Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Ammazzali tutti e torna solo / Go Kill Everybody and Come Back Alone

We open with a long essentially dialogue free pre-credits sequence in which six “bandits, killers and thieves” infiltrate a Confederate stronghold using a combination of stealth, strength, skill, acrobatics and technological gimmicks, most notably a kind of dynamite firing gun.

It perhaps plays a bit more like a Gianfranco Parolini / Frank Kramer sequence than an Enzo Castellari one, but otherwise very much sets the scene for what is to follow: lots of action and comparatively little talk; adept utilisation of the widescreen Techniscope frame, with some beautiful foreground / background compositions and uses of the arid Spanish landscapes; a rousing Francesco De Masi score and, above all, a strongly masculine world.

Indeed, throughout the film's 90 odd minute running time we see absolutely no female faces whatsoever, never mind any stock types let alone rounded characters.

Rather, as the closing theme states, the thing that “all men desire” is GOLD

The six:

Clyde MacKay, the group's spokesman, de facto leader and brains.

Deker, “the smart one,” “who can do anything with dynamite – anything unpleasant, that is”

Bogard, “strong enough to break a man in two with his bare hands” and “the kind that doesn't need much of a reason” to do so.

Blade, a half-indian, half-Mexican knife specialist who “likes to cut – people mainly”.

Hoagy, “a strange boy – light fingered, especially with a gun. He'll kill if he has to but then he's sorry afterwards”

Kid, who “moves like a monkey” and has “one virtue – he's a pure killer”

Their mission, accepted by Clyde: to penetrate a Union stronghold and steal one million dollars in gold which is intended for use in purchasing armaments. The treasure is located in a munitions store, intermixed with explosives – one spark or stray bullet and the whole lot will be blown sky-high.

It maybe doesn't make a whole lot of sense if you think about it too much, especially when a first complicating factor, from which the film takes its title, is revealed to Clyde alone: to dispose of any survivors amongst his team, should there be any, and make sure he's the only one who returns.

Why exactly? Why don't the confederates wan't the gold for themselves?

It also gets still more improbable when the team is unexpectedly joined by a would-be seventh member in the form of Lynch, the apparently loyal Confederate counter-espionage agent who first discovered the Union's scene and the location of the gold.

Lynch; note that he is the only one of the three characters to be framed in the mirror

Still, how many other spaghetti westerns featured similarly unstable identities and shifting allegiances and required similar leaps of faith to accept their (il)logics at times?

For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly for two, the latter connection further cemented by the importance of a prisoner-of-war camp to the latter part of the proceedings, not to mention Castellari and writer Tito Carpi's other, obvious Leone tribute, Vado... l'ammazzo e torno – i.e. Go Kill and Come Back – with its Stranger, Mexican bandito and three-way corrida finale.

The most obvious difference between the two treasure hunts lies in their cast. Whereas Go Kill and Come Back features three actors and as such relegates its stuntmen to lesser roles, the balance here shifts somewhat towards the latter group, with Ken Wood / Gianfrano Cianfriglia (the subject of a lengthy and informative interview on the Wild East DVD) and Ottaviano Dell'Acqua playing Blade and the Kid respectively. The acting contingent is headed by the perpetually grinning Chuck Connors, the always impressive Frank Wolff and Franco Citti, whose kill and pray role might be an in-jokish reference to frequent collaborator Pier Paolo Pasolini's casting as a radical priest in Requiescant.

Some examples of Castellari's striking compositions, lensed by the reliable Alejando Ulloa

Though Castellari hadn't at this stage in his career quite developed the full expressive vocabulary he would later employ to such great effect on the likes of Keoma, with more zoom and less slow-motion, his grasp of cinema is nevertheless remarkably assured for someone who was barely 30 at the time.

Well worth a look.

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