinero

Lars Bloch: Lt. Ted “George” Harrison

Fortunato Arena: Captain Cordoba

Salvatore Puntillo: Aguilar Gang Member

Written by: Warren Garfield & Giuseppe Mangione (as Jone Mangione)

Directed by: Luigi Vanzi (as Vance Lewis)

Synopsis: A bandit gang led by Aguilar plans on heisting a cash box full of Union Army gold. A wondering vagabond gunman agrees to help for a share of the loot and poses as a Union Captain helping a group of Federales. When he’s betrayed and beaten, he goes after them with a vengeance while protecting a local woman and her baby son.

Image result for un dollaro tra i denti

By the late 1960’s, early 70’s, the Italian Western was beginning to experience the early stages of internal cannibalism within itself as a genre. The success of filmmakers like Sergio Leone, Sergio Corbucci, Gianfranco Parolini, and Enzo G. Castellari had every producer in Italy thinking Westerns were automatic money makers and a flood of average to subpar to downright awful Westerns began flooding Italian theaters. Only a handful of filmmakers, including the above mentioned, were still making good Westerns, but these were few and far between the less than stellar product of others. Relief came from an up-in-coming actor from the Mid-West who studied at the Actor’s Studio named Tony Anthony. Initially beginning with more serious-minded filmmakers in supporting roles, Anthony finally saw his chance at stardom, and along with his friend and producing partner Allen Klein, pitched an idea for an Italian Western that would help reignite the genre and make money.

(Author’s note: Allen Klein would later become noted as the lackluster manager of The Beatles in their declining years)

Image result for un dollaro tra i denti

Ironically Anthony’s debut, Un Dollaro Tra I Denti, wasn’t a hit with the Italians, most likely it was seen as a poor man’s version of Leone’s Per Un Pugni di Dollari (A Fistful of Dollars), but was successful in the United States, seen as a successor to Leone’s debut Western, and where a sequel was immediately green-lit. Many Italian Western fans are divided as to whether this is a worthy entry into the genre’s great pantheon of classics as its slow-paced, lacks in plot, has little dialogue, and has something of a repetitive score. While it’s all true about the film, it makes up for its low-budget with a good amount of suspense and atmosphere that’s able to keep to the viewer interested and intrigued as to what will happen next. Many critics of the genre are right in that it lacks what many of its predecessors and some successors were able to accomplish with smaller budgets, but because its even lower in budget than what other filmmakers started with, the film gets that maverick guerilla-style cinematic quality to it that has viewers feeling this was a film made by a bunch of people with little prospects, hoping to find even a small audience who would appreciate it.

Image result for un dollaro tra i denti

Tony Anthony, who would later become a producer successful both abroad and in the States, is not at all bad as the character of The Stranger. Normally akin as a poor imitation of Eastwood’s Man with No Name character, Anthony brings something new and different to this type of character. Normally Italian Western Heroes/Anti-Heroes have some sense of how they’re going to one up the bad guys they’re up against, but The Stranger plays what he does totally by ear, at times even unsure of how he’ll get out of his situation. Not a coward by any means, Anthony’s The Stranger is more of a common man type, going from town to town trying to earn a few bucks and then move on. He never sets out to be a hero, but a personal vendetta and a type of ethics cause him to take on his foes. It was Anthony who gave fans of the genre the torture-revenge Western as his character is majorly driven by getting payback for having the crap beaten out of him by the bandidos not once, but twice. While the Lee Van Cleef & John Philip Law Western Da Uomo a Uomo (From Man to Man/Death Rides a Horse) solidifies and expands the revenge themed Western and popularizes it, it was Anthony and Un Dollaro that began the concept.

Related image

Frank Wolff, one of the major stalwarts of the Italian Western, and Italian Cinema in general, is in his usual fine form as the villainous bandit Aguilar. Adept at playing a wide variety of roles, Wolff plays a Mexican bandit with ease and uses his UCLA training well. He doesn’t go too in-depth with the character, but he does the conniving, sneaky, and despicable antics of the atypical villain to a tee. Like any good villain he’s after money and women, and likes to beat up potential rivals and scammers for his amusement. In keeping with the idea that this is a poor man’s Per un Pugni di Dollari, Wolff appears to take some aspects of Gian Maria Volonte’s introduction in the film as he guns down a militia of Federales to get away with his scheme to steal money from the US Army, all with a smile on his face. Even in scenes were he appears to do nothing and just watch his comrades drink and carouse, Wolff uses his facial features to give off the idea that Aguilar is constantly thinking of his next move and even the next few moves afterward. Another good performance by a well versed actor.

