Saturday, September 16, 2023

E Dio disse a Caino... (1970)

... aka: And God Said to Cain...
... aka: Dödsjakten (The Death Hunt)
... aka: Et le vent apporta la violence (And the Wind Brought Violence)
... aka: Fury at Sundown
... aka: Hevneren (The Avenger)
... aka: Revenge at Sundown
... aka: Satan der Rache (Devil of Vengeance)
... aka: Un homme, un cheval, un fusil (A Man, a Horse, a Gun)

Directed by:
"Anthony Dawson" (Antonio Margheriti)

Former army lieutenant Gary Hamilton (Klaus Kinski) has been stuck in a prison labor camp for ten long years. After slaving away breaking rocks with a sledge hammer in a rock quarry for a decade, and trying to avoid the rattlesnakes in the process, Gary finds out he's finally be pardoned, and by the President of the United States, no less! Now it's time to settle back into normal life. Well, kind of. He's got some other stuff to take care of first. Gary stops by a saloon for a drink and refuses the bartender's offer to stick the prison with the tab. "A man must pay for everything," he solemnly states before heading out. 

Stopping by an old trader's place, Gary purchases a rifle, a horse and enough ammunition to gun down about 500 people for ten bucks, which is incidentally the same amount of money I spent on a cold, shitty hamburger earlier today. He then meets cadet Dick Acombar (Antonio Cantafora, a fine looking chap) on a stagecoach ride. Dick is about to enter his final year at West Point and has come home for a visit. He's still trying to decide what to do with his life: Enter into military service or settle down with a wife, start a family and work at his rich father's mining company. Mr. Acombar (Peter Carsten, also one of the producers) has higher aspirations for his boy and wants him to enter politics. I won't spoil anything, but I will say that Dick's woes about the future will be solved by the end of the film.

It turns out Gary was framed for stealing a fortune in gold and cash during a stagecoach robbery (and the killings associated with the theft), wrongly convicted, given a life sentence (overturned by the government, who gave him leniency and a surprise pardon for his prior military service) and now has vengeance on his mind. The evil schemer who ruined his life is none other than papa Acombar. When word gets back to him that Gary's out and planning on paying him a visit, he puts a bounty out on his head. His primary goons are the Santamaria brothers; Miguel ("Lee Burton" / Guido Lollobrigida), Francisco ("Alan Collins" / Luciano Pigozzi) and Jim (Lucio De Santis), though it seems like 99% of the whole town is willing to do his bidding.

While Gary was away, Mr. Acombar stole everything that was his, including his house, his personal belongings and his blonde, beautiful and backstabbing lover, Mary (Marcella Michelangeli), who helped frame Gary by casting doubt on his alibi. He's also essentially taken over the entire town. Anyone who opposed him fell victim to an "accident" and now most of those left are conspirators or too scared to go against him. There are a couple of exceptions, including saloon / brothel owner Rosy (María Luisa Sala), whose husband had been murdered, and Dr. Jonathan (Giuliano Raffaelli), who has known Gary since he was a child. Both are eventual allies.

The best thing going on here is the wonderfully gloomy atmosphere achieved by Margheriti and the production people, who have set the events on the evening a tornado is passing through town so we get lots of swaying, unreliable lighting and constant gusts of strong wind blowing around dust, smoke and pieces of hay. This is clearly where the director's experience with Gothic horror - he'd previously made HORROR CASTLE (1963), Castle of Blood (1964) and THE LONG HAIR OF DEATH (1964); all of those good efforts, too - is evident. So much of the movie takes place in the dark that our hero ends up riding off into the sunrise, not the sunset, at the end!

While this definitely has merit in the visuals and mood, the simplistic and predictable scripting knocks it down a notch. Almost the entire last hour is spent with Kinski lurking in the shadows, occasionally ducking into some catacombs that once served as a Native American burial ground, and shooting people, which grows repetitive and tiresome. There are no wrenches thrown into the works. No real curve balls. Just a straightforward revenge story with a little minor additional conflict thrown in to fill in the gaps. Most of the drama revolves around Acombar and his son, with the latter oblivious to his father's misdeeds but determined to find out what's going on. In this case, the apple fell very far from the tree as son Dick is kind and actually has some decency while the dad is such a bad dude he thinks nothing of gunning down a preacher in a church for refusing to help him.

Margheriti directs with an extraordinary amount of low angle shots and there are also quite a few zooms right into bright blue eyes, which seem to jump off the screen since the entire cast look like they've been slathered with bronzer prior to filming. He also manages to come up with a visually striking climactic scene, set in a burning room filled with candelabras and mirrors, which seems to have been a big influence on the finale of Argento's INFERNO (1980).

Kinski's fine as the emotionless, quiet avenger, but he's been put to better use elsewhere and this isn't one of his more memorable roles. There's no graphic violence, just a tiny bit of blood, and the only non-shooting deaths are a hanging and someone getting crushed by a church bell, a fate fittingly reserved for Euro horror vet Pigozzi. There's also a cheesy theme song called "Rocks, Blood and Sand" sung by Don Powell.

Reportedly, this is an unsanctioned remake - uncredited rip-off if you prefer! - of a movie released just two years earlier called Uno straniero a Paso Bravo / "A Stranger in Paso Bravo" (1968). Directed by Salvatore Rosso and starring Anthony Steffen, that film has identical character names and much of the same plot, though its writers are not credited here; Giovanni Addessi, who also produced the film, and Margheriti are the only two listed as writers. (For the record, I have not seen that film myself and thus cannot verify any of the plagiarism claims.)

Though a box office success in both Germany and Italy, this was never theatrically released in America. It made its VHS debut here in 1986 on the Unicorn Video label. In the UK it was released on video under the title Fury at Sundown in 1984. There have been quite a few DVD releases since then, though these are all of varying quality. Since the film is so dark, you really do need a proper print of it. That occurred in 2021 when Arrow Video finally got it out on Blu-ray in their four film set "Vengeance Trails: 4 Classic Westerns." The other titles included there are Lucio Fulci's Massacre Time (1966), Maurizio Lucidi's My Name is Pecos (1966) and Massimo Dallamano's Bandidos (1967). This set was followed by a second called "Blood Money" from the same company.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...