Film Review: The White, The Yellow, and The Black (1975)

Also known as: Il bianco il giallo il nero (original Italian title), Samurai (Canada), Ring Around the Horse’s Tail (US dubbed version), Shoot First… Ask Questions Later (US alternative title)
Release Date: January 17th, 1975 (Italy)
Directed by: Sergio Corbucci
Written by: Amendola & Corbucci, Santiago Moncada, Renee Asseo, Antonio Troisio, Marcello Coscia, Sergio Spina
Music by: Guido & Maurizio De Angelis
Cast: Giuliano Gemma, Tomas Milian, Eli Wallach

Filmel, Mundial Film, Tritone Cinematografica, 112 Minutes

Review:

“[about to be hanged by a gang] I’ll never die without my boots on, and a star on my chest.” – Sheriff Edward Gideon

I’ve seen and reviewed about a half dozen Sergio Corbucci spaghetti westerns in recent years. I didn’t know about this one, however, until I stumbled across it while looking for something else. But I’m glad I did, even if it’s one of Corbucci’s weaker westerns.

Still, it’s a well cast film with three cool characters that had nice chemistry and provided solid performances that required dramatic and comedic acting with a little pinch of badassness sprinkled in.

People today would probably find the fact that Italian actor Tomas Milian plays a samurai in the Old West to be “problematic” and while the character is written mostly for laughs by tapping into cultural stereotypes, Milian still gives his character a certain panache and coolness when push comes to shove.

Spaghetti western legends Eli Wallach and Giuliano Gemma also add some fun to the proceedings, with Wallach playing a Sheriff and Gemma playing a typical western cowboy.

The plot sees this unlikely trio come together to track down a stolen Japanese horse that was intended to be a gift for the US government. The three men end up embroiled in a rivalry with a band of desperadoes that are made up of former Confederate soldiers.

Side note: this film was actually made as a loose parody of the Charles Bronson starring Red Sun. Milian’s samurai character would also reappear in the film Crime at the Chinese Restaurant in 1981, directed by Sergio’s younger brother, Bruno Corbucci.

Out of the Corbucci westerns I’ve seen, this one is, unfortunately, the weakest. But I can’t fault the director for trying to do something different for his last picture in the genre. While the characters are amusing and work fairly well together, the movie does kind of miss its mark and pales in comparison to Django, The Great Silence, Compañeros and The Mercenary. I’d also rank it behind Navajo Joe, which wasn’t anywhere near as goofy and borderline slapstick-y despite having more humorous bits than Corbucci’s other spaghetti westerns.

This also lacks the gravitas of those earlier films. Not that that’s a bad thing, per se, but Corbucci sort of had a particular style with his westerns and this plays more like a generic western comedy than the great action flicks one could expect from Corbucci.

Overall, I like the casting and I enjoyed their characters but apart from that, this is almost forgettable and probably only stayed afloat in a sea of spaghetti flicks due to who made it.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other Sergio Corbucci spaghetti westerns.

Film Review: Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972)

Also known as: Fanatismo (Italy – alternative title), Voodoo (Greece – alternative title), Paperino (France – alternative title)
Release Date: September 29th, 1972 (Italy)
Directed by: Lucio Fulci
Written by: Lucio Fulci, Roberto Gianviti, Gianfranco Clerici
Music by: Riz Ortolani
Cast: Florinda Bolkan, Barbara Bouchet, Tomas Milian, Irene Papas, Marc Porel, Georges Wilson

Medusa Distribuzione, 105 Minutes

Review:

“Which would you prefer, a kiss or money?” – Patrizia

This isn’t a giallo that I had seen but being that I like the films I’ve seen from Lucio Fulci, I really had to give this a watch. And man, I’m glad I did, as it is a damn good motion picture and possibly Fulci’s best out of the movies I’ve seen.

It does what the best giallos do and that’s tapping into a noir structured narrative with a grittier, harder edge and elements of horror. Fulci would go on to be one of the best Italian horror directors and this film really shows the guy experimenting with his stylized violence and fairly gory practical effects.

