Saturday, March 31, 2012

Lee Brougthon DVD Review


DVD Review by Lee Broughton

Peter Lee Lawrence Double Feature.  Wild East, USA.  Format: NTSC Region 0.

This addition to Wild East’s ongoing Spaghetti Western Collection series serves as a tribute to the German actor Peter Lee Lawrence.  Something of a genre stalwart, Lawrence (AKA Karl Hirenbach) starred in over fifteen Euro Westerns before his untimely death in 1974.  Few of Lawrence’s films have made it to DVD to date, so this release will be warmly welcomed by genre fans.  Both titles are revenge-driven tales that involve their lead characters operating in an undercover capacity.  Leon Klimovsky’s Hands Up Dead Man! You’re Under Arrest possesses a somewhat spoofy vibe but Rafael Romero Marchent’s Revenge of the Resurrected is played completely straight.

Hands Up Dead Man! You’re Under Arrest Widescreen (1.85:1).  Directed by Leon Klimovsky.  92 minutes.  1971.

Towards the end of the Civil War, two Rebs called Kid Johnson (Peter Lee Lawrence) and Brown (Franco Agostini) are lucky to escape with their lives when a victorious Union officer, Grayson (Aldo Sambrel), suddenly starts executing his wounded Confederate prisoners.  Years later, Grayson is a ruthless businessman who is using brutal tactics to force a community of settlers off of their land.  Kid Johnson is now a Ranger and he teams up with Brown (who is now a padre) and a mysterious fellow Ranger called Dollar (Espartaco Santoni) in an attempt to bring Grayson to justice.

Cult horror auteur Leon Klimovsky displays a remarkably steady hand here.  But while this obscure genre entry is a stylish and competently assembled show, the tone of its narrative content and action set pieces remains quite uneven.  Things start out gritty, brutal and deadly serious with the Civil War-set intro, which probably ranks as one of the most disturbing sequences ever to appear in a Spaghetti Western: Aldo Sambrel is on top form as the murderous Grayson and it’s a big relief when a hand wound brings an end to his extermination tactics.  Unfortunately, when the film’s narrative moves into the post-Civil War era, Klimovsky begins to adopt an increasingly tongue in cheek and spoofy approach. The show's early gunfights employ a selection of wild canted shots and comic strip-style editing that brings to mind the action scenes found in the Batman TV series. However, the film’s final gun battle, which sees Kid Johnson, Dollar and Padre Brown taking on Grayson’s gang of bad guys, is mostly played for fairly silly laughs.

The acting here is decent enough and Sambrel in particular excels as the despicable land-grabber Grayson.  Some genre fans feel that Peter Lee Lawrence was something of a wooden performer but I’ve never got that impression from the few Lawrence films that I’ve come across.  He turns in a good performance here but when Kid Johnson goes undercover as a perfume salesman (!), his previously angry desire for revenge and justice is replaced with a cocksure smugness that makes his character a little less appealing.  Espartaco Santoni's mysterious Ranger character comes on like Oded Fehr's Ardeth Bay from Stephen Sommers’ Mummy films much of the time.  Fans of Euro cult cinema will enjoy Luis Barboo's turn as a villain who is apprehended by Kid Johnson and Helga Line's sizeable role as Grayson’s game squeeze Maybelle.   Alessandro Alessandroni turns in a fairly likeable selection of cues that mostly veer towards breezy and comedic take-offs of typically generic musical themes. Picture quality here is near enough excellent: the image is sharp and the show’s colours are particularly vibrant. The presentation’s sound quality is very good too.

Extras:  Italian trailer, Spanish front credits sequence and an image gallery.

Revenge of the Resurrected  Widescreen (1.85:1).  Directed by Rafael Romero Marchent.  90 minutes.  1972.

Sharp-shooting Danny O’Hara (Peter Lee Lawrence) is also a talented artist and his father (Luis Induni) convinces him to try his luck professionally in St. Louis. Alas, bandits attack the stagecoach that the pair are travelling on and old man O’Hara is needlessly slaughtered along with the rest of the passengers.  Having only seen the villains from behind (and from a distance), Danny can only identify them via their distinctive fashion and firearm accessories.  Seeking help in the next town he comes to, Danny is alarmed to discover that sheriff Sullivan (Andres Mejuto) is one of the bandits.  After making friends with the sheriff’s daughter Janet (Orchidea De Santis) and taking a job with the local blacksmith, Porter (Raf Baldassarre), Danny devises an ingenious plan to flush the bad guys out.

Revenge of the Resurrected is a really obscure genre entry that takes much of its initial inspiration from Giulio Petroni’s classic Death Rides a Horse.  In a fairly well executed early scene, Danny is thrown from the stagecoach that he is trying to defend from bandits.  When he finally catches up with the stagecoach -- minus his gun -- he’s just in time to see the passengers being brutally executed.  He can’t see the villains’ faces but he does spot distinctive elements of personal clothing, etc, (spurs, hatband, gun holster, gun handle and boots) that he can use to identify them at a later time.  It’s revealed early on that the sheriff is one of the gang when Danny spots a distinctive set of spurs hanging on his office wall.  However, by employing inventive camera angles, imaginative blocking and commanding point-of-view shots, director Rafael Romero Marchent and cinematographer Mario Capriotti manage to detail the nefarious activities of the remaining villains without revealing their identities. This allows Marchent to generate a suitably paranoid and enigma-laden atmosphere which gives the show an impressively disorientating and almost giallo thriller-like feel.

Needless to say, there are red herrings aplenty here.  And the ensuing confusion allows the gang to attempt further violent robberies at a nearby town and a nearby fort as well as actively pursuing a number of other murderous endeavors.  Whenever a crime is committed, Danny tries to stir things up by secretly placing "wanted" posters around town that accuse prominent local citizens of being gang members.  He signs these posters as being from "the Resurrected" but it doesn’t take the gang members long to deduce that Danny is responsible for them and he is soon fighting off a number of assassination attempts.  Revenge of the Resurrected is a fairly low budget affair but Marchent makes the best of his limited resources and the film’s narrative content is just different enough to allow the show to stand out from the crowd.  Peter Lee Lawrence works fine here as Danny O’Hara and the rest of the cast perform well enough too.  Sergio Leone regulars Frank Brana and Lorenzo Robledo and genre stalwarts Raf Baldassarre and Carlos Romero Marchent all have fairly prominent roles here.  Genre stalwart Nora Orlandi’s rousing music underscores the show’s many action scenes to good effect. The picture quality here is perfectly serviceable but there are odd outbreaks of small scratches and flecks present throughout the show and the quality of the film’s colour fluctuates a tad.  The show’s sound quality is pretty good for the most part. 

Extras: trailers for four Peter Lee Lawrence Spaghetti Westerns and an image gallery.

© 2012 Copyright Lee Broughton.

More detailed reviews of these two titles can be found here:

 http://www.dvdtalk.com/dvdsavant/s3847lee.html 
  

3 comments:

  1. El oliventino Andrés Mejuto

    ReplyDelete
  2. La tugliese Orquídea de Santis

    ReplyDelete