Image result for warren garfield

A point of interest is that the screenplay of the film was co-written by a man whose work all lovers of cinema have seen, but never knew he was behind them. Warren Garfield, the man responsible for thousands upon thousands of movie trailers was somehow asked to help in the writing of this film, one of only two screenplay credits he received, the other being for a one episode stint of the Western TV series High Chaparral. Garfield’s effort proves interesting and is a shame he didn’t try to write more scripts, but his passion was editing movie trailers so one can’t really blame him for sticking to what he loved.

Image result for un dollaro tra i denti

While many have dismissed this as an oddity, even for Italian Western standards, this film is still well worth watching as it attempts to breath new life into a genre many were already aware was slipping into that loop of over-extension that would soon lead to its downfall. What this effort provides is a completely different take on an already established character prototype and put him into a new terrain and personality that does manage to work. The minimalist style used in the film was put to much better use and effect in Robert Hossein’s Une Corde, Un Colt (Cimiterio Senza Croce, The Rope and the Colt, Cemetery Without Crosses), which is the true minimalist Western with its use of landscape and faces, though it’s hard to deny the approach works very well in this one too. What helps the film as well is the feeling and knowledge that it doesn’t try too hard or be obvious that it’s a reworking of a previous classic, that it’s an original work that does its job in bringing up interest. Hardly perfect, but still very interesting and intriguing to look at and watch, Un Dollaro Tra I Denti is an overlooked, underappreciated, and under the radar film that deserves to get a second chance.

(Not a perfect film, and even a little slow and wooden, Un Dollaro Tra I Denti is still a worthwhile oddity to check out and enjoy. I myself recommend it for being different and managing to find its own voice in spite of the limits of the budget and script. The German double pack DVD of the film and its first sequel Un Uomo, Un Cavallo, Una Pistola (A Man, A Horse, and A Gun/The Stranger Returns) is the best quality out there and the recommended purchase. Avoid the Warner Archive edition as even though it contains the first three films, is a cheap DVD-R copy. There’s a Japanese Blu Ray of the first film, but I believe it’s either out of print or very hard to find)

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google images and their respective owners

For more information

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0060325/?ref_=nv_sr_5?ref_=nv_sr_5

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Stranger_in_Town_(1967_film)

Spaghetti-Western.net/Un Dollaro Tra i Denti

https://www.amazon.de/Stranger-Collection-Dollar-zwischen-Z%C3%A4hnen/dp/B00QU0WAJ8/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1536168095&sr=1-1-catcorr&keywords=Stranger+Collection

For those preferring a single disc edition of the film

https://www.amazon.de/Ein-Dollar-zwischen-den-Z%C3%A4hnen/dp/B01GOCU3M2/ref=pd_sbs_74_2?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=B01GOCU3M2&pd_rd_r=29f37e56-b130-11e8-8dbb-41abd883f66d&pd_rd_w=hnwYQ&pd_rd_wg=cXqqU&pf_rd_i=desktop-dp-sims&pf_rd_m=A3JWKAKR8XB7XF&pf_rd_p=946762da-975a-438a-9e2b-a585cbe769b5&pf_rd_r=4MA3TEZR6Y9QDGX587WK&pf_rd_s=desktop-dp-sims&pf_rd_t=40701&psc=1&refRID=4MA3TEZR6Y9QDGX587WK

https://www.artusfilms.com/western-europeen/un-dollar-entre-les-dents-286

https://www.amazon.fr/dollar-Édition-Collector-Blu-ray-Livret/dp/B07PCGWLZM/ref=sr_1_9?__mk_fr_FR=ÅMÅŽÕÑ&keywords=Tony+Anthony&qid=1568862031&s=dvd&sr=1-9

Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics

Vikings, As Done By The Italians:

Mario Bava’s Erik the Conqueror

by Tony Nash

(All opinions are of the author alone)

(Some spoilers may be present)

Image result for erik the conqueror

Gli Invasori (Erik the Conqueror/Viking Invasion) (1961) ****

Cameron Mitchell: Eron, Viking Prince/King

George Ardrisson: Erik, Viking Prince/Duke of Helford (as Giorgio Ardrisson)

Alice Kessler: Rama, Vestal Virgin, lover of Erik

Ellen Kessler: Daya, Vestal Virgin, lover of Eron

Françoise Christophe: Queen Alice (as Françoise Cristophe)

