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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Euro Western Cinema Classics: Dead Men Ride (1971) review


Fabio Testi (Roy Greenford), Eduardo Fajardo (Redfield), Romano Puppo (Newman), Ben Carra (Lawrence), Charo Lopez (Jessica), Jose Calvo (Cosorito), Massimo Serato (Emiliano), Mario Novelli (Alan), Luciano Pigozzi (Manolo)

Directed by Aldo Florio; Music by Bruno Nicolai

***WARNING! This review contains one pic that features nudity***

"Liberty is not gold. No one can give it to can only earn it."

Roy Greenford escapes from prison and is aided by a Mexican peasant named Cosorito who works in the gold mines. Roy quickly learns that the peasants are used as pawns for Redfield and his two leery partners, Newman and Lawrence to extract the gold. When the workers attempt to sell their gold for cash, they are cheated by Redfield's bankers. Some of the peasants try to escape to Tucson to sell their gold there, but are killed by bandits lurking in the mountains. These bandits are also under the employ of Redfield. Roy, who hides a mysterious agenda, eventually goes to the town run by the unscrupulous trio to settle accounts in regards to his friend, Emiliano.

An unusually well directed effort from a virtually unknown director. A strong script and first rate performances from the cast help enlighten this very dramatic revenge western. If you're not paying attention, you may get lost in the story and its several subplots. One involves the beautiful, yet despondent woman, Jessica. She is "shared" by the three main antagonists. Lawrence (whom has a hump on his back) forcibly has sex with her while it seems that Newman considers her his woman. Redfield, however, seems to prefer simply listening to his two partners whilst they have their way with Jessica. I would assume this is hinting at impotence on the part of the villainous Redfield.

The theme of courage runs strongly throughout DEAD MEN RIDE (1971). What is most interesting is that the poor peasants, (except for one of them) or the downtrodden are the only ones that display strength in the face of adversity. In a noteworthy exchange, Jessica proclaims to Redfield that "You only have the courage to watch." This being in reference to him repeatedly listening or watching from a window as his two partners share her body.

Stating that he only likes to watch also alludes to Redfield's cunning in that he sets up those in his way to be killed off by Roy Greenford. At the end, Redfield has to take up a gun to defend himself while his precious gold drains from a bag; the empty sack heralding the moment to kill.

The stoolie named Miguel, who rats out his people to Redfield when the peons plan to head for Tucson to get a fair price for their gold, gets a suitably brutal comeuppance by those he betrayed. Not only that, but Redfield also betrays him when Miguel cannot provide him with the information on the location of Roy and Jessica. That Miguel willfully hands over Cosorito as the man that hid Roy riles the others and incites them to dispel the traitor once Redfield has no further use for him. Cosorito responds with, "It's the first time we've had the courage to do our own justice."

Near the end, Jessica meets with Cosorito who we learn is her father. The theme of courage (or lack thereof) is displayed again when Cosorito is content that his daughter has finally returned to him. She says, "I didn't have the courage to do it earlier." Cosorito answers, "I know Jessica. It's the same with everyone. We are all at fault, we old ones even more."

There are a couple other notable attributes of this obscure Italo western. One of them is the script and the other is the editing. A lot of care went into seemingly every aspect of this production. There are several flashbacks that mirror what transpires onscreen and both the past and the present help to make certain sequences resonate with dramatic power aided immeasurably by a damn fine and highly enjoyable score by Bruno Nicolai.

It's also available on CD by CAM. About the only odd thing about this movie is that I was curious why Redfield simply didn't just take the mine by force, but then, his character seems to derive a lot of pleasure by using devious and guileful means to accomplish his goals.

The ending recalls both FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (1964) and ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (1968). Here, Testi sets up the "settling of accounts" and makes his appearance coming through a cloud of dust stirred up by a great gust of wind. Also, the answer to all the mini flashbacks seen during the movie is revealed during the final shootout between Roy and Redfield. The flashbacks, reminiscent to the finale of ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, come quickly and have some duration about them. Here, we learn that Emiliano owned the mine and was a man of some repute. Cosorito lived on the grounds of his mansion as did Jessica. Redfield had somehow destroyed Emiliano's reputation and had him framed for an unnamed crime which led to his prison sentence chained to Roy's leg.

DEAD MEN RIDE (1971) is a highly recommended Italian western that could very easily ride with the best of the European sagebrush sagas. It's a shame that the seemingly unknown director, Aldo Florio didn't make a bigger name for himself if not in the western genre, but cinema as a whole.

DVD Availability: There is a Japanese R2 disc without English options. This review is based off of a custom subtitled edition using the Japanese disc as the source.

Also check out the 'A Fistful of Spaghetti' section of the site for even more Spaghetti Western reviews. The link is below...


Sean M said...

Yes this is very obscure sw is also a big find for me though i think the pace drags in places.But it could be Fabio Testi's best western performance,not that he was in that many of course!

Absolutely love Nicolai's pared down but dramatic Morriconesque soundtrack.

The "Emiliano" tag throughout makes this truly suspenseful and it deserves a decent English language release.

My rating 8 out of 10.

venoms5 said...

Glad you liked it Sean, but I think I enjoyed it more, lol. I was looking for the truly beautiful score and found it's sold out at several places but managed to download it to my iPod via Rhapsody whom has a good handful of SW scores available for download for $8.00.

Sean M said...

Obviously you rate it 9 or 10 then!

Definitely a very classy sw but falling slightly short of classic for me.

venoms5 said...

I was quite astonished actually at how good it was. Not a lot of action, but everything else was very compelling. The surprise of the year for me.

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