The legendary strongman Steve Reeves played his first western in what would prove to be his final screen role thus riding off into the sunset literally at the end of this spaghetti western he also had a hand in adapting from the novel Judas Gun via author Gordon Shirreffs.
While this may have it’s roots in the Italian western craze, it plays very much like a seventies Hollywood oater when the genre had hardened predating movies like Lawman, Chato’s Land or The Hunting Party to name a few. Reeves is the owner of a horse ranch who along with his brother, Giovani Ivan Scratuglia and an old timer, Spartaco Conversi set out to get the horses back and bring the rustlers to justice. In to his camp rides American TV star, Wayde Preston, an old saddle mate who promptly sets up the brothers in an elaborate railway heist for a fortune in gold. He and his gang ride off leaving the old timer dead and Reeves along with his little brother wounded and taking the blame as outlaws abandoned by the others due to their wounds. When a vicious sheriff turns up, he sends them both to the hard labor rock pits of Yuma prison. Considering this is a Steve Reeves picture, the rock quarry will give him a chance to show off that muscular physique he built his name on.
With revenge burning in every Steve Reeves sized muscle, things only get worse when a vicious prison guard, Nello Pazzafini, takes pleasure in torturing the inmates and picks Reeves little brother as his number one target leaving him dead after a violent altercation. It’s enough to send Reeves over the edge leading a mutiny the next day while on quarry duty. Bodies are scattered throughout the rock pit by the time our hero escapes to the nearest town where he finds refuge at the home of ex lover Rosalba Neri (Sarah Bay to us fans of Euro horrors). It’s here that the revenge factor will kick into high gear when Pazzafini turns up and we discover that Neri is the local prostitute servicing the prison guards.
Reeves is going to find himself on the run from both the law, Preston and bounty hunter/spaghetti western favorite Aldo Sambrell. It won’t be long before Reeves turns the tables as he rides a trail of revenge. This is of course going to culminate in a much anticipated showdown with a fortune in gold at stake amidst the double dealings and back shooting hombres that populate this above average Italian oater with a clean shaven Reeves looking nothing like the Hercules character he scored a major hit with worldwide.
I rather enjoyed this western and found it more akin to the American films versus the many Italian westerns that were flooding the market by this time. While the music isn’t that of Morricone it’s a close simulation put together by the credited Carlo Savina. Rapid paced with that haunting whistler mixed in to the music. The violence is typical of the changing genre and was customary in most of the spaghetti product.
Not being familiar with the career of Reeves past his few films, it’s interesting to note that he was only 42 years old for his swan song in the movies. According to the trivia that I’ve read, the only film to feature his real voice is the Ed Wood flick, Jail Bait. I’ll have to check it out sometime to see if his real tone is as deep as these Italian flicks have led me to believe over the years. Aside from a few minutes that disrupt the overall tone of this revenge minded western by a lame attempt at injecting some comedy, it’s well made and recommended for those looking for something beyond the Leone films.
Looking for a copy? I snagged a blu ray release from Code Red. Another nice addition to the vault here at Mike’s Take.