Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Hate Thy Neighbor, and Bury Them Deep

In my previous review of Hannie Caulder, I once again touched on my love affair with the Spaghetti Western (I still can't bring myself to say the more PC Euro-western), and how their success led Hollywood to try and embrace the stylings of these European productions.  I still haven't seen an American Western that matched or outdid Spaghettis at being Spaghettis (and QT's Django Unchained has yet to be released...and looks to deal more with the Blaxploitation/Spagetti crossovers that were made toward the end of the Euro-western cycle (I did it!)), but at the same time, there are many Spaghettis that fail, for me, because of their attempt to match American Westerns.  The more operatic and mythic they get, the better they tend to be.  The more traditional they get, the more you start noticing the gaping plot holes and wander about all the pointless and drawn out fistfights.

That said, I sat down for a Spaghetti Double Feature.

Hate Thy Neighbor (Odia il promissimo tuo, 1968) d. Ferdinando Baldi:

After his brother is killed over a stolen treasure map, Ken Dakota and the local coffin-maker head into Mexico in search of the outlaw Gary Stevens, but Stevens is also mixed up in multiple double-crosses over the map with sadistic landowner Chris Malone.

Bury Them Deep (All'ultimo sangue, 1968) d. Paolo Moffa:

Gunslinger Clive Norton is hired by the U.S. Army to track down outlaw Billy 'The Gun' who's stolen a shipment of gold. So Norton takes along another outlaw, El Chaleco,  and the two men track down Billy while dodging a gang of Mexican bandits who also hunt the stolen gold.

I can sum up my reviews of both films by merely saying: I had fun watching them, but no, they didn't crack any of my "Top..." lists in any respect.  Both were fairly mediocre examples of the genre, and most of the talent involved had been involved with better Spaghettis.  That's a part of the problem: the greats were the ones that became most easily available as DVD began to pick up titles, and having seen most of those, you could say I'm working my way down the ladder.  A few times I've dipped into the dregs, but these certainly didn't warrant that description either.

Now Hate suffers from what I mentioned above, in that it seems to be going for a more traditional American Western feel.  The ubiquitous Euro-movie bad guy George Eastman's outlaw character is saddled with the hilariously non-bad guy name of "Gary Stevens".  The opening of the movie is actually quite good as a man runs through the town looking for help or shelter from the pursuing outlaws, but being chased by "Gary Stevens"sounds more like a bully problem at recess in the third grade.  This is unfortunate, as Eastman and his German counterpart for ubiquitous Euro-movie bad guy, Horst Frank, who also has a mediocre baddy name, are the most fun things about the movie.  And director Baldi did far better work with the kooky flick Blindman (1971, which featured Ringo Starr as a Mexican Bandit!) or the somber Forgotten Pistolero (Il pistolero dell'Ave Maria, 1969).

Bury Them Deep, on the other hand, has a far more Spaghetti feel, but lacks both compelling (in the Spaghetti sense) heroes or villains.  None of the actors are bad, per se, but neither can they compete with Van Cleef or Garko or Gian Maria Volonté.  Hill was much better in Tonino Valerii's Taste for Killing (Per il gusto di uccidere, 1966).  In all, a fairly by the numbers affair, which if you've seen enough Spaghettis (or movies in general), you see where the twists are coming while they're still way out on the horizon...and they make about as much sense half the time as you expect them to. (Also, like many Spaghettis, it features the "Bank of El Paso" set from For a Few Dollars More in an early heist scene.)

Now, since I brought up this American v. Euro-western (that's twice!) comparison, I should mention that both of these films had the one aspect that tend to make most Spaghettis fun: bizarre and creative death/torture scenes.  Hate featured the novelty having characters square off in a provincial gladiator style with iron-hooked gauntlets with wicker shields, and at one point Horst has Eastman hung upside down over a snakepit while above him, rats in a cage gnaw at the honey-covered rope.  Bury had the leads first tied to stakes in the sun while (obviously non-venomous) snakes started coming at them, and then later, the far more creative torture of having them tied to nooses from the same rope while balancing on a tossed together seesaw.

And to think, people only assume that modern movies could give people wacky ideas.