Review Date: 3/16/16
Music: Riz Ortolani
Cast: Lee Van Cleef, Giuliano Gemma
Life in the frontier town of Clifton is pretty miserable for Scott Mary (Giuliano Gemma), a universally despised stable boy who is the bastard son of a local whore. He dreams of saving enough money to buy himself a six-shooter so that people will no longer look down on him and treat him like a dog. Things change when a dangerous stranger named Frank Talby (Lee Van Cleef) comes to town and stirs up trouble. Scott barely escapes with his life and begs Talby to take him in as a sidekick, which marks the beginning of their rough and tough master/apprentice relationship. Talby has a major chip on his shoulder and a score to settle with some outlaws for a botched bank robbery some years before, and fear runs rampant with the mention of his name. Scott turns out to be pretty handy with a gun, and when Talby finally gives him one of his own, the power goes to his head. Talby and Scott return to Clifton and proceed to take over the town by force, but Talby's increasingly brazen lawlessness starts to gnaw away at Scott's conscience. This ultimately leads to a showdown between the student and the teacher, which can't end well.
It's a good looking and well made film, with all of the charm and grit that you expect from a Spaghetti Western. Lee Van Cleef steals the show as the delightfully menacing Talby and cuts an impressive figure. Everything about him is just totally mean and bad-ass. The supporting actors do an adequate job, but aren't particularly memorable. The action scenes are enjoyable, although the highly touted horseback shootout is a bit of a letdown. Typical of the genre, the dubbing is awkward and distracting, and the pacing tends to drag the film down. The narrative is vague, disjointed, and often confusing, which makes it seem like entire chunks of back story and exposition are missing. The opening credits are hilariously awful and recycle the same five or six clips so many times that you want to turn the movie off before it even begins. However, Riz Ortolani's vibrant music score is excellent and hooks you right from the beginning. It's a slow starter, but fans of Van Cleef and Italian Westerns should find plenty to like in the film.