Monday, 22 December 2008

Il Tempo degli avvoltoi / Time of Vultures / Last of the Badmen

Directed by Nando Cicero, this is one of those spaghetti westerns which deserves to be a lot better known than it would appear to be, with only two comments on the IMDB.

Featuring the winning combination of George Hilton and Frank Wolff, giving one of the best performances of his under-rated, all too brief career, alongside a solid supporting cast including Eduardo Fajardo, John Bartha, Femi Benussi and Pamela Tudior, it's an unusually harsh and cynical tale even by the standards of the genre.

Hilton plays Kitosch, a gun for hire who is caught in bed with his boss Don Fernando's wife Steffy, for which he is punished with a branding. Kitosch escapes the Don's clutches, makes it to the nearest town and asks for protection from the sheriff. Instead, he is arrested and thrown into jail, to be handed over to the Don's men once they arrive.

At this point another outlaw, Wolff's black-clad Joshua Tracy, intervenes. He kills the sheriff and the two outlaws take off and team up. It doesn't take long, however, for Kitosch to realise that his erstwhile rescuer and partner is literally mad, bad and dangerous to know, prone to fits and consumed by a desire for revenge on his ex-wife and her current lover.

It is almost as if the characters of Mortimer and El Indio from Leone's For a Few Dollars More had been fused into the one man - a difficult role, full of contradictions for the performer to embody. The versatile Wolff, equally comfortable in Francesco Rosi's Salvatore Guiliano and Sergio Corbucci's The Great Silence, was one of the few actors fully capable of tackling the role.

Under these circumstances, everyone else's contributions, while perfectly adequate and to type - Fajardo is the villainous Don, Bartha the sheriff etc. - are overshadowed somewhat. Nevertheless, the film is always watchable, with plenty of action and twists in the tale to keep things interesting even when Wolff isn't on screen.

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