by Jaime Grijalba.
What is important in a western? I don’t know. I’m not an expert on the subject, as clearly my written entry for this year’s western countdown has prooven, it’s been fruitless to actually come up with something similar of an expertise towards the genre when one has seen so little of the biggest works of one of the main genres of cinema, so why I’m doing these strange and weird entries on obscure westerns from all over the world? Well, I want to get some expertise from the other end, I think that maybe if I watch the westerns that everyone else forgot that existed, maybe I’ll end up with some knowledge, that is just a wild assumption, because I’d think that mainly these westerns would be forgotten because they were either really really bad (the noose rating) or were just forgettable (the town drunk rating), and hence due to that forgettable aspect of them, learn some of the tropes and styles that comes within the expertise of seeing a bunch of westerns, maybe I’m overcomplicating my process, my own mind, or even I’m just explaining something that really doesn’t need explaining. But then, it has come to my attention that some of this forgotten westerns are actually pretty interesting and even good, that was the case with last week’s example of forgotten western, and it’s also the case with this one, which I do recommend if it’s available to you, but it isn’t strictly essential, it just have some incredible themes, beeps and bops here and there that make it wonderful.
Before going straight to the review, I should remind everyone about something completely different. At my blog, which you can access by clicking on my name, you can read the past and the next few reviews of the last days of what I called the Overlook’s October Madness, a review of a horror movie a day, and in these next days I’ll really turn up some strange examples of the horror genre, something I’m a little bit more familiar than with westerns. So, I extend the invitation to every Wonders in the Dark reader to check it out if you’re interested and drop a comment if you liked what you saw (highly unlikely, but what do I have to lose here?).
For those who are new to this series, those are the four possible ratings for these obscure westerns, with the obvious implications, among them those already mentioned in the first paragraph.
So, this movie, translated as ‘Kill the Wicked!’ in its northamerican release is an example of the hundreds of films filmed in Italy on the heydey of the spaghetti western, as was explained in last week’s post, as this was also released in 1967, just right before my favorite classic western of the classic era, ‘Once Upon a Time in the West’ (1968), that was also some kind of closure to that big era of spaguetti western, it wasn’t too long before the genre finally winded down in the 70’s to completely dissapear in the 90’s, with some exceptions until this day. As such, it’s nice to see how this movie deviates from what the norm is, and clearly plays with some of those same tropes to find a worthwhile story that is interesting in its premise and half of its execution. The film starts with an execution through hanging, or at least the preparation of it, as when the lever is about to activate the mechanism that would hang the poor bastard, a band of outlaws appears out of nowhere and blasts through the town, shooting and killing everyone in sight to save the criminal that was about to be hanged. The band was rescuing one of its members, the one who knows where the gold that they stole from a bunch of people is, so they go away galloping in their horses towards the hideout: an abandoned ghost western town.
How important to the genre is the presence of the ‘western town’? Well, in most films it’s always the place in which everything happens, the most classic of the films actually take place inside one town or even in a limited time frame inside said town. Sometimes, the town is the place where the hero rests or the bad guy hides, using the advantage of having the people around him that would protect him if anything goes wrong, and the ability of finding help from its peers in the case of the hero. While also a common feature in some westerns, the presence of this abandoned town is telling of an age in which the western wasn’t exactly in decay, but it was only the italians that were mass producing it to the level that the United States was doing so since the 1910’s til the 50’s. The issue with this ghost town (though it has no real ghosts, only simulated) is that it feels almost like an abandoned set, as if moments ago there was this big epic filmed by someone like… let’s say Peckinpah, and he just used the town, he juiced it, and now everything that’s left is this ghost, what already was, and in a way it’s a metaphor of how the genre of cinema was given to the italians to use, how after the americans had juiced everything that the genre had to offer, the italians came and took what was left and tried to make something out of it, and in most cases they triumphed very elegantly, with great pictures that would be remembered forever, and some of them even considered among the best westerns ever made.
One of the most positive elements of this movie is the presence of the female outlaw, a figure that is mostly forgotten when western is given an overview, mostly because they were scarce and in this particular film there wasn’t someone as beautiful as the one that was portrayed here (check the opening image if you don’t believe me). The female as an equal part of the band of bad guys is an interesting concept that would be exploited in terms of how it would provide divission and hatred among the other members of the band due to her beauty, in a way its pretty feminist how she seems to be the object of desire, but she doesn’t really care, she just uses the concept that the rest have on her image for her own benefit and for her own climbing of status inside the band and in the mostly misogynistic world of the West. Though, besides these two elements, there’s nothing really notable to take away from this western, it has some nice shoot-outs, the ghost town is mighty interesting as a commentary on the sets themselves, as a reflection on the status of westerns, It is surely elevated and better than most examples, so I guess that the sheriff star is fair for this particular film.