What I liked best about the film is that even if you figure out who the killer is early on, which I did, the movie still throws so many curveballs that the reveal doesn’t matter as much as the journey. This is well structured and well written with several layers that enrich the the larger story and give it a lot of depth.

There’s a lot to take away from this movie and a lot of prime meat to chew on.

I don’t want to get too much into the plot, as I don’t want to spoil anything. However, it does do a lot of taboo things that are designed to make you feel uncomfortable. But it’s those moments of discomfort that really show you how great of a visual storyteller that Fulci is. He conveys pretty stark messages in his moving imagery and not much has to be explained. That’s real talent, especially when compared to many of the films today, which insult their audience’s intelligence and have to spell out everything and usually more than once.

The cinematography is superb, as were the locations used in the film. As an American watching this, it feels otherworldly or like it is set in a time much earlier than when it actually takes place.

The musical score by Riz Ortolani is also one of my favorites of his that I’ve heard. The music really gives a major assist to the visuals and they work in harmony like a perfect marriage: conveying emotion, tone and texture.

Plus, the acting is great. It’s hard not to crush on Barbara Bouchet, let’s be honest, but man, she’s so damn good in this. But then, so is Tomas Milian, who I mostly know from the spaghetti westerns he did in the ’60s and ’70s. They had real chemistry together and both of them enhanced each other’s performances. It’s a pairing I wish I could’ve seen more of in other films.

All in all, this may be the best of Fulci’s pictures that I’ve seen and it makes me want to delve headfirst into his other giallo offerings.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other giallo films, primarily those by Fucli, Argento and Bava.

Retro Relapse: Top 50 Spaghetti Westerns of All-Time

RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.

*Originally written in 2015.

Spaghetti westerns are better than westerns, at least in my opinion. Sure, there are fantastic American-made westerns but as a whole, the Italian-Spanish (sometimes German) films are superior. There is more grit, more bad ass shit and a level of violence that adds realism and authenticity to a genre that has typically been family friendly in the U.S.

The greatest film of all-time is a spaghetti western. And many of the other greatest films ever also fall into this genre.

I have spent the last several months watching a lot of these films. I have always been familiar with the greats but I had to delve deeper into the more obscure reaches of the genre. A special shout out goes to the Spaghetti Western Database for the hours of research I was able to accomplish in mostly one place. Also, thanks to Amazon, Hulu and YouTube for providing several of these films. The rest were an adventure to track down.

This list is the result of my hundreds of hours of film watching.

1. The Good, The Bad and the Ugly
2. Once Upon A Time In the West
3. The Great Silence
4. The Big Gundown
5. For A Few Dollars More
6. Django
7. A Fistful of Dollars
8. The Mercenary
9. Face to Face
10. Django Kill… If You Live, Shoot!
11. A Bullet For the General
12. Compañeros
13. Duck, You Sucker! (A Fistful of Dynamite)
14. Day of Anger
15. Keoma
16. Sabata
17. Return of Ringo
18. Death Rides A Horse
19. Cemetery Without Crosses
20. My Name Is Nobody
21. The Grand Duel
22. A Genius, Two Partners and A Dupe
23. A Pistol for Ringo
24. If You Meet Sartana, Pray For Your Death
25. The Dirty Outlaws
26. Django, Prepare a Coffin (Viva Django)
27. Run Man Run
28. Tepepa
29. Navajo Joe
30. Four of the Apocalypse
31. Massacre Time
32. Shoot the Living, Pray for the Dead
33. Mannaja
34. Django Strikes Again
35. The Return of Sabata
36. A Few Dollars For Django
37. Light the Fuse… Sartana Is Coming
38. Machine Gun Killers
39. Beyond the Law
40. Ace High
41. The Bounty Killer (The Ugly Ones)
42. Trinity Is Still My Name
43. Hellbenders
44. Django the Bastard
45. God Forgives, I Don’t
46. Minnesota Clay
47. God’s Gun
48. They Call Me Trinity
49. Ringo and His Golden Pistol (Johnny Oro)
50. Arizona Colt

Film Review: Face to Face (1967)

