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Reviews of all four Spaghetti Westerns on this DVD 4-pack
HOLY WATER JOE
Released in 1971, "Holy Water Joe" (aka "Acquasanta Joe") is an Italio Western about a gang of outlaws who steal a Union cannon and use it to rob a bank that contains the savings of bounty hunter Holy Water Joe (Lincoln Tate). Of course, he aims to set things aright. Ty Hardin plays the leader of the outlaws while Silvia Monelli appears as the lone female member of the gang, a half-breed. Richard Harrison is also on hand.
This combines the tone of "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" (1966) with (sort of) the plot of Elvis' "Charro!" (1969). The cast is good and I like the score with its pieces of anachronistic early 70's rock, which goes to show that "Young Guns" (1988) wasn't the first Western to do this, not by a long shot. Unfortunately, the tone incongruently mixes gravity with goofiness and it prevents the viewer from taking the story serious. The comedy's simply not amusing. Worse, the story is dull, particularly the first half. Thankfully, I started to catch a grip by the second half and somewhat enjoyed the pic. But this is Exhibit A in why Spaghetti Westerns have a bad rep.
The film runs 88 minutes and was presumably shot in Spain. DIRECTORS: Mario Gariazzo & (uncredited) Richard Harrison. WRITERS: Gariazzo & Ferdinando Poggi.
DIG YOUR GRAVE, SABATA IS COMING
Released in 1971 and directed by Juan Bosch (as John Wood), “Dig Your Grave, friend... Sabata's Coming” stars Richard Harrison as a Confederate soldier who returns home from the Civil War where he discovers his father murdered by a greedy mogul (Alejandro Ulloa). Seeking vengeance, the soldier becomes a fugitive, teaming up with a likable Mexican (Fernando Sancho), while the mogul enlists the notorious gunfighter Sabata (Raf Baldassarre) to hunt down the fugitives. Meanwhile, the shady landowner’s fiancée hooks up with the lovable rogues (Tania Alvarado).
This is a Sabata-in-name-only flick, as it’s not part of the original trilogy and Sabata is a secondary character; the villain, in fact. The print I saw was a crappy pan and scan, which is probably the only version widely available in English. In any case, the quality of the DVD tends to bring down my grade, but it’s hard to determine if the lousy editing & sound is a problem with this particular print or if it’s intrinsic to the original film.
In any case, if you can roll with the palpable flaws this is an entertaining Italo Western, hopeless dated music and all (e.g. bad dubbing and sound effects). The protagonists are amusing and likable, and they develop a good camaraderie with the dark-haired hottie that hooks up with ’em. Production-wise, this is nowhere near the quality of Leone’s Dollars trilogy, but story-wise I find it superior. The movie leaves you with a good feeling.
The film runs 88 minutes and was shot in Barcelona & Fraga, Spain, with interiors done in Rome.
BUFFALO BILL, HERO OF THE WEST
Released in 1965 and directed by Mario Costa, “Buffalo Bill, Hero of the West” stars Gordon Scott as the title character who is commissioned to avert an Indian war by stopping renegade Indians, led by Yellow Hand (Mirko Ellis), who are illegally sold guns by Big Sam Donaldson (Mario Brega). Roldano Lupi plays the rigid colonel of the local fort and Ingeborg Schöner his beautiful daughter while Feodor Chaliapin Jr. plays Chief White Fox and Catherine Ribeiro his daughter, Silver Moonray.
Gordon Scott’s acting career only lasted a dozen years from 1955-1967. He was tall with a lean waist but with muscular bulk and a likable, almost innocent disposition (think Brendan Fraser with big muscles). He’s perhaps best known for playing Tarzan six times in as many years from 1955-1960, but also known for sword & sandal roles, like Goliath, Samson, Remus and Hercules. I was curious to see how he’d do in a Western and was pleasantly surprised.
While this is a Spaghetti Western, it was made in 1964 and Sergio Leone’s Man With No Name trilogy was just starting to skyrocket to popular success. As such, don’t expect the items usually associated with Spaghetti Westerns, except badly dubbed dialogue, Spanish locations substituting for the American West and Spaniards playing Native Americans. Beyond these factors, this is more akin to American Westerns, like John Wayne ones and, of course, 1944’s excellent whitewashing of the same Western icon, “Buffalo Bill,” where Joel McCrea played the hero. Unlike that movie, which is biopic, this version is a slice-in-the-life of Buffalo Bill. Actually, the character of Yellow Hand was taken from that earlier movie, being based on the real-life Cheyenne chief Yellow Hair whom Cody shot, stabbed and scalped three weeks after Little Big Horn (!), or so he claimed.
At any rate, this ain’t no cheapo flick. Yes, the Native dialogue is a tad stereotypical, but that was typical at the time and it’s not as bad as you would think, like, for instance, in Elvis’ “Flaming Star” (1960). The locations and sets are excellent, such as the Western town and the fort; and the costuming is quite good as well. On top of all this, Scott shines as the winsome protagonist and you’ll find yourself rooting for him and his sidekick. Not to mention the two women are quite fetching. The only problem I had with this movie is the poor dubbing and the washed-out (non) colors of this public domain DVD. To add insult to injury it’s a pan & scan version where one person talking in a scene might be totally off camera but, thankfully, I only really noticed that in one scene near the end. I would love to see a widescreen version with brighter colors. Still, I'd rather see (and own) the movie in this version than not at all. You gotta take what you can get.
The movie runs about 90 minutes and was shot in Spain and Elios Studios, Rome.
SARTANA KILLED THEM ALL
Released in 1970 and directed by Rafael Romero Marchent, “Sartana Kills Them All” chronicles the misadventures of a duo of fun-lovin’ outlaws, Sartana (Gianni Garko) and Marcos (Guglielmo Spoletini), who are on the hunt for a large sum of loot, which they know is missing from a robbery. They hook up with a vengeful beauty (María Silva) as a sheriff (Luis Induni ) & his deputies pursue them.
While “Sartana Kills Them All” isn’t part of the original five Sartana films, it came out right on their heels and features the same actor in the title role. The print I viewed was widescreen and is a surprisingly decent presentation for such an obscure Spaghetti Western. In any case, the film plays out like a low-budget Italo “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (1969) with Gianni Garko in the Redford role, albeit without Redford’s Hollywood good looks (sorta akin to Klaus Kinski), and Spoletini as a kind of Mexican version of Butch Cassidy.
One part that was great was the disabled & disturbed confederate veteran and his four redneck sons from hell, which is reminiscent of the five scary brothers in the mining camp in “Ride the High Country” (1962). María Silva’s beauty shines and Spoletini is thoroughly charismatic.
The film runs roughly 84 minutes and was presumably shot in Spain.