Monday, March 24, 2014

DVD Review Wild East Killer Double Feature

A Killer Double Feature Wild East, USA. Widescreen (2.35:1). Format: NTSC Region 0.
This addition to Wild East's ongoing 'Spaghetti Western Collection' is the company’s second Peter Lee Lawrence double bill. Something of a genre stalwart, Lawrence (AKA Karl Hirenbach) starred in over fifteen Euro Westerns before his untimely death in 1974. Relatively few of Lawrence's films have made it to DVD thus far, so this release will be warmly welcomed by genre fans.
Killer Calibre 32 Directed by Alfonso Brescia. 91 minutes. 1967.
A stage coach is held up by a gang of masked men who somehow know that the coach has a secret compartment in its floor that contains a large consignment of money. When the passengers momentarily catch sight of the villains’ leader’s face, every last one of them is cut down in a hail of bullets. A local town elder, Averel (Andrea Bosic), is keen to catch the robbers and he employs a sharp-shooting gun for hire, Silver (Peter Lee Lawrence), to head the investigation. Silver is more used to taking on the contract killings of malicious landowners and rowdy troublemakers and Averel becomes frustrated by the gunman's slow progress on the case. When Silver takes on an assistant, Spot (Alberto Dell’Acqua), he discovers that the villains’ leader has managed to hide his true identity from most of his own men and it seems that some of them are intent on flushing him out themselves so that the proceeds of their robberies can at last be divided up. As such, these crooks are keen to know just how much Silver has discovered too. Silver really starts to feel the heat when he puts it around that he’s got a couple of suspects in mind.
This is a fairly low budget show but it remains entertaining enough. Indeed, over the years fans of Peter Lee Lawrence have effectively bestowed cult film status upon this particular genre entry. You will have to judge for yourself whether they are justified in doing so. In some ways, 'Killer Calibre .32' is a similar show to Lawrence’s 'Revenge of the Resurrected’ (also available from Wild East). Both films are built around an almost giallo-esque or murder mystery-like premise: here the identity of the chief villain is presumed to be unknown to virtually everyone and whenever somebody is found who might be able to offer a clue or some small scrap of information they somehow wind up dead before they can talk. For instance, it seems at one point that a distinctive tune that is whistled by both one of the masked villains and a local gambler will lead to a major breakthrough but a tense poker game and a fatal gunfight shuts down that particular line of enquiry for Silver. Certainly a decent amount of tension and suspense is generated when it becomes clear that Silver cannot trust anybody in town: the sheriff has Silver placed under observation for some reason, would be assassins are mysteriously assassinated themselves and even Spot appears to be untrustworthy at times.
While this isn’t a bad little film, its tone is a bit uneven in places. Despite being shot in a fairly pedestrian manner by director Alfonso Brescia, the opening scene which shows Silver executing a cruel landowner who has been mistreating his Mexican workers is pretty grim in tone. The same goes for the scene in which the stagecoach passengers are massacred. By contrast, there are a couple of comedic and cartoon-like interludes that grate a little. One such interlude features an overlong brawl in a saloon wherein Nello Pazzafini is seen throwing punches that lift people right off of their feet. The show’s front titles (which feature some great rotoscope animation a la 'A Fistful of Dollars') and the music that accompanies them are both very good but the remainder of the film’s music cues (bar one or two that are borrowed from other better-known genre entries) are nothing to get excited about. In addition to Lawrence, Bosic, Pazzafini and Dell’Acqua, 'Killer Calibre 32' features appearances from a number of other familiar faces that include Mirko Ellis, John Bartha and Max Dean. Picture quality here is just short of excellent (there’s just an odd bit of minor print damage here and there) and the presentation’s sound quality is excellent too bar a couple of sequences where a slight reverb effect is heard on some of the dialogue.
Extras: Image gallery and trailer.
Killer Adios Directed by Primo Zeglio. 96 minutes. 1968.
Jesse Bryan (Peter Lee Lawrence) reluctantly returns to the town that he was once banished from. It seems that Jesse had killed a man who was robbing the bank but his hot-headed actions meant that the dead man’s accomplices could never be traced. Jesse has since made a good name for himself working as a deputy in Dodge City and a local landowner, Bill Bragg (Armando Calvo), has asked him to come home and enter himself in the town’s upcoming election for the post of sheriff. Bragg is worried that his rival, a fellow landowner called Ringold (Eduardo Fajardo), is about to rig the election and have one of his own men take the sheriff’s job. There’s a lot at stake in the locality because land prices are rising fast due to the discovery of water nearby. The situation is further complicated by the fact that Jesse’s old flame, Fanny (Rosalba Neri), is now hooked up with one of Ringold’s thugs, Bradshaw (Nello Pazzafini), but Jesse has more pressing things to worry about: key players in town are being assassinated amidst a series of mysterious shootings.
Much like 'Killer Calibre 32', 'Killer Adios' is a fairly low budget but entertaining enough genre entry. Indeed, the two films have a fair amount in common at a narrative level. 'Killer Adios' is another giallo-esque or murder mystery-like show which essentially finds Jesse struggling to work out who is responsible for a series of sneaky assassinations. Most of these killings are done using a distinctive rifle that is known to belong to Bradshaw but it soon becomes apparent that somebody is simply trying to set up the hot-headed brawler. But who and why is not immediately clear and Jesse’s investigations follow all manner of strange twists and turns thanks to a number of clever red herrings and falsely laid clues. At one point Jesse himself is framed for the murder of his old friend Bob Elliott. In terms of setting up a convincing mystery that has the power to intrigue the viewer, 'Killer Adios' actually works better than 'Killer Calibre 32’. And it helps that it’s a better looking film too. However, the complicated nature of this show’s mystery means that ‘Killer Adios’ is saddled with a number of overly talky scenes that are loaded with expository dialogue and these can drag a little bit.
Once again, genre fans will be glad to see a number of familiar faces at work here: beyond Lawrence, Fajardo, Neri and Pazzafini, the show also features turns from Luis Induni and Victor Israel. Rosalba Neri doesn’t look quite as alluring as usual in the overly-fancy red-haired wig that she sports here but she still makes a big impression as the feisty Fanny. Director Primo Zeglio makes good use of the 2.35:1 widescreen frame and there’s some decent enough cinematography on display. The show’s music is quite interesting too: there are a number of introspective and emotionally charged orchestral cues that work fairly well present here. Picture quality here is good for the most part (the presentation’s colours are not as well-rendered as those of ‘Killer Calibre .32’ and there is the odd bit of minor print damage present here and there). The presentation’s sound quality is near enough excellent bar the odd sequence where it temporarily dips for a moment.
Extras: Image gallery and trailer.
© 2014 copyright Lee Broughton.

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