Tuesday, July 22, 2014

DVD Review

"Reverend Madison" Double Bill.  Wild East, USA.  Format: NTSC Region 0.
'Reverend Colt'  Directed by Leon Klimovsky.  Widescreen (1.85: 1 anamorphic).  1970.  86 minutes.
When a bounty hunter-turned-preacher, Reverend Colt (Guy Madison), is framed for a bank robbery that he didn’t commit his old pal Sheriff Donovan (Richard Harrison) agrees to let him track the real culprits down himself.  Colt finds the bandits he’s looking for when he catches them in the act of attacking a motley bunch of travelers who are heading for California.  Colt rescues the travelers and leads them to the safety of an abandoned army fort.  However, the fort’s wells are dry which means that the travelers won’t be able to stay there for long.  It soon becomes clear that the bandits aren’t finished with them and a tense siege situation comes into play.
‘Reverend Colt’ is one of those genre entries from the 1970s that feel as though they were rushed into production without enough time being spent on planning or preparation.  The film works well enough - and fans of Guy Madison will appreciate his presence here - but it’s no classic.  Leon Klimovsky