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Monday, May 21, 2012

FILM REVIEW OF ''A PISTOL FOR RINGO'' (1965-Italian)


 Writer and director Duccio Tessari, who co-scripted Sergio Leone's "A Fistful of Dollars," helmed this entertaining, above-average spaghetti western, "A Pistol for Ringo," starring Roman-born actor Giuliano Gemma--billed here as Montgomery Wood—as the eponymous hero with perennial villain Fernando Sancho as his treacherous adversary. For the record, the profligate Sancho appeared in over 230 movies and basically played the same slimy Mexican outlaw in 35 westerns. Tessari penned a number of other Italian oaters including "Seven Guns for the MacGregors," "Return of Ringo" and "A Train for Durango." Tessari also worked on the Italian peplum—muscle man movies--before he embarked on these trigger happy westerns, most notably co-writing Sergio Leone's "The Colossus of Rhodes." In "A Pistol for Ringo" (***1/2 out of ****), Tessari imitates American westerns more than his native variety. Gemma is a clean-cut, good-looking, well-dressed gunfighter who is too fast on the draw for his own good. At least twice in this lively horse opera, he guns down opponents in self-defense. The way that Ringo handles a six-gun, however, it comes pretty close to murder. Moreover, Ringo is a wise-cracking gringo with a comeback line for everything. Indeed, the dialogue by Tessari and co-scenarist Alfonso Balc√°zar, who also knew his way around continental westerns with writing credits on "Nevada Clint," "Five Giants from Texas," and "$100-Thousand Dollars for Ringo," crackles with humor and imagination. Simply said, nothing about this hostage crisis western set in the arid Southwest that co-stars George Eastman, another Italian who made his share of spaghettis, is half-baked. Ennio Morricone composed the beautiful orchestral score and Morricone's magical music is far above what this violent western could have hoped for, especially the lyrical title tune about the wily protagonist.

The first time that we lay eyes on our hero, Ringo (Giuliano Gemma of "Day of Anger"), he is playing hop-scotch with a bunch of children in a village. Word has arrived that Ringo has been cleared of murder charges in the shooting death of another gunman, but the Benson brothers decide to make him pay for their brother's death. No sooner have they challenged Ringo—who is also known as 'Angel Face'—than he whips his six-shooter out of his waistband and blows all four of them away without wasting a shot. Indeed, like Clint Eastwood in "A Fistful of Dollars," Ringo doesn't wait for them to draw and only one of the Benson's clears leather with his revolver before he is shot dead. The sheriff (George Eastman of "Ben and Charlie") arrests Ringo and puts him in jail where our hero demands a glass of milk. Later, Ringo pours out liquor on the floor when he doesn't get his trademark glass of milk.

Meanwhile, Sancho (Fernando Sancho of "Mission Phantom") rides across the border alone only to be confronted by a couple of U.S. Cavalrymen who tell him to turn around and ride back across the Rio Grande. Sancho feigns ignorance and removes his sombrero in humility while the soldiers chew him out. Little to the troopers know that Sancho has taken his large hat off to hid his hand pulling his pistol out. He guns them down and his gang joins him in the border town where they shoot it up and rob the bank. During the hold-up, Sancho catches a bullet in the shoulder. The sheriff forms a posse to follow them and the villains hightail it out of town and ride to a sprawling ranch near the border. They take the owner, Major Clyde (Antonio Casas of "The Texican"), his pretty daughter Ruby (Lorella De Luca of "The Swindle"), and their servants and ranch hands hostage.

After the posse lays siege to them at the ranch, one character points out how impregnable the ranch is. "The walls are high and thick. You'd need a company of cavalry to attack it. Half of the soldiers would be killed in the charge." Nevertheless, the stalwart sheriff informs Sancho that his men and he are cornered in the ranch and there is no escape for them. The murderous Sancho responds, "Meanwhile, in case it takes you a while to make up your mind, we'll send out two dead men a day, one at dawn and one at sunset, first the ranch hands and last of all, the girl and her father." At the same time, the townspeople send for the U.S. Cavalry. They know Sancho by his reputation: "His favorite sport is shooting unarmed men, preferably in the back." Another posse man observes, "The only sure method to handling them is to slaughter them like cattle." The sheriff is bothered by Sancho's ultimatum. Particularly, the sheriff worries because Ruby is the love of his life and he doesn't want anything that might jeopardize her life. "If we could get a man inside the ranch," he opines, "we could help them to escape." Reluctantly, he approaches free-wheeling Ringo with a scheme that would see Ringo turned loose. Initially, Ringo is reluctant to help them. "Don't look for trouble," he points out, "It'll come by itself." Nevertheless, after the sheriff clears Ringo of the shooting death of the Benson brothers and the citizens grudgingly agree to 30 per cent as a reward for our hero, he agrees to help them. However, to establish his credentials as a villain, he has the sheriff and his posse pepper the air with bullets as he rides hell-bent-for-leather to the ranch. Once Ringo shows up, he operates on Sancho and removes the bullet. Ringo tells them about his predicament as well as their predicament and demands 40 per cent of the loot in exchange for getting them out of the ranch.

"A Pistol for Ringo" is head and hands above most generic spaghetti westerns. Director Duccio Tessari keeps things popping. Gemma is perfectly cast as the agile Ringo. The rugged Spanish scenery is gorgeous and the formulaic plot provides a couple of surprises.


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