Monday, June 27, 2011

BLOOD AT SUNDOWN (1966)

Confusingly followed by an unrelated 1967 Spanish Western also called BLOOD AT SUNDOWN (and also starring Anthony Steffen!), this 1966 Alberto Cardone entry has garnered a modest rep over the years. In terms of content, it's probably best classed with the old-timey goodie-vs.-baddie Westerns of the pre-60s, as it seems quite far away from something like MANNAJA. There's not a lot of ambiguity to be had, my son or daughter. After serving twelve years in prison (a compromise sentence between a total pardon and hanging, lawl!), Johnny Liston returns to his town to settle a score with his no-goodnik brother Sartana, who has spent the past twelve years marrying/raping Johnny's sweetheart and racking up a pretty impressive tally of gunshot-murder victims.
BLOOD isn't that distinctive in terms of look or plot, but it's important for the genre for one surprising reason, which you will find at the end of this paragraph. So Johnny returns to find his brother terrorizing the town, including a mute named Jerry, and eventually meets up with Mom Liston. Mom is easily the movie's most compelling character, a fierce drunk who forces the town's ladies to literally kneel and beg for help from her. Also along for the ride are a fairly fun cast of minor characters, which makes the sameyness of the plot and unimpressive shot-on-a-Rome-lot visuals easier to swallow. Ditto for the pretty novel native-Mexican ruins which serve as Sartana's lair. All of this goodness is simply backdrop for the not-too-engaging brother-vs.-brother feud around which the film pivots. It resolves itself in the way that you would most expect. What you wouldn't expect is that the character who had one of the longest lifespans in Spaghetti western history would be the bland villain SARTANA! This movie set Gianni Garko up for life, as he'd go on to turn into the hero of such films as IF YOU MEET SARTANA PRAY FOR YOUR DEATH and LIGHT THE FUSE...SARTANA IS COMING! Sartana was the fucking Punisher of his day. I am personally disappointed that the villain named Ralph didn't show up in sequel properties, but so it goes...
I'm mostly ambivalent about BLOOD AT SUNDOWN. I didn't curse the gods that I devoted some time to it, but neither is it my new favorite thing. The minor characters and some fetching dialogue ("And this finishes your career as a pain in the neck, brother dear!", "They only believe you and your clever handlin' of the law and the marvelous manners you have!") help to alleviate the tedium of some parts, and I'd wager that this is almost no one's most loved film. But it's not TERRIBLE. Just not as good as many other things.
I think I shall try another film with a mute character next. Mystery abounds!

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