Sunday, February 22, 2009
Spaghetti Western Review
This star-studded British/Spanish co-production looks great, what you can see of it. I have three versions, two VHS, one DVD, and all are terribly cropped, so badly that it looks as if buildings are having conversations with each other. Sometimes you can see Telly Savalas' nose protruding from one corner of the screen. Few films suffer as badly from pan and scan as this one, as director Robert Parrish seems to have been so enamored with the widescreen process that he tended to use both sides of the screen at once, neglecting the middle. Another viewer comments that we see the entire inhabitants of a church massacred at the beginning; not in any of the copies I have. There are some abrupt cuts of peasants firing their rifles, one Mexican officer is shot, Shaw and Landau celebrating, and that's it. We never find out why Shaw has become a priest (if he really is), we never find out what happens to Don Carlos (Savalas) although I suspect he was called home to star in Kojak, as his departure seems arbitrary. And there is a strange flashback sequence where Michael Craig (Mysterious Island) is dancing around in a bowler hat and bad suit in the great old English music hall tradition to the 1960 hit BATTLE OF NEW ORLEANS, not sung by Johnny Horton here but with some lyrics I've never heard before. On the plus side, the location is great, a huge old ruined fortress with Escher-style stairs leading nowhere, some nice scenery-chewing by Robert Shaw, and good performances by Stevens, Landau, Lettieri, and Telly Savalas as Telly Savalas. I didn't really like this film, but I haven't exactly seen it. I will seek the widescreen version and make my decision then.