The Tramplers Directed by Albert Band. 97 minutes. 1965. Widescreen (1.85:1 anamorphic). Wild East, USA. Format: NTSC Region 0.
Lon Cordeen (Gordon Scott) returns home from the Civil War and is shocked to discover that his Southern hometown is a site of much conflict. Lon’s father, Temple Cordeen (Joseph Cotten), simply cannot accept that the Confederates have lost the war. Temple rules the locality with an iron fist and he’s not above lynching any Northerners who come to town with news of emancipation for his slaves. Furthermore, he’s using his gang of extended family members to forcibly grab any local land that takes his fancy. When Lon and his brother Hoby (James Mitchum) defy Temple and embark on a cattle drive venture with Charley Garvey (Franco Nero), the scene is set for a savagely fought family feud.
Based on an American source story, ‘Guns of North Texas’ by Will Cook, this show’s larger narrative arc contains elements that aren’t often found in Spaghetti Westerns. Certainly the focus on the ins and outs of family life in the post-Civil War South and the cattle drive that Lon and Hoby undertake serve to distinguish this show from most other Italian Westerns. The cattle drive in particular plays an important narrative function here. Lon and Hoby’s mother wants the two boys to leave the family home before they become as bitter and hate-filled as their father and other brothers. At the same time, Temple wants Lon and Hoby to prove their loyalty by killing Charley Garvey, a local settler who is courting their sister Bess (Emma Valloni).
Choosing the most peaceful option, Lon, Hoby, Charley and Bess take their cattle on a drive North and some really quite epic-looking scenes involving lots of animal wrangling follow. Most of the cattle drive footage was filmed in Argentina but this location footage is expertly integrated into the main feature in a fairly seamless manner. The disloyalty shown by Lon, Hoby, Bess and (before long) a further Cordeen sister, Alice (Muriel Franklin), soon drives Temple to distraction and he orders assassins to seek out and punish his children. This results in some pretty good action scenes. However, director Albert Band saves his best action scene for the show’s finale. A subplot has the daughter (Ilaria Occhini) of a Northerner that Temple lynched returning to town on a revenge mission. Her actions result in an impressively action-packed running shoot out that sees Lon and Hoby taking on Temple, their other brothers and their extended family in a fight to the death.
This unusual but well-paced and compelling little show is quite thoughtfully plotted and well-acted for the most part. Joseph Cotten is convincing as the fanatical Confederate Temple Cordeen and the lynching of a Northerner that he oversees at the start of the film makes for a pretty disturbing scene. Gordon Scott is quite commanding as Lon and James Mitchum really impresses as Hoby. Hoby is the youngest of several Cordeen brothers and Mitchum does a great job of telegraphing how a series of bitter experiences result in Hoby undergoing a personal transformation: he starts the show as a good-natured individual and ends it as a grizzled gunfighter. Franco Nero gets to play a character who is more of an idealistic lover than a cynical fighter here. There’s an obviously “psychological” aspect attached to some of the characters’ motivations and actions here and this serves to link the film to some of the more mature US Westerns from the 1950s but the brutality found in the show’s action scenes is unmistakably that of the nascent Spaghetti Western genre. Ultimately, this mix of approaches makes for an interesting film.
Picture quality here falls between very good and excellent and the presentation’s sound quality is excellent too. The show’s effective and at times quite unusual soundtrack score (composer A. F. Lavagnino employs un-generic sounding keyboards on a number of occasions) comes through loud and clear.
Extras: a really extensive image gallery and two trailers.
© 2014 copyright Lee Broughton.