Also known as: Faccia a Faccia (Italy), Cara a Cara (Spain)
Release Date: November 23rd, 1967 (Italy)
Directed by: Sergio Sollima
Written by: Sergio Sollima, Sergio Donati
Music by: Ennio Morricone
Cast: Gian Maria Volontè, Tomas Milian, William Berger, Jolanda Modio, Carole André, Gianni Rizzo, Lidya Alfonsi

Produzioni Europee Associati (PEA), Arturo González Producciones Cinematográficas, Butcher’s Film Service, Peppercorn-Wormser Film Enterprises, 112 Minutes, 93 Minutes (English version)

Review:

Face to Face is the second of three spaghetti westerns directed by Sergio Sollima. It also stars Tomas Milian, as do all of Sollima’s western movies. Opposite of Milian is Gian Maria Volonte. The cast is then rounded out by William Berger.

Needless to say, there are three great spaghetti western actors in this picture. In fact, it almost plays like it is Sollima’s version of The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.

The story sees two characters come together. One is a bandit, the other is a pacifist college professor. As the story evolves, the bandit starts to turn from his ways and becomes tired of the senseless violence. The professor, on the other hand, grows into becoming a revolutionary bandit and leader. The third character has a secret agenda that plays out wonderfully – assisting in the transformation of both of the main characters throughout the tale.

Sollima weaved together a near perfect tapestry with Face to Face. The plot is solid, the landscapes are vast, the acting is top notch and the action is fierce. The film also benefits from a nice score provided by Ennio Morricone.

This isn’t my favorite Sollima western, that would go to The Big Gundown but this is a stellar film, nonetheless. It belongs alongside the great films in the upper echelon of spaghetti western pictures.

Rating: 8/10

Film Review: Unofficial ‘Django’ Sequels, Part I (1966, 1967, 1968)

The original Django was an enormous success in 1966. It opened a lot of doors for its star Franco Nero and its director Sergio Corbucci. The film also inspired unofficial sequels to be created by a multitude of studios because copyrights in Europe back then weren’t as strict as they are in the United States.

There are forty-six Django films listed on his character page on Wikipedia. Most of those are lost to time. A dozen and a half or so, are still out there on streaming services, DVD or VHS – if you can track them down. Some are free on YouTube. Anyway, I’m trying to see as many of them as I can.

Some actually feature the character of Django and some just use his name in the title due to its popularity, even though the character isn’t in the film.

As I watch these films, I will review a few at a time. They won’t necessarily be in chronological order, as that doesn’t matter anyway, as none of these films are really connected to each other apart from a word in their titles.

A Few Dollars For Django (1966):

Also known as: Pochi dollari per Django (Italy)
Release Date: September 9th, 1966 (Italy)
Directed by: Leon Klimovsky, Enzo G. Castellari
Written by: Manuel Sebares, Tito Capri
Music by: Carlo Savina
Cast: Anthony Steffen, Gloria Osuna, Thomas Moore, Frank Wolff

Marco Film, R.C. Pictures, R.M. Films, Italcid, 85 Minutes

few_dollars_for_djangoReview:

This was the first unofficial sequel to Django. It actually came out the same year, as did a half dozen other Django films. All of them were most likely made before the release of the original film and then altered their titles to jump on the success bandwagon.

The main character in this film isn’t even Django, it is a character named Regan. He has a Django-esque quality to his character though. The opening sequence is pretty cool and you do see similarities between Regan and the Django character in their style.

Anthony Steffen plays Regan and he would go on to be in other Django ripoffs.

For the most part though, this film is really mediocre. It is pretty average in its story, in its acting and in its style. It is more green than the real Django film, as it doesn’t take place in a desolate location. The setting within the film is supposed to be Montana.

It is happier in tone overall and the action is better than average but there just isn’t a lot to make it anywhere as worthwhile as the original film it steals its name from.

It is still a decent enough spaghetti western to enjoy for an hour and a half on a rainy day.

