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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Euro Western Cinema Classics: The Forgotten Pistolero (1969) review


Leonard Mann (Sebastian Carrasco), Alberto de Mendoza (Tomas), Peter Martell (Raffael), Luciana Paluzzi (Anna Carrasco), Pilar Velazquez (Isabella Carrasco), Piero Lulli (Francisco), Luciano Rossi (Juanito), Jose Manuel Martin (Miguel)

Directed by Ferdinando Baldi

The Short Version: Probably Baldi's best western of his career, THE FORGOTTEN PISTOLERO is a forgotten, unsung classic of monumentally tragic proportions. Foregoing lots of meaningless action, the film focuses on characterizations using gunfights and fisticuffs to accentuate the drama. The film concludes with a satisfyingly fiery climax and possesses one of the best ever western scores. Highly recommended.

A victorious General returns home from the war only to be double crossed and brutally murdered by his scheming wife and her lover. Her young son, Sebastian, disappears, the shock of the events that night causing him to forget much of what happened. His sister, Isabella and his childhood friend, Raffael, end up lost in all the commotion. Years later, Raffael finds Sebastian and explains his past hoping to trigger a memory so that he may reunite with his sister and avenge the family name of Carrasco.

Ferdinando Baldi’s best western relies heavily on dramatic elements leaving the action scenes in the back seat while giving them more punch in the process. THE FORGOTTEN PISTOLERO is an operatic spaghetti oater with Shakespearean tragedy at its core. The above synopsis only covers a modicum of the various character and story arcs found in the pictures scant 81 minute running time. The film is brimming with infidelity, betrayal, revenge and a last minute revelation. Gently peppered with low key action scenes, this tragic love story in the old west never lets you forget that you're watching a western.

If not for the stoic and majestic soundtrack by Roberto Pregadio (apparently Franco Micalizzi had a hand in the score, too), the movie would be far less endearing. Truly one of the best western scores, Pregadio's cues, especially the main theme, is frequently soaring perfectly capturing the feel of the wild, open spaces of the vastness and beauty of the old west. The 3:30 main theme is an orchestral reworking of the old cowboy song, 'Home On the Range' as well as maintaining the Italian Euroater touch with whistling and a horn section. This theme has been very popular in recent years as it's been heard on numerous television commercials and even kids cartoon programs.

The cast is well chosen for this production and the leads are all attractive, especially the female cast members. Leonard Mann, an American actor, is fine, but about as engaging as a piece of petrified wood. Considering the role and genre, this plays to his advantage. Mann plays Sebastian, a young man who lives in isolation alone on a small farm. After spying a ringing church bell in town, he remembers a similar occurrence from his violent childhood. This sets in motion his revenge against Tomas and his mother, Anna. Mann also went on to appear in some Italian crime movies during the latter part of the 1970's and even co-starred in Deodato's CUT & RUN in 1985. Mann is the main star in FORGOTTEN PISTOLERO. His angelic looks and eyes suit him just as other actors with similar looks have stood out in this genre.

The late Peter Martell (Pietro Martellanza) co-stars alongside Mann as his childhood friend trying to trigger his memory enabling him to restore the family name to its former glory. Martell was a much better actor, but under the circumstances, the main lead suited Mann better. Martell plays the character of Raffael who had suffered greatly as a small boy by the hands of Francisco under the leadership of Tomas. It's never shown, but we're given several hints throughout as to why Raffael refuses to enjoy the company of women. Near the end, Francisco cruelly reveals that he had castrated Raffael as a small boy and openly relishes in the destruction of his manhood.

What makes this plot point even more tragic, is that Raffael was the young love to Isabella, Sebastian's sister. Now, they can never truly be together. Curiously, Isabella was forced to marry a timid young man named Juanito played with subdued trepidation by Luciano Rossi. Pushed into the marriage by her mother and Tomas, she patiently waits for years to avenge her fathers murder. The character of Juanito is also tragic in that he truly loves Isabella, but she feels nothing for him. He's also the doormat to Tomas and his men. He redeems himself towards the end, though. Rossi was almost always featured as a nasty villain of some sort, so seeing him in a role such as this was indeed a change of pace for the character actor.

Luciana Paluzzi is an ice cold beauty who stands for money and power and goes through any man she has to to get it. The main villain of the piece, she pulls the strings of Tomas played by Alberto de Mendoza in addition to several other men. When she gets what she wants, she tosses them aside. That's not to say she doesn't some remnants of feelings. She frequents a monastery to seek guidance from a friar played by former peplum actor, Enzo Fiermonte.

The cherubic beauty of Pilar Velazquez is on hand as Isabella. She does well displaying the right amount of fiery resentment and resistance. Several other female performers in the movie also look very alluring. One of them is a saloon dancer who lets Raffael know she is interested in him sexually. He pushes her away and begins binge drinking while she basically performs the sexual act onstage. At this point, it hasn't been revealed what Raffael's problem is.

This is a rare Italian western that isn't preoccupied with lots of action and wide swinging fist fights. They're there, but in moderation. The shoot outs are relegated to a couple of opponents are small number of people. There are no overly populated gun battles with a large group of combatants. No doubt the budget was small for this, but Baldi makes it work with what resources he has at his disposal. The fist fights are well done for a change. Too often, Italian westerns have some of the worst fight sequences looking horribly telegraphed utilizing stuntmen who often stick out their faces in anticipation of the punch they are about to receive.

The costuming here is reminiscent of what characters wore in Baldi's BLINDMAN from 1971. Many of the characters look like post apocalyptic hippies in that film, and the unusual look is seen here, too. Ferdinando Baldi never did direct a great western, but FORGOTTEN PISTOLERO comes mighty close. Some of his other works include TEXAS, ADIOS (1966) starring Franco Nero, the goofy musical, LITTLE RITA OF THE WEST (1967), DJANGO, GET A COFFIN READY (1968) starring Terence Hill, HATE THY NEIGHBOR (1968) with George Eastman and CARAMBOLA (1974), a TRINITY clone.

With such a grand storyline, THE FORGOTTEN PISTOLERO is the type of film that would benefit greatly from some additional funds. As it stands now, it's possibly the best all around film in Baldi's filmography with BLINDMAN coming in close behind it. Fans of European westerns should give this forgotten film a look, just don't go into it expecting lots of meaningless gun battles. Despite its short running time, this bonafide sagebrush saga delivers some choice characters and one of the most memorable soundtracks of all time.

This review is representative of the R2 X Rated Kult limited edition PAL DVD

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