Friday, June 11, 2004

George Hilton Failed Me Again
The end of the week wrap up...

I've already written this once, and then my browser crashed sucking it all away. So you'll forgive me if I abbreviate this a little.

So I did read long-awaited comic book, Witches, last night. The writing got off to a running start, although one character's dialogue was a touch overdone. Deodato's artwork ranged from impressive to adequate, but was quite strong for the most part. My only difficulty was with two of the three leading characters, of which I was only familiar with favorite Satana. Unfortunately she didn't show up until the last two pages. Further, this isn't the Satana I grew up with, but of course a leaner, meaner, hipper version. Well, we'll see, but I still prefer her with the horns on the sides of her head.

Originally I wasn't going to write much of a review of the spaghetti I watched last night. Then I ended up writing one. Now I'm gonna repeat that...more or less...well, for the second time: less.

The Ruthless Four (1968) d. Giorgio Capitani

Well, by now, I assume you read the title for today's article. So yes, this one had George Hilton in it. I've already mentioned how he's had a history of letting me down in spaghettis. It's not that his acting is so bad as he's just to wide-eyed and smiley to carry the weight of a spaghetti hero. The one time it worked for him was as Franco Nero's drunk brother in Lucio Fulci's Massacre Time. Nor does he have the menace of a spaghetti psycho either, which would be creepy if he had the friendly face but was pure evil. Spaghetti star Giuliano Gemma had a fresh boyish face, but usually had enough cocky arrogant swagger to back it up. To his credit, I can see where Hilton faired well in spaghetti western comedies, a sub-genre I more or less...despise.

The movie did however feature the always prestigious movie psycho action of Klaus Kinski. Capitani makes great and hilarious use of just having Kinski give a blathering Hilton his steely-eyed stare until he shuts up. On one hand, you would think that Kinski just had to be there to be creepy, but I swear I've seen the man over and over again and he always has such intense screen presence. It was alluded to in several reviews I read that Hilton's character and Kinski's were involved in some psycho-sexual relationship. Could be. That's where my primary problem with the movie begins, but first...

The story: Prospector Sam Cooper (Van Heflin) has finally struck gold after years of searching. After dispatching his double-crossing partner, Cooper slogs his way back to the closest town. He decides that his estranged son (Hilton) is the only one he can trust to help him with the gold. The son arrives with a blond gun-toting psycho (Kinski) in tow. After the son insists the gunslinger accomapny them, Cooper enlists the help of Mason (Gilbert Roland), a man who Cooper had been forced to betray to authorities years before. From there it becomes a game of who can trust who, and who'll get the drop on who first.

So back to that problem. The movie simply doesn't have quite enough story to keep the pacing up. By the end, I felt that a lot of the time spent watchig the characters make their way across desert vistas could've been spent building up more story and tension, like the mysterious relationship between Hilton and Kinski. The story starts well enough, and then starts to drag. The middle features a spectacular shootout, but then begins to drag again before the fiery finale. The finale itself is broken up into two climaxes. The second one is a letdown as it suddenly involves characters who we haven't seen since early on in the film.

The best bad@$$ moment comes during the shootout in the middle of the film. Stopping at a burned out mission, our quartet realizes that a band of outlaws lie in wait for them. After pretending not to have seen the bandits (a fun sequence on its own), they move into position and the firing begins. Great camera moves as characters run under a hail of enemy fire. Finally Kinski sneaks up on one outlaw stationed behind a broken down stagecoach. Klaus shoots the man's arm, disarming him and forcing him around. Slowly and sadistcially, Kinski shoots to either side of the man's head making him jump before plugging him between the eyes.

Whoa, that was still more than I intended to write about this. In the end this was a fairly solid but mediocre effort that would have done well to have just a little more development. To be fair, the relationship between Cooper and Mason gets a fair deal of screentime, and Gilbert Roland plays Mason with a sly coolness. Considering the ending (which I won't ruin), it almost would've made more sense to make a movie about these two and/or a movie about Kinski and Hilton. Besides Cooper and Mason, everything else needed at least some help.

So what I was going to do instead of saying much about The Ruthless Four was go over pseudo-spaghetti A Town Called Hell. Ok, you may not guess Martin Landau, but rest assured that a western starring Robert Shaw and Telly Savalas has to be bad@$$. And it is. I call it 'pseudo' because eventually American money, directors, and more stars briefly jumped on the bandwagon just before the spaghetti truly began to wane. Most of these efforts tend to be crap because as usual Americans missed the point. (I get insulted everytime someone calls Hang'em High a spaghetti western. Good theme song. Weak movie.) This one however stands up pretty well.

Call me a tease, but since I've had to write this twice, the one review went on too long, and I just plain don't feel like it....I'm not going to.

This weekend, it'll be all about And God Said to Cain, another spaghetti featuring my buddy Klaus.

Also, I'm hoping my crazy Japanese movies show up. Ahhh, the insanity continues.


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