Rating: 6/10

Django Kill… If You Live, Shoot! (1967):

Also known as: Se sei vivo spara, lit. If You Live Shoot (Italy), Oro Hondo, Django Kill!
Release Date: May 3rd, 1967 (Italy)
Directed by: Giulio Questi
Written by: Franco Arcalli, Giulio Questi, Benedetto Benedetti, Maria del Carmen, Martinez Roman
Music by: Ivan Vandor
Cast: Tomas Milian, Marilu Tolo, Roberto Camardiel, Piero Lulli, Milo Quesada, Paco Sanz, Raymond Lovelock, Patrizia Valturri

GIA Societa Cinematografica, Hispamer Films, Trose Trading Film, Titanus Distribuzione, 117 Minutes

django_kill_if_you_live_shootReview:

This film is pretty damned good, even though Django is missing and the main character looks nothing like him. It is one of a few of these unofficial sequels to feature a main character called The Stranger – played by the awesome Tomas Milian in this one.

The film is full of awesome spaghetti western ultraviolence and trippy editing. It is fast paced, out of control and amazing.

It is an insanely gritty film that captures the best elements of the spaghetti western genre. It probably would have benefited more in not taking the Django name and instead, stood on its own two feet. It is a cult classic in its own right but it could’ve eclipsed cult status if it hadn’t sold itself as a generic rehash of things we’ve already seen.

This film is beautiful in its execution of violence. It may be the most violent spaghetti western I have seen. It isn’t offensive however, it is an artistic symphony of bullets and testosterone.

I absolutely love this movie.

Rating: 9/10

Django, Prepare a Coffin (1968):

Also known as: Preparati la bara!, lit. Prepare the Coffin! (Italy), Viva Django
Release Date: January 27th, 1968 (Italy)
Directed by: Ferdinando Baldi
Written by: Franco Rossetti, Ferdinando Baldi
Music by: Gianfranco Reverberi, Giampiero Rverberi
Cast: Terence Hill, Horst Frank, George Eastman, Pinuccio Ardia, Lee Burton, Jose Torres

B.R.C. Produzione S.r.l., Titanus Distribuzione, 92 Minutes

django_prepare_a_coffinReview:

This is also commonly called Viva Django! but there is also another film called that as well.

This 1968 unofficial sequel at least attempts to be a sequel. Terence Hill plays Django and he looks eerily similar to Franco Nero. He has the stunning eyes, the chiseled jawline, the stubble and the same costume and big gun. It is also a fantastic film all on its own. While it is an unofficial sequel, this could have been official and no one would have batted an eye. Hill is just perfect in this picture.

This film has some good plot twists and wonderful action. It also features the return of Django’s big gun from the coffin in one of the best spaghetti western action climaxes I have ever seen. It is on par with the final graveyard battle of the original Django with the ante upped to a ridiculous level.

The film also has an amazing theme song on par with the classic tune that was featured in the original film.

Like the film I discussed before this one, I absolutely love this movie.

Rating: 9/10

Film Review: Run, Man, Run (1968)

Also known as: Corri uomo corri (Italy), Big Gundown 2
Release Date: August 29th, 1968 (Spain)
Directed by: Sergio Sollima
Written by: Sergio Sollima, Pompeo De Angelis
Music by: Bruno Nicolai, Ennio Morricone
Cast: Tomas Milian, Donal O’Brien, Linda Veras, John Ireland, Chelo Alonso

Mancori-Chretien, Ital-Noleggio Cinematografico, 120 Minutes

run_man_runReview:

When I wrote my review for The Big Gundown, I mentioned that it would be cool to see the buddy formula continue between Tomas Milian and Lee Van Cleef. Well, there was officially a sequel and this is it.

The downside is that Lee Van Cleef is not in this movie. But at least we still get to see the continued adventures of Milian’s Cuchillo. Also, it does have a buddy adventure element to it with the addition of Donal O’Brien’s character but it still isn’t Van Cleef.

This film is the third and final spaghetti western from director Sergio Sollima. It is also his worst of the three. It is still a pretty fun and entertaining movie but it is mostly a rehash of the far superior The Big Gundown and a lot less thought provoking and impressive than Face to Face.

Tomas Milian is always great on-screen and he always killed it in spaghetti westerns. His performance here is no different but unlike most of his other films where he is surrounded by other great legends of the genre, he truly has to carry this film on his own. While he is perfectly capable of that, it just feels like something is missing when you’re used to seeing him have someone as equally as talented to bounce lines off of.

