Sunday, July 17, 2011

Lee Broughton's DVD Reviews

DVD Review by Lee Broughton

George Hilton Double Feature
Wild East, USA. Format: NTSC Region 0.

Full House For the Devil
Widescreen (2.35:1). Directed by Giovanni Fago. 89 minutes. 1968.

A ruthless land-grabber, Ernest Ward (Gerard Herter), wants Pastor Steve McGregor's (Pietro Tordi) farm but the old man refuses to sell. Ernest's enforcer brothers, George (Paul Muller) and Herman (Aldo Cecconi), find it difficult to intimidate McGregor because sharp-shooting Johnny King (George Hilton) acts as the Pastor's protector. However, Johnny is forced to go on the run when Ernest frames him for a murder that he didn't commit and he winds up spending time with an outlaw gang that is led by Meredith (Paolo Gozlino). When Johnny returns home he finds that McGregor has been killed and he immediately sets out to avenge his old friend's death.

Full House For the Devil is a good little film once it gets going. The first twenty minutes or so are full of slapstick nonsense and silly situations that arise largely due to Johnny's habit of romancing other men's women. However, as soon as Johnny skips town the tone of the show gets serious and director Giovanni Fago presents a string of gritty and well executed action scenes that are linked by some quite novel plot twists. The show features some quite pleasing gimmicks and gadgetry that wouldn't be out of place in one of Gianfranco Parolini's Sabata films and there are also some good moments of suspense and tension present here too. When Meredith and his men become determined to pull a bank job, Johnny devises a plan that should result in a violence free heist. However, the plan is sabotaged by one of Meredith's men and Johnny finds himself in extreme danger. Similarly, further complications arise towards the end of the film when it transpires that Ernest Ward has contracted Meredith and his men to kill Johnny.

This film gets points for its well drawn characters. Ernest Ward is another one of Gerard Herter's aristocratic but murderously eccentric and firearms-obsessed bad guys. The film's opening scene features Ward using peons with water melons strapped to their heads for target practice. George and Herman make for somewhat incompetent but still quite dangerous henchmen. Meredith is an outlaw with a sense of fair play and he's kind of cast in the same mould as Cheyenne from Once Upon a Time in the West. Fan favourite Claudie Lange plays Liz, a downtrodden woman who Johnny rescues from an abusive member of Meredith's gang. Johnny King is a fairly typical George Hilton character who is distinguished by his fairly moral outlook and his penchant for quoting from the Bible. Picture quality here is good by and large though some scenes have a slightly dark hue about them and some scenes sport slightly faded colours. The show's sound quality is very good. The film's catchy title song sounds like a Merseybeat group were asked to write and perform an introspective ballad for an Italian Western soundtrack. Given the film's obscurity, this is a decent enough presentation.

Extras: image gallery

The Moment to Kill Widescreen (1.85:1). Directed by Giuliano Carnimeo. 89 minutes. 1968.

Two sharp-shooting gunmen, Lord (George Hilton) and Bull (Walter Barnes), arrive in town looking for their old pal Judge Warren (Rudolf Schundler) who has mysteriously disappeared. When they eventually find him, the Judge reveals that his life is in danger because he knows that $500,000 worth of Confederate gold was hidden somewhere in town by one Colonel Forrester. Bull and Lord agree to search for the gold but in order to find it the duo must first work out the meaning of Colonel Forrester's last words: 'Camelot' and 'Regina'. They know that Regina (Loni von Friedl) is the Colonel's daughter. She was sent away to a convalescent hospital several years earlier but she is now reported to be on her way home. However, Colonel Forrester's villainous brother (Carlo Alighiero) and his psychotic son Jason (Horst Frank) know what Lord and Bull are up to and they're determined to get to the gold first.

Extremely ropey home video presentations of The Moment to Kill meant that the film often didn't get the positive appraisals that it deserved during the days of VHS video. Which is a shame because the film is actually a pretty good genre entry that compares well to Giuliano Carnimeo's best work. Some reviewers choose to link this show to the Trinity films by virtue of the fact that Lord is slender and agile (like Terence Hill's Trinity) while Bull is a hulking man-mountain (like Bud Spencer's Bambino). However, the physiques of their leading characters is really all that these films have in common. The Moment to Kill sports a mystery-driven narrative, deliriously gold-hungry villains, a decidedly gothic ambience and a number of outrageous but fun plot twists. As such, the film's narrative actually has more in common with the kind of story lines that are typically found in Carnimeo's Sartana films and Gianfranco Parolini's Sabata series. As if to underscore this link, The Moment to Kill features an abundance of the kind of stylishly shot, gimmick-laden and comic strip-like action scenes that served to distinguish both the Sartana and the Sabata films.

The quality of the acting in this show is very good. Jason Forrester is another one of Horst Frank's demented bad guys and Frank turns in a really entertaining performance here. Lord is another fairly typical George Hilton character and Walter Barnes hits the mark as his heavy-handed but sympathetic sidekick. Carnimeo generates some good suspense towards the film's end when it looks as though one particularly vicious bad guy has got the better of Bull. The show features a really neat twist ending that plays like something from one of Parolini's Sabata flicks and it is well worth sticking around for. It seems that good source elements for this show are still hard to come by. This release uses a master that effectively zooms the film's original 2.35:1 aspect ratio to a less wide 1.85:1. That said, the zoom effect is not particularly intrusive or noticeable. Generally speaking the picture quality here is a little soft and the show's colours are a tad over-saturated at times. The film's sound quality is good - Francesco De Masi's interesting soundtrack score comes through loud and clear. All in all this remains a watchable presentation that should go some way towards restoring this inventive, smart looking and thoroughly entertaining film's reputation.

Extras: image gallery and six George Hilton trailers.

© 2011 Copyright Lee Broughton.

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