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A Bullet For Sandoval (1969)

Joining the exodus to Italy along with Eastwood and company is Ernest Borgnine for this typically violent tale done spaghetti style.

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Western regular George Hilton rides trail in the lead role. He’s currently fighting against the Union Army and on the eve of a great battle deserts his post to hurry home and see the woman he loves before her eventual death due to complications in child birth. She is the daughter of Don Pedro. Ernest Borgnine to you and me. The child is born illegitimate and Ernie wants nothing to do with Hilton or the child whom he has placed in Hilton’s arms and shows them the door.

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Hilton along with two compadres finds no help as they journey south into Mexico. Repeatedly turned away and given no food or milk the baby dies. Hilton vows revenge on those who turned him away and wants nothing more than to kill Borgnine. And so another tale of violence and revenge is born.

With shades of Robin Hood, Hilton encounters a friar tuck like character and in true Sherwood Forest fashion they tangle over a leg of chicken as opposed to mutton and quickly become fast friends. Hilton then recruits a murderous gang thereby giving the viewer no one to actually cheer for. Hilton and his gang turn into carpetbaggers who murder and pillage what they want as they move towards a showdown with Borgnine and his family.

Ernie thankfully wasn’t dubbed in the edition I located which wasn’t of the best quality but it’ll do in my quest to see most of Ernie’s film roles. Hopefully like Ernie I’ll live well into my nineties as I may need that long to track down his many titles.

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While the film originally sets up Borgnine as the film’s villain, the script does no favors to Hilton presenting him as a vengeful hero gone bad. In the end I wasn’t sure who to root for when the climatic fight between our two protagonists finally comes to fruition. It’s a rather nasty demise for the loser.

It’s a gritty looking tale from director Julio Buchs which in truth was a common characteristic of the Italian western. Borgnine plays a “Don” though he still looks and talks like the Ernie we all know and love. This time out he’s giving us the mean and nasty version of his dual screen persona. No Marty like character this time though there is a scene written in here to humanize him somewhat from a strictly hateful land baron.

Leading man Hilton has had a long career appearing in genre pictures of both the western and giallo variety among others. He would eventually see his output slow down towards the end of the 90’s though he has turned up occasionally since the turn of the century in some Italian productions.

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It would appear that this was the only outright Spaghetti western of Borgnine’s career though he worked with folks like Terence Hill in Super Fuzz and a boxing flick opposite Robert Blake. Both of which were Italian co-productions.

Far from Ernie’s best but nice to see him play rattle snake mean every now and then. Since I hadn’t yet seen this one it offered a new take from lovable Ernie and his violent side.

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