Saturday, January 29, 2011

I live for your death

I know I've seen Judas Gun by Gordon D. Shirreffs on the western shelf of used book stores and the lot. I'm pretty sure I've even picked it up and looked it over a time or two.

Having now seen A Long Ride From Hell, a Spaghetti Western which used it as the basis, I'm more curious to give it a chance.

Or perhaps I'll look at a different Shirreffs novel.

Frankly, I can't believe A Long Ride From Hell is as reasonably unknown as I'd say it is.

A Spaghetti Western starring Steve Reeves? C'mon! That seems like it should be famous as a curiosity even if it sucked.

Maybe it's problem is that it doesn't suck. It's certainly no good for sitting and making fun of, especially since perhaps the flaw it does have is a rather leisurely, old fashioned pace.

Not, mind you, an operatic, self-consciously protracted Sergio Leone pace, but rather a episodic pace like a novel, and less like a movie titled "I live for your death" in its native Italy.

In fact, aside from a couple of zooms in on Reeves face, a couple of particularly loving shots of his gun and the post-synch dialogue, there's not a lot that would set this movie off as a Spaghetti Western to the average viewer.

Overall, it's quite an enjoyable revenge yarn, and could be a good starter Spaghetti for the right kind of viewer.

Mike Sturges, played by Reeves, and his brother Roy are framed for a train robbery and sent to the Yuma Territorial Prison where Roy is tortured to death.

I'd possibly link his death, by a kind of crucifixion, to the Italian Catholic tendencies, even in their westerns, but with the source novel having such an evocatively Christian metaphor in its title, it could easily be a happy meeting of the minds.

The movie basically then involves a series of incidents leading from Mike escaping from Yuma and going about solving and exacting his revenge on the men involved.

I enjoyed it quite a bit. I also found Reeves to be good in the largely silent leading role, supported by a cast of Italian and Spanish actors, in the usual variations, playing an assortment of oddball side characters.

"Easy, you wouldn't shoot an old friend, would you?"

"Who are you? Marlin, Marlin Mayner. I didn't recognize you at first. You've changed."

"Must be the Mexican mustache."

Actor Wayde Preston continues to seem inordinately fascinated by that mustache. Perhaps if he'd been given more to do with the character, he wouldn't have, but I'm not sure that would have been an improvement.

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