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.

2 comments:

  1. Yup, if there is a complete version out there I have never seen it. Every copy I've seen is different. I think there is a film in there somewhere trying to get out. Otherwise it is a waste of a great cast. I've been looking for stills of Stella Stevens in this film for years and have never found a one.

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  2. Hey, amigo!
    My UK DVD version is Widescreen; but, I am not so sure it helps this film all that much.
    I don't know if the UK DVD version I have is uncut, or not, either---the film is such a disjointed thing as it is, it is really tough to tell.
    Like Tom said, there is a film trying really hard to emerge from this celluloid mess!

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