The movie also features a nice score from Ennio Morricone. He isn’t credited with the music due to some legal issues.

Run, Man, Run is fun and certainly worth a watch, especially for fans of The Big Gundown but don’t expect anything exceptional like Sollima’s previous western work. However, at the end of the day, this picture still sits well above the combined average of quality for the genre.

Plus, Cuchillo is a really fun character.

Rating: 7/10

Film Review: Four of the Apocalypse (1975)

Also known as: I quattro dell’apocalisse (Italy)
Release Date: August 12th, 1975 (Italy)
Directed by: Lucio Fulci
Written by: Ennio de Concini
Based on: The Luck of Roaring Camp and The Outcasts of Poker Flat by Brett Harte
Music by: Franco Bixio, Fabio Frizzi, Vince Tempera
Cast: Fabio Testi, Lynne Frederick, Michael J. Pollard, Harry Baird, Adolfo Lastretti, Tomas Milian

Coralta Cinematografica, Cineriz, Blue Underground, 104 Minutes

four_of_the_apocalypseReview:

Lucio Fulci is most known for horror but he did do a few spaghetti westerns as well. Four of the Apocalypse may be the most brutal western of his that I have seen. It actually could be the most brutal western I’ve ever seen from any director.

The most notable star is Tomas Milian, who plays the sick and twisted Chaco. The “four” from the film’s title are played by Fabio Testi, Lynne Frederick, Michael J. Pollard and Harry Baird. Donal O’Brien also shows up as a sheriff.

The plot follows four strangers: a gambler, a pregnant prostitute, a drunk and a crazy person. The town they are in comes under attack during a raid of the local casino. The next morning the sheriff gets the four strangers out of town on a wagon. The four encounter some religious types on the road and eventually run into a Mexican named Chaco. Chaco tortures a lawman to the disgust of the group, he then gets them high on peyote, ties them up in their sleep and rapes the pregnant prostitute. He does more dastardly things and makes an enemy out of the “four”.

The film is very dark and pretty uncomfortable and plays more like a horror movie than a western at times. Fulci employs the best of both genre worlds and makes it work. There is nothing remotely likable or redeemable about Chaco and you want to see the hero hurt him bad, not just kill him.

This isn’t a typical Italian western and you had best prepare for a good amount of gore and violence. Think 70s Italian horror with a western twist and that is the best way to go into this picture.

Visually and tonally, the film is consistent with Fulci’s style and has the same sort of spirit you would expect if you’ve seen any of his other work.

Milian, who is typically a really likable guy, has never been more evil.

Rating: 7/10

Film Review: Compañeros (1970)

Also known as: Vamos a matar, compañeros, lit. Let’s Go and Kill, Companions (Spain)
Release Date: December 18th, 1970 (Italy)
Directed by: Sergio Corbucci
Written by: Dino Maiuri, Massimo De Rita, Fritz Ebert, Sergio Corbucci
Music by: Ennio Morricone
Cast: Franco Nero, Tomas Milian, Jack Palance, Fernando Rey, Iris Berben, Francisco Bodalo, Edoardo Fajardo

Tritone Filmindustria Roma S.r.l., Atlantida Film S.A., Terra-Filmkunst, Titanus Distribuzione, GSF Productions , 119 Minutes (Italy), 115 Minutes (US)

companerosReview:

Sergio Corbucci made a spiritual successor to The Mercenary with Compañeros. And like that film, it is a Zapata western starring Franco Nero and Jack Palance. The one main difference is that this film adds in Tomas Milian. It is also the only time that spaghetti western greats Nero and Milian acted together.

It follows Nero, a Swedish arms dealer into Mexico. He develops a rivalry quickly with Milian, a peasant rebel. Both are then forced together for political means and sent to capture a professor from the enemy. They then cross paths with Jack Palance, who is a sinister character with a wooden hand and a pet hawk he uses to track people in the wilderness. They capture the professor and get caught up with the true revolutionaries, which alters the course of the main characters’ lives.

The film is one of the best spaghetti westerns out there but Corbucci was a master only surpassed by Sergio Leone. Now this isn’t Corbucci’s best but it is great, nonetheless.