Andrea Checchi: Sir Rutford

Franco Giacobini: Rustichello

Jean-Jacques Delbo: King Olaf (as Jacques Delbo)

Raf Baldassarre: Blak (as Raffaele Baldassarre)

Joe Robinson: Garian

Franco Ressel: King Lotar

Folco Lulli: King Harald, Viking leader

Written by: Oreste Biancoli, Piero Pierotti, & Mario Bava

Directed by: Mario Bava

Synopsis: Viking brothers Eron and Erik, separated as children after their father King Harald and his horde are massacred by soldiers of the British Isles they tried enslaving, grow up to become Viking King and English Regent respectively. Wanting revenge for the deaths of their beloved people and King, the Vikings decide to invade England a second time. Neither brother knowing the other survived the original massacre is put against each other in combat. Further complicating matters is the brothers’ romances with Vestal Virgin twins and the machinations of an evil Knight who murdered the British King years earlier.

Image result for erik the conqueror

Mario Bava, seen by many as the King of Italian Horror, and a jack-of-all-trades filmmaker by his colleagues as cinema lovers, steps into the world of the Peplum film with this tale of Vikings and Knights. A loose remake of Richard Fleischer’s The Vikings starring Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis, Janet Leigh, and Ernest Borgnine, Bava brings his own flavor and interpretation of the tale and in the process outdoes Fleischer at his own game. Italy was of course most famous for its subgenre take on classic Hollywood films, whether they were “A” film epics or “B” fan favorite crowd pleasers, most times making average to subpar to poor imitations, sometimes making imitations that were equal to, or even outdoing the films they remade. Gli Invasori falls into the 2nd category as it is well made, and even surpasses the origin film by a mile in both story and structure. Not as lavish as the Fleischer’s original, but its atmosphere and Bava’s ingenuity more than make up for the lack of budget. Bava’s period as a cinematographer and special effects man was a great advantage for this age of films as figuring out the best shots and lighting for such productions helped in hiding what was beyond the budget. Most Peplum films tended to be a little on the hokey side, including monsters and effects that were limited in design and a clear indication of the period they were made, but Gli Invasori and a few others rise above this status and have held up well over the years.

Image result for erik the conqueror

What makes Bava’s loose interpretation of The Vikings different is that instead of having the brothers being unaware of their familial relations, he has them being separated as children, who believe the other has died in the ensuing battle that claimed their father and village. The only animosity between them is the war that erupts between the Brits and Vikings when the vicious Knight Sir Rutford betrays his King and the Viking King’s proposed peace talks that would’ve allowed the Vikings control of uninhabited areas of the North Sea. By having hostilities be the result of political/religious intrigue and betrayal instead of the elder Viking brother being consumed by bloodlust and tyranny makes the story far more interesting as audiences wonder how the reaction the brothers will have upon finding out the other is in fact alive. While Richard Fleischer was able to rely on spectacle and a good-sized budget that allowed him to travel to Norway for on-location shooting, Bava only had 100,000 Lira at his disposal having to improvise and was able to achieve spectacle like Fleischer by having atmospheric, moody, psychedelic-like lighted sets that make it seem like the Vikings are born and bred of an area that is not of this World. Bava was a master of being able to create massive looking sets for so little money via optical illusion and this film is no exception, particularly with the epic sea battle mid film.

Image result for erik the conqueror

Cameron Mitchell, a rugged looking American leading man whose advancing years led to a decline in such roles is wonderful in the role of Eron. Unlike Kirk Douglas’ vicious and brutal Viking Prince in The Vikings, Mitchell’s Viking is a more humane and educated individual who begins realizing some of the customs of his people are unfair and unnecessary, going so far as to plead on behalf of a Vestal Virgin who has broken her vows for the love of a man. He still believes in some of the Viking ways, but his more philosophical reasoning in love and religion make Eron a somewhat complex and multilayered character that senses he’s part of a dying breed slowly on the way to extinction. His wish to lead another invasion of England is to primarily avenge the deaths of his father and brother, not really wanting another war, but also lied to in that the British are bloodthirsty tyrants with no honor. Mitchell, good in most of the roles he was given, is at his finest here, and makes viewers feel for Eron as he goes through a series of various emotions throughout the film. His most poignant moment is a positive life changing realization that results in a harsh act of destiny against him for his own love of a Vestal Virgin. In spite of his voice being dubbed over in Italian by Nando Gazzolo, Cameron Mitchell is still able to convey through facial and physical movements, the character’s thoughts and actions that still make it his performance.

