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The Euro Western Take on The Dirty Dozen

by Tony Nash

(A Part of Western Wednesdays)

(Mild Spoilers)

(All opinions are of the author alone)

(This review is of the Italian language version)

Kill Them All and Come Back Alone (1968) - IMDb

Ammazzali Tutti e Torna Solo (Kill Them All and Come Back Alone/Go Kill Everybody and Come Back Alone) (1968) R ****1/2

Chuck Connors: Clyde McKay

Frank Wolff: Captain Lynch

Franco Citti: Hoagy, Gunman

Leo Anchoriz: Deker, Explosives Expert

Giovanni Cianfriglia: Blade, Knife Thrower (as Ken Wood)

Alberto Dell’Acqua: The Kid, Acrobat Fighter and Gunman

Hercules Cortes: Bogard, Strongman

Antonio Molino Rojo: A Sergeant

John Bartha: The Union Prison Camp Captain

Written by: Tito Capri, Francesco Scardamaglia, Joaquin Romero Hernandez, & Enzo G. Castellari

Directed by: Enzo G. Castellari

Synopsis: A Confederate General asks a known criminal and his motley crew of mercenaries to steal a cache of Union Army gold to help buy arms for the Confederacy. The raid is successful, but soon allegiances are torn apart by greed, duplicity, and the revelation someone involved in the plot may not be who he says he is.

Ammazzali tutti e torna solo

1968, hailed as the boom year for the Italian Westerns, had its mixture of ground-breaking films, and simply well told “B” films that audiences just sat back and enjoyed. Enzo G. Castellari already had a hit with Quella Sporca Storia nel West (Johnny Hamlet/The Dirtiest Story in the West), a Western adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but he wanted to also have a representation of the fun, tongue-in-cheek, action-oriented style films he enjoyed making. With this in mind, Ammazzali Tutti e Torna Solo was born. The recent success of Robert Aldrich’s The Dirty Dozen was inspiration enough for Castellari and his regular collaborator Tito Capri to take the idea of a rag-tag group of trained men and transplant them from WWII Europe to 1880’s Southern Borders. The one difference Castellari and his co-writers inserted in was that while the Dozen in the States had a code of honor they stuck by regardless, the gritty group in this one are shown to have no honor at all, even to each other. What Castellari finished with was a highly action-packed thrill ride that still had its flaws in order to allow for certain special effects to be used, but still came off as totally believable fun. Watch Kill Them All And Come Back Alone | Prime Video

Chuck Connors, an American TV star with two hit shows, The Rifleman and Branded, already under his belt, decided to break away from the images formed from those shows by taking the role of the untrustworthy criminal mercenary Clyde McKay. Taking a complete 360 degree turn from the stoic, kindly, and fatherly Lucas McCain, and to a lesser extent the stoic, kind, and honorable Jason McCord, Connors plays McKay as a man with a very adjustable conscience, little morals and scruples, letting little, if anything, stand in his way.  McKay makes no secret he’s a bad dude, and would probably sell out his cohorts to save himself, when someone hires for a job, he honors the contract and expects his clients to honor their side too. While having worked with the men he recruited before, McKay still doesn’t fully trust them, but knows for any amount of money, they’ll sell their skills to anyone. When he tries to double-cross them for his own greed, McKay is forced to rely on his soon to be former allies when the Union Army catches up with them. Upon finding someone has sold them all out, McKay is forced to rely on his wit and tricks to stay alive.

Un film-cult stasera sulla tv in chiaro: AMMAZZALI TUTTI E TORNA ...

Frank Wolff, one of the most respected and utilized American actors working in Europe, plays one of his most devious roles in the part of Captain Lynch. While trusted by his commanding officer and some of the other members of the Confederate Army, Lynch is really more than what he appears to be, and his motives aren’t as loyal to the cause as it looks. Clyde McKay takes an initial dislike to Lynch, and this gut feeling is what shows Lynch as a man not to be trusted. He’s eventually revealed as a triple agent, a thief posing as a Union Officer posing as a Confederate officer, so he can steal the gold for himself, and blame it on McKay and company. As shifty as he is crafty, Lynch works to turn the group against each other, playing up each man’s individual greed as his main weapon. But with McKay already not liking him, and having a feeling he isn’t a man to take at face value or his word, Lynch must constantly be on his guard.