The only issue I have with the film, is that it is too similar to The Mercenary, which Corbucci did two years prior. It looks the same, features almost the same cast in almost the same roles and treads the same political territory. It is a very romanticized tale about revolution, influenced by the story of Che Guevara, who Corbucci was greatly affected by.

But in regards to Jack Palance’s character John, it is one of my absolute favorite Palance roles of all-time. Between the wooden hand, the weirdly dubbed voice and his relationship with his bird, it was a performance for the ages.

Additionally, this film features one of my favorite theme songs ever, which was done by Ennio Morricone.

And a Corbucci-Nero team up isn’t complete without Franco Nero blasting dozens of enemies with a giant machine gun. Luckily for us, that happens twice in this movie.

Rating: 9/10

Film Review: The Big Gundown (1966)

Also known as: La resa dei conti, lit. The Settling of Scores (Italy)
Release Date: November 29th, 1966 (Spain)
Directed by: Sergio Sollima
Written by: Sergio Donati, Sergio Sollima, Franco Solinas, Fernando Morandi
Music by: Ennio Morricone
Cast: Lee Van Cleef, Tomas Milian, Walter Barnes

Produzioni Europee Associati, Tulio Demicheli P.C., United Artists, Regia Films Arturo González, Columbia Pictures, 110 Minutes (Italy/Spain), 89 Minutes (USA – Theatrical)

biggundown31Review:

The Big Gundown is directed by the third Sergio of spaghetti westerns, Sergio Sollima. While he has only done a few cowboy movies, unlike Sergio Leone and Sergio Corbucci, his work is still top notch.

The film stars one of my all-time favorites, Lee Van Cleef. He is backed up by the talents of Tomas Milian, who was superb in Django Kill… If You Live, Shoot!, Face to Face, Run, Man, Run, Tepepa and Compañeros.

I thought I had seen this film before, albeit a long time ago, but I was mistaken. I must have confused it for one of the many other Van Cleef spaghetti westerns. I have been a fan of Ennio Morricone’s score of this film for years, although I didn’t know which film those songs were from until I watched this picture. Anyway, the film score is one of the best I have ever heard from a musical standpoint. The editing of the audio is a bit disjointed here and there but the music is still well used and executed.

Van Cleef and Milian’s relationship in this film is perfect. In many ways, it is similar to that of Blondie and Tuco from The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, except Milian’s Cuchillo is less of a bastard and Van Cleef’s Corbett is more of a straight laced good guy. Other than Angel Eyes in The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, this may be my favorite Van Cleef role. As for Milian, it is the most entertaining character I have ever seen him do. And Milian is an under-appreciated actor who contributed a lot to the spaghetti western genre, this film is proof of his greatness.

Sollima did a fantastic job of shooting this film. It feels truly large, as the landscapes and geography are mesmerizing and alluring. The cinematography is perfect and this may be the best shot spaghetti western that isn’t a Leone picture. Some shots in this picture were truly art. From a visual quality standpoint, I would say that it is above the more critically adored pictures of Sergio Corbucci. That could also have a lot to do with it being digitally remastered and on Blu-ray.

The Big Gundown is truly one of the best westerns ever made. There are few films that are as much fun as this. Where the Leone films are very serious and artistic and the Corbucci films are “balls to the wall” violence and badassery, this Sollima film is a good marriage of both with a solid lightheartedness added in. Also, it is a perfect balance of action and narrative, where it doesn’t beat you over the head with too much action, it also doesn’t find itself becoming too dragged out between the high energy bits.

The journey and the camaraderie in this movie is stellar. The film leaves you wanting more and wondering if these two men would ever cross paths again. Sollima could’ve done a slew of Corbett and Cuchillo buddy cowboy movies but he just made this solitary film. I certainly would’ve been game for more.

This is as close as you can get to a perfect spaghetti western that doesn’t star the Man With No Name. I recently watched The Great Silence and considered that to be the greatest spaghetti western not directed by Leone but this film also belongs in that company.

Plus, it has the best opening credits sequence I have ever seen in any film. That shit was intense.

Rating: 9/10