Spaghetti Western
the european film review > spaghetti westerns
Aka Mille Dollari Sul Nero (I), Les Colts De La Violence (Fr), 1000 Dollari Sul Nero (I), Sartana (WG)
Italy/West Germany
Marlon Sirko [Mario Siciliano] for Metheus Film (Rome) / Lisa Film (Munich)
Director: Albert Cardiff [Alberto Cardone]
Script: Ernesto Gastaldi, Vittorio Salerno
Cinematography: Gino Santini {Techniscope - Eastmancolour}
Music: Michelle Lacarenza {published by CAM}
Editor: Romeo Ciatti
Art director: Amedeo Mellone
Filmed in Rome and at the studios of Elios Film and Cinecitta
Release details: Italy (registered 16.12.66, first shown 18.12.66, 105 mins), Germany (28.07.67), France (01.07.70, 92 mins)
Italian takings: 217.000.000
Spanish takings: 91.275,59 €
Cast: Anthony Steffen [Antonio De Teffè] (Johnny Liston), John Garko [Gianni Garko] (Sartana), Erika Blanc (Joselita), Sieghart Rupp (Ralph), Jerry Wilson [Roberto Miali] (Jerry Holt), Carroll Brown [Carla Calo] (Rhonda Liston), Charles Angel [Carlo D'Angelo] (Judge Waldorf), Angelica Ott (Manuela), Frank Farrell [Franco Fantasia] (Sheriff), Daniela Igliozzi (Mary), Gino Marturano (Forrester), Gianni Solaro, Olga Solbelli (the pleading woman), Gaetano Scala, Ettore Arena, Mario Dionisi
And uncredited: Sal Borgese (the mexican in bar), Chris Howland (Doodle Kramer)

This was the second film made in 1966 by Alberto Cardone with Anthony Steffen in the lead role and, like Seven Dollars to Kill, it is a top notch, balls-to-the-wall action picture. The plot may be standard but it's all handled so well that it becomes a hugely entertaining and strangely memorable piece.

Johnny (Steffen) is released from jail after serving twelve years for a murder that he didn't commit. Understandably, he is anxious to discover the identity of the true culprit and have some form of justice. When he returns home, however, things are not quite as he expected. The townsfolk are openly hostile, and even his own mother (an appalling old harridan played by Carroll Brown) berates him as a failure. Furthermore, his own brother, Sartana (Gianni Garko), seems to have developed into a class one crackpot with a worrying penchant for whipping beggars and cackling in an evil fashion. That is not the worst of his nefarious deeds - he is also collecting protection money from the already poor citizens, who are rightly terrified of him and his coterie of cronies.

Johnny does manage to find some allies - not least a hugely overacting mute, Jerry (Jerry Wilson) and the daughter of the man he supposedly killed, Joselita (Erika Blanc) - with whom he soon develops a relationship. Unfortunately Sartana is becoming increasingly unhinged and in a slightly paranoid state decides to rid himself of his disapproving sibling - who is busily trying (not very successfully) to persuade everyone to stand up to the villain.

Blood at Sundown is very nicely made, with a great Lacaranza soundtrack, good visuals (especially those based around the bizarre Aztec fort where the outlaws hide out) and some bravado direction. Cardone was really one of the underrated masters of the genre (like Paolo Bianchini), who generally turned in tough productions that were all the better for their singular lack of humour. It's also very good to see Gianni Garko as a bad guy, and he sure doesn't hold back - at times he's almost Klaus Kinskian in his dastardliness. Of course, his Sartana mutated into an antihero dressed in black for the excellent series of films named after the character. Sieghart Rupp, one of the Mexican brothers from Fistful of Dollars, also has a substantial role.

There are a number of similarities between this and it's aforementioned partner piece - with which it would appear to have been shot back-to-back, most notably the almost interchangeable original titles and the presence of the frankly ludicrous Jerry Wilson. They both also could be held up as consummate examples of the way in which the Italian western - and Italian exploitation cinema as a whole - subverted the idea of the family as being the prime unit of society. In this case the mother is a horrid creature who looks at her loonytune offspring with a dangerously devoted eye and doesn't give a diddlysquat for anyone else. Both films also end by showing the lone survivor left with the body of their nemesis and a whole barrel full of guilt. Importantly, they also feature a sub-climactic barnyard fight in which a piece of agricultural equipment is used as a hastily improvised weapon.

A few more points. Everyone seems to take a very long time to die in this; it's full of people crawling, staggering and collapsing in as protracted a fashion as possible. There are also some strange bits composed of almost subliminal flashes of total white accompanied by a droning electronic noise. These could easily be a fault of the print under review, but actually work quite well in the scheme of things, so I'd like to think that they were intentional inserts to signpost the upcoming titular sundown.

Matt B