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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Fistful of Spaghetti: Nebraska Jim (1965) and 3 Bullets For Ringo (1966)


This edition of 'Fistful of Spaghetti' features two Ringo movies--one that had the participation of Mario Bava and another that copied him in a minuscule manner. One's worth a look and the other's worth a pass.



NEBRASKA JIM 1965 aka RINGO DEL NEBRASKA

Ken Clark (Ringo/Nebraska), Piero Lulli (Bill Carter), Alfonso Rojas (Marty Hillman), Yvonne Bastien (Kay Cross), Renato Rossini (Lou Felton), Livio Lorenzon (sheriff Bert), Frank Brana (Dickson)

Directed by Anthony Roman


A vicious gunman named Bill Carter has an ongoing and heated conflict with cattle rancher, Marty Hillman. While Hillman hones his shooting skills, he meets a young gunslinger from Nebraska named Ringo who proves to be a crack shot with a pistol. Marty takes a quick liking to Ringo and offers him a job working on his ranch. Finding one of Marty's foremen dead and engaging Carter in a barroom brawl, Kay, Marty's wife, explains to Ringo that $50,000 had been left to her by her father and Carter will tear up Hillman's property to find it.


This average Italian-Spanish western is one of a few sequels/spin offs to Duccio Tessari's seminal work, A PISTOL FOR RINGO (1965), a star making vehicle for popular actor/athlete Giuliano Gemma. Here, second tier Hollywood player Ken Clark plays the milk drinking gunslinger, but without the wit, or wily smirking of Gemma's portrayal. Clark headlined some EuroSpy pictures and played the lead villain in both HERCULES AGAINST THE MONGOLS (1963) and HERCULES AGAINST THE BARBARIANS (1964). He then starred in Mario Bava's average ROAD TO FORT ALAMO (1964). NEBRASKA JIM has been credited to Bava as well, although Spanish director, Anthony Roman is given directors credit. Apparently, Bava had a small hand in the production directing second unit. Aside from some interesting photographic touches there's virtually nothing here that looks remotely like Bava's work.


Regarding Clark, he had a dominating presence onscreen and had his career lasted longer, he would have no doubt become an enduring big screen tough guy. Bearing a countenance akin to Kenneth Tobey and Charles Bronson, Clark's Bo Svenson build towered over his co-stars. His rugged looks may have been unfit to fill the shoes of the wily character perfected by Gemma, the man should have headlined a lot more movies. One of the films unusual instances of memorability is the striking sexual tension between Ringo and Marty's sexually frustrated wife, Kay. Rarely, if ever, have such westerns explored the topic of a coitally neglected woman living with an apparently impotent husband--enter tall, handsome stranger and possible plot points that said wife wants the husband out of the way to have the big, burly hero all to herself. It's one of the best aspects of the film and helps it stand out from the massive pack of similar movies.


Piero Lulli works best when he's putting his devilish visage to good use and as usual, plays a good villain here as the sly Bill Carter. His character gets into two highly destructive scuffles with Ringo resulting in a lot of smashed balsa wood furniture. Livio Lorenzon, a frequent face in many a gladiator movie, acts in a similar function here as Bert, the sheriff. Renato Rossini, who is credited here as Red Ross (he's also used Howard Ross), is one of Carter's chief thugs. Sadly, he gets little to do. He had a much bigger role alongside Clark in HERCULES AGAINST THE MONGOLS (1963) and featured in a handful of other strongman roles at the tail end of the Sword & Sandal cycle.


While it comes nowhere near the top level Italian westerns, NEBRASKA JIM has some unusual camerawork and shots rarely seen in the genre and a big surprise at the end that makes the experience a worthwhile one. The score by Nino Oliviero is derivative, but easy on the ears as is the main theme song, 'Cuando Muore il Sole'. It's a shame Ken Clark didn't have a much bigger career as he was an imposing presence onscreen. This would make for a curious double feature with ROAD TO FORT ALAMO for Bava fans.


AND NOW OUR SECOND FEATURE!


3 BULLETS FOR RINGO 1966 aka 3 COLPI DI WINCHESTER PER RINGO

Mickey Hargitay (Ringo Carson), Gordon Mitchell (Frank Sanders), Ivano Staccioli (Daniels)

Directed by Emmimo Salvi


Ringo and Frank Sanders are best friends who have a parting of ways after rescuing a woman named Jane from a Mexican gang. Frank is in love with Jane, but she wants nothing to do with him, preferring Ringo's company instead. Eventually, Frank goes off to fight in the Civil War while Ringo becomes sheriff of Stone City, marries Jane, has a child and protects his mothers land from greedy land baron, Daniels. When the war is over, Frank returns and saves Ringo from being killed by his Confederate compatriots. Temporarily blinded, Ringo's mother is killed and he must now keep Daniels from snatching the deeds to the property as well as protect his wife and son from Frank and his cohorts.


Perpetually awful and bland Italian western has very little going for it apart from some Bava style photography indigenous to Salvi's other mediocre movies. The script attempts to be epic in scale, but it's clumsily scrapped together and difficult to follow much of the time. Hargitay's pseudo popularity is baffling to me. I assume his middling career is owed strictly to his dynamite wife, the late Jayne Mansfield. Hargitay neither passes muster, nor cuts the mustard here as a western hero. His other oaters are just as forgettable. He will likely always be remembered for his role in the trashy BLOODY PIT OF HORROR (1965). Hargitay also fails to impress as a temporary blind man during one of the films many convoluted moments of disinterest in what is a nod to the wildly popular, and immensely entertaining ZATOICHI, THE BLIND SWORDSMAN character--a series of over two dozen chambara pictures.


Gordon Mitchell could usually be counted on to elevate even the worst dreck to barely watchable status, but not even his craggy visage and frequent cackling can salvage this worthless poverty row faux western--fake cacti, rubber rocks and all. Mitchell worked with Salvi a number of times and enjoyed his candor even if his movies were pretty pathetic, sometimes riotously so. The soap opera-ish plot unveiled here is far too bloated for a $1.95 budget and Salvi and crew even fail at turning this nonsensical mess into unintended hilarity. The gun battles are lackadaisical as Hargitay's delivery. The cast of extras can't even die with any conviction. One of the worst among a genre rife with horrible movies, it's yet another production attempting to capitalize on the name of a far superior picture.


Salvi did scant few movies including some colorfully atrocious Sword & Sandal and adventure fantasies such as the awe-ful VULCAN, SON OF JUPITER (1962) and ALI BABA & THE SEVEN SARACENS (1964). When he moved over to directing westerns he apparently assumed movies with cowboys and guns should still have a fantasy atmosphere so his two westerns have this strange, indescribable aura about them. It's as if Salvi held onto certain elements of the fantasy films porting them over to the western genre even going so far as to utilize some of the same sets. You almost expect the cowboys to unsheathe swords and shields instead of the cap guns they're saddled with. There's a totally out of place voodoo type dance sequence in 3 BULLETS FOR RINGO that seems ripped straight from the Italian adventure movies that had been the rage earlier in the decade. Some of the sets in his equally peculiar WANTED JOHNNY TEXAS (1967) are seen here as well--another film that has a frequently non traditional western look about it. While that one was mildly diverting, these 3 BULLETS are duds.

This review is representative of the Koch Media DVD for NEBRASKA JIM and the Wild East DVD for 3 BULLETS FOR RINGO


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