Franco Citti as Hoagy, the expert gunman, in Kill Them All and ...

Giovanni Cianfriglia (Ken Wood) as Blade, the knife expert, in ...

Leo Anchoriz as Decker, the dynamite expert in Kill Them All and Come Back Alone (1968)

Alberto dell'Acqua as The Kid in Kill Them All and Come Back Alone (1968)

The always reliable character actors Franco Citti, Giovanni Cianfriglia (credited as Ken Wood), Alberto Dell’Acqua (sometimes credited as Robert Widmark), and Leo Anchoriz, all make up a fine bunch of swine in their respective roles of Hoagy, Blade, the Kid, and Deker. They all have their own specialties in the art of thievery and fighting, hence why McKay picked them for assignment of stealing the gold. Hoagy and Deker look to be the least trustworthy of the group as Hoagy is merely a gun for hire while Deker is an expert with explosives who has the ability to double-cross the gang whenever he likes. Blade and the Kid are equally not to be trusted, but they at least have a type of honor code ethics that turn up when it looks like McKay intends to screw over them and the Confederacy by stealing the gold for himself. But since all of them have a common hatred of authority, they agree that the War Between the States is, for people like them, a matter of looting and self-gain.

Hercules Cortes as Bogard, the strongman in Kill Them All and Come ...

For fans of 50’s to 70’s style professional wrestling, Alfonso Carlos Chicharro, better known professionally as Hercules Cortes, plays the role of Bogard, the last of the mercenaries. Cortes’ main bit in the film is to act as the brute strongman who takes out 10 to 20 men at one time for the group to even the odds, but he also shows pretty solid acting skills in some scenes. Sadly, this would be his only major role in a film as he died from injuries suffered in an auto accident while touring the US and Canada as one half of the American Wrestling Association Tag Team Champions.

Kill Them All and Come Back Alone (1968) / AvaxHome

Even with Castellari going a little over the top in the action and special effects scenes, the film is still very entertaining and allows the viewers to sit back and have the time of their lives. The story might be a little thin at times, but is certainly solid enough to be followed continuously and smoothly. The cast, especially Chuck Connors, Frank Wolff, and the actors playing the other mercenaries, all give good performances, and Connors was soon to begin his alternate career as villainous characters in both film and television until his passing in 1992 from cancer. In spite of overshooting for solid action driven plot and setting, Castellari shows the Italian Western could be equally fun and gritty at the same time.

(This a great example of letting your mind relax and enjoy the ride and while there is a nice twist, it’s one viewers can safely guess correctly on without having to think too much on it. Filmmaker Castellari is a director who can do both serious plot and character driven films and ones that are purely for fun and amusement, and mixes both to a certain extent here. Chuck Connors, in his only Italian Western ever, proved he could not only play against type, but do it in a fashion where the viewer both likes him and disagrees with him. It’s quite the shame he wasn’t able to do more of them, though his entrance in the genre came at the tail end of it’s Golden Age. There are two Blu Ray releases of this Western Cult Classic, one from Germany’s Koch Media and the other from Kino in the US. The German Blu Ray has a slightly better transfer in audio & visuals and offers some extras including an interview with co-star Giovanni Cianfriglia [aka Ken Wood]. Kino’s Blu Ray does offer a subtitle translation of the original Italian audio and an audio commentary from filmmaker and Italian Western fan Alex Cox, though many stalwart genre aficionados rightly question how much of a fan Cox really is. Both are English friendly, and while Kino does have a subtitle option for those who prefer the original release Italian language, the Koch Blu Ray wins out because of the effort put into making it quality.)

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

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