Sunday, 18 May 2008

Arizona Colt

Dir: Michele Lupo


1966



Giuliano Gemma created a very successful career for himself during the mid sixties making a series of westerns that showcased his matinee idol looks, athleticism and ability to be gritty and ironic at the same time. These films succeeded, like no others, in marrying action and violence with a certain romanticism and dry humour and Gemma must take the lion's share of the credit as to why these films worked so well. Arizona Colt is one of his best.


Gordo Watch (Fernando Sancho), a bandit Chief in need of new recruits, attacks the local jail and carries off the inmates to his desert hide out. There they are given the choice of being branded (literally) into the gang or die. Arizona Colt, one of the freed men, outwits Gordo and escapes, telling the blustering outlaw he will "think about that". This becomes his catch phrase throughout as he weighs up each situation before exploiting it to his own advantage. On meeting Gordo's right hand man (Nello Pazzafini) on the stage into town, Colt stays quiet, even though he guesses that the town's bank is under threat. What he doesn't expect is that the popular saloon keeper's daughter, Dolores, (Rosalba Neri) will be murdered and that he would come under suspicion. However, once the bank has been robbed he offers Dolores' father a deal. He will bring back Dolores' killer for $500 as long as his other daughter, Jane, (Corrine Merchand) is handed over to him. Filled with a thirst for vengeance, Jane agrees, but when the killer is brought back with the help of the repenting drunken bandit, Whiskey, (Roberto Camardiel) the father (Andrea Bosic) understandably refuses to hand over his surviving daughter. The matter is resolved when Gordo comes back to town searching for his gold which Whiskey has secretly taken with him and Arizona squares off against the evil bandit leader.


A brief glance at this synopsis tells you one thing very quickly. Arizona Colt is far from being a hero in the traditional sense. He starts the film in jail, he soon declares himself a bounty killer by trade, he shows little or no regard for the general welfare of anyone but himself and even stoops as low as demanding a berieved man hands over his one remaining daughter in a trade for vengeance, making it quite clear that he doesn't mean to take the girl for the purpose of marriage. This is not the same avenging hero of Return of Ringo, or even the impressionable stray from Day of Anger. This character is harder edged and darker in tone and it is the dichotomy between his ruthless, mercenary actions and his clean cut good looks with kindly smile that creates a really interesting core to the film.


What is also obvious from a brief glance at the above synopsis is that this picture has a Spaghetti cast to die for. Fernando Sancho, Rosalba Neri, Roberto Camardiel, Nello Pazzafini, Andrea Bosic and, of course, Gemma himself; this lot line up like some kind of Eurowestern super group. But it doesn't even stop there. In the shadows you also find some of our favourite genre 'uglies'. Perenial bad guy Jose Manuel Martin is here and so is Jose Terron; a face once seen and never forgotten. The bottom line is that with all these gems on show this film would have to work very hard to disappoint and in Michele Lupo's capable, if not overly inspired hands, the result is all you could hope for. With everyone playing their part in a first rate package.


But first among equals here is most definitely Giuliano Gemma. It is easy to allow his boyish good looks to overshadow the fact that he was a very capable actor in these types of films. As I mentioned before, his ability to blend action hero, romantic lead and ruthless gunslinger into one role while simultaneously injecting a wry, ironic comic element with seemingly effortless flair is a skill unmatched by any other spaghetti actor outside of Clint Eastwood himself. And as such it is no surprise that he was such a popular actor in Italy during this period. In fact, in terms of box office success in westerns in his homeland Gemma outperformed every other single actor in the genre. His films consistantly made money throughout the cycle and, in Arizona Colt, it is easy to see why. All his strengths are on show, from acrobatic physical agility to comedic timing to gritty dramatic presence; Gemma exhibits it all here and it is hard not to be impressed.


Credit must also go to Michele Lupo of course, not just for his fine direction but also his contribution to an excellent script. The camera work of Francisco Marin and Guglielmo Mancori is also worthy of merit and the music score from Francesco De Masi is excellent.


All round then this is a top notch spaghetti made by a fantastic array of talent who all punch their weight. There are certain similarities here to the Ringo films (especially A Pistol for Ringo) but as mentioned before this one has a decidedly darker edge to it without ever being overly sombre. What's more is that it is readily available on DVD in a number of editions, although usually under it's U.S title 'The Man From Nowhere'.


Definitely not to be missed.

2 comments:

JD Ryan said...

Great review, Phil. I liked Arizona Colt, as well (although I can't say the same about the sequel with Steffen).

You really nailed it with Gemma...he's not necessarily a moral person in this film.. but his boyish looks and demeanor make it truly unusual and entertaining, as well.

Even the Gemma films that aren't that good, such as Wanted and For a Roof, A Sky Full of Stars, always turn out to be very watchable, in no small part due to his talent and presence (although I have yet to watch "Tex Willer and the Lord of the Deep", so we'll see if that still holds true).

Son of Django said...

I haven't watched Tex Willer yet either. So maybe I should speak too soon. Ha ha