Image result for erik the conqueror

Giorgio Ardrisson (usually credited as George Ardrisson), a consistent working handsome faced Italian character actor gets to sink in teeth into a rare romantic lead as Erik. Having already worked with Bava earlier in the year in Ercole al Centro della Terra (Hercules in the Center of the Earth/Hercules in the Haunted World) (which will be reviewed and looked at later this year), Ardrisson was a no brainer for the romantic lead of Erik, a part which he excelled at. A Viking raised by the barren British Queen as an Englishman after believing himself the only survivor of a massacre against his father and village, Erik early on shows his abilities as a leader and warrior as he valiantly leads his soldiers into battle. Still aware of his Viking heritage, but not in conflict with himself because of the needless death he witnessed as a child, Erik would like nothing more than to remain at peace with the cultures around him, but feels obligated to avenge the death of the King, the husband of his adopted mother the Queen, who was wrongly led to believe a Viking killed him. When he falls in love with the twin sister of his yet to be rediscovered brother’s forbidden lover/fiancé, his mission becomes complicated as he slowly begins to see the non-violent side of the Viking way of life. When he mistakes Eron’s wife for the woman he met and lets his passions get him captured, he must overcome prejudices and find the truth to save his mother, his brother and their respective cultures and lands. Ardrisson appears to be a fairly underrated actor as he appeared primarily in crowd pleasing favorites and not the “important” films of more highly respected filmmakers like Fellini, Visconti, and Rossellini, but this didn’t detract from his talent as put much emotion into his work that made his performances all the more memorable.

Related image

Some critics of the time put down the film for its excessive (for the time) violence as arrows and spears are shown penetrating the bodies and necks of certain characters in the opening and toward the end of the film. The violence is not overtly graphic or bloody, but at the time it was made, the amount of fights and death seen in the Peplums was usually half or a quarter of what is seen in the film, but what came out in the last 40 years in the States and some of the 70’s Italian Westerns, Giallos, and Poliziotescchi made what is done in Gli Invasori look lightweight. There’s definitely more violence in this one than the standard fare of the time, but because Bava mixes in Catholic and Pagan symbolism with certain scenes, it’s not violence for the sake of it or sensationalism but rather to illustrate a point, juxtapose unique imagery and meaning, and showcase what the history of the time was really like, it’s a forgivable action.

Image result for erik the conqueror

Looking more lavish and big budgeted than most of the Peplums of the period than the money Bava had to work with make Gli Invasori a well worth watch for fans of not only Italian Peplums, but lovers of Action, Adventure, and Romance films too. Certain scenes may look low-budget to today’s viewers, but Bava’s ingenuity to make what little he had to work with look grand is a feat worthy of any viewer’s amazement and time. Sword play, adventure, and a dual love story thrown in add to the beauty of this piece and raise it above the average status most films of the period were usually looked upon, but were still fun all around. What sets were available look great, the cast is fabulous in their roles, and the effects of the time are actually impressive for the period and means they had at their disposal. A little more money might have made it an “A” list picture, but it’s quite good as is and looks just fine with what it had to work with.

(I highly recommend this film, even more so because it really hooked me after my first viewing. The Arrow Video release offers a gorgeous transfer and crisp Italian audio with English subtitles and a fair English dub)

All images courtesy of Google.com/Google images and their respective owners

For more information

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0055022/?ref_=nv_sr_2?ref_=nv_sr_2

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erik_the_Conqueror

Mondo-Esoterica/Erik the Conqueror

Peplum Blog/Erik the Conqueror

The US Blu Ray

https://www.amazon.com/Erik-Conqueror-2-Disc-Special-Blu-ray/dp/B071S3Q3ZT/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1536118153&sr=8-1&keywords=erik+the+conqueror+blu+ray&dpID=61SWjSavjvL&preST=_SY300_QL70_&dpSrc=srch

For any UK/Region B people

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Erik-Conqueror-Blu-ray-Cameron-Mitchell/dp/B07285YKR7/ref=sr_1_1?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1536118299&sr=1-1&keywords=erik+the+conqueror

For anyone who’s found interest in the rebirth of Vinyl

https://www.amazon.com/Conqueror-Original-Motion-Picture-Soundtrack/dp/B0794Y2B61/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1536118213&sr=8-1&keywords=erik+the+conqueror+vinyl

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Conqueror-Original-Motion-Picture-Soundtrack/dp/B0794Y2B61/ref=sr_1_1?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1536118315&sr=8-1&keywords=erik+the+conqueror+vinyl

       

Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview