21 January, 2008


Enzo G. Castellari at work on the 1967 Eurowestern VADO, L'AMMAZZO E TORNO


There is no English language release of this film on any home video format as far as I know. If anyone is aware of one, please correct me. And I'm not sure if there was ever an English playoff of this 1967 spy/action/comedy/adventure featuring George Hilton, much more famous for his appearances in late 1960s Italian Westerns (Lucio Fulci's MASSACRE TIME, as Sartana in C'E SARTANA...TRADE YOUR PISTOL FOR A COFFIN, and in early 1970s giallo thrillers, often opposite Edwige Fenech (THE STRANGE VICE OF MRS. WARDH).

This is an ambitiously plotted but obviously rushed production in which Hilton can hold his own amidst chaotically staged action sequences but is not quite as adept at doing numerous double takes in the way too many slapstick comedy routines. I'm not that fond of spy spoofs, unless they are as dry as vermouth (ie Riccardo Freda's Coplan films) and this doesn't quite have that touch. Like some of the lesser Roger Moore Bond titles it tends to get rather silly and then can't quite regain its composure as an action film.

A plane is shot down over a Middle Eastern military dictatorship (the film was lensed in Spain and Morocco) in the opening shot, probably the most impressive stunt in the movie. An American agent (Hilton) emerges from the ocean, stowing away on a cargo ship which pulls into port. Sneaking into the capital city he eventually enables a revolution against the unpopular dictator (Alfonso Rojas), aided by the ruler's progressive-minded underling (Ennio Girolami aka Thomas Moore). It's all pretty standard stuff and the scenes of the revolt are mildly involving. There's a good sequence where Hilton has to lead a break from a work camp, but the rest is a very uneven blend of broad physical comedy and perfunctory action scenes. Hilton can do comedy as he proves in the magnficent MASSACRE TIME, but the slapstick action tends to go on too long here. The film might have been better if it had been played straight thoughout.

Credited to Leon Klimovsky, I have to thank Bertrand Von Wonterghem for sending me issue n. 6 of the Italian publication, CINE 70 in which Hilton is interviewed and reveals that the actual director on this film was Enzo G. Castellari, the brother of Ennio. The prolific veteran Marino Girolami (RAPTUS; ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST), the father of Enzo and Ennio, is listed as production manager. Hilton also appeared in Castellari's much more successful blend of comedy and action VADO, L'AMMAZZO E TORNO (avoid the FORTUNE 5 "GRINDHOUSE EXPERIENCE" fullscreen DVD of this, GO KILL AND COME BACK, which crops all of Castellari's breathtaking 2.35:1 compostions) the same year (a production still of Castellari at work on that Spaghetti Western appears at the top of this blog). It seems that Klimovsky was on set and credited for Spanish co production tax purposes. Hilton says he had a pleasant time on the shoot, but one can understand why it's not better known, although it probably did well in certain European venues. A GHENTAR SI MUORE FACILE is kind of a Eurogenre completest's film.

Spaghetti western singer Don Powell (AND GOD SAID TO CAIN...) performs the theme song which effectively establishes a Eurospy lounge atmosphere. Carlo Savina wrote and conducted the score. Enzo G. Castellari reportedly was the uncredited director of the Anthony Steffen western A FEW DOLLARS FOR DJANGO (1966), another Italian-Spanish coproduction signed by Klimovsky.

Thanks to Matt Blake for the video of this rarely seen title.

(C) Robert Monell, 2008


Anonymous said...

I love George Hilton and this film sounds like something I'd probably really enjoy. It's too bad there is no subtitled version available, but I'd love to see it anyway. thanks for sharing your thoughts on it Robert!

Robert Monell said...

Cinebeats: The Hilton western, shown in the production still, is available in 2.35:1 on the 5 DISC SET: SPAGHETTI WESTERN COLLECTION, which I think you would like.