Thursday, 21 May 2020

A Woman for Ringo (Dos Pistolas Gemelas)

Dir: Rafael Romero Marchent


During the second half of the 1960s the western had become so popular in European cinema that producers in Italy and Spain were falling over themselves to make more. For those of us who love them this meant that a plethora of titles playing along the lines set out by Sergio Leone would be produced; enough to keep us happy to this very day. Films full of grit and passion, blood and vengeance, anti-heroes and bandits, coveted gold and random acts of violence. All played out to rousing, super-cool musical soundtracks. In short, everything we wanted then and still love today in our cinematic western fantasy worlds. But it also meant that every popular European performer during these years would almost inevitably be dropped into the western genre at some point if their ambitions lay in a film career. Singers, dancers and comedians all wound up plonked on a horse and let loose in Almeria or Elios Studios' western town whether they belonged there or not. In Italy a prime example of this was Rita Pavone making Little Rita of the West. In Spain we got Dos Pistolas Gemelas with Pilar and Emilia Bayona.

Pili y Mili, as they were known professionally, were a product of the "NiƱos Prodigios" tradition of Spanish popular culture. Child stars who enjoyed wide popularity for their singing and dancing on television, records and in films. The Bayona sisters had the advantage of being slightly older than some when they broke through (their first film was made in 1963 when they were 16) as well as the added gimmick of their being identical twins. As a result, their films tended to be assorted variations on the "Parent Trap" scenario where two identical sisters fool various folk around them in order to achieve their, usually romantic, goals. Dos Pistolas Gemelas, their fourth film, falls into this category smoothly while also utilising the tried and trusted western narrative of an evil land-grabber trying to force them off their land.

I start this review with all this context because it strikes me that without it the job of analysing or assessing the film fairly is impossible. Looked at strictly as a Spaghetti (or possibly Paella) Western it is tame and unimaginative. If you're looking for a film with all the attributes I listed in the opening paragraph you will be sorely disappointed here. True, there are a couple of familiar Spaghetti faces on show, Luis Induni as the Sheriff being an obvious case in point. It is also largely shot in Almeria and uses Carlo Simi's western town from For a Few Dollars More so the locations are spot on. But gritty it is not. The story and characters are traditional. As is the music largely. The opening credits even seem to lift the theme directly from Alfred Newman's How the West Was Won. Not sure how they got away with that. The romantic leads are clean-cut, the girls are pure and pretty and the outcome is all a bit predictable from the start.

But surely if we judge it strictly as a Spaghetti Western we are missing the point. This is designed to be family entertainment and showcase the talents and attractions of its lead female stars to its target audience. A target audience different to that which enjoyed Django and the like. On those terms, it's actually quite enjoyable and manages to mix its romance and musical interludes pretty seamlessly into the western narrative without diluting it too badly or descending into the sort of slapstick humour that marred so many of the latter entries of the genre post Trinity. Sure there's an unnecessary bar room brawl but that is mainly included to set up the girls' quite impressive can-can routine. And as the story heats up the action scenes in the final quarter are pretty good.

What really intrigues me is what the Italian audience made of the film on its initial release as the title used there was Una Donna per Ringo (A Woman for Ringo) and, as we've seen, the film centres around two women, not one. Moreover, just for good measure, there's no one called Ringo either and although Sean Flynn is billed as the star he is strictly a supporting player in reality, acting as the love interest of one of the girls. Of course, throwing in a Ringo or Django into a title willy-nilly was nothing new in those times and Sean Flynn may have been better known in Italy due to his father, Errol but the title and accompanying poster is misleading in the extreme.

As a result, I much prefer to use the Spanish title which translates as Two Twin Pistols and fits the film much better.

When all is said and done this is not a film that will wind up in any Spaghetti Western fan's Top 100 let alone Top 20 but it achieves pretty well what it sets out to do. It clips along well enough, tells a decent if somewhat predictable story and lets its stars shine to their best advantage. The Bayona twins are genuinely likeable and the whole thing is surprisingly entertaining even for this old cynic. There are a couple of scenes which don't sit so well, the spanking nonsense being primary among these but I can forgive it these brief failings. It's directed well if unimaginatively by Rafael Romero Marchent which is less than you'd expect from the prolific Spanish helmsman who went on to give such films in the genre as Garringo, Awkward Hands and One Against One...No Mercy.

There is an Italian DVD release of which you can find details at the Spaghetti Western Database here but the version I saw was a Spanish TV broadcast with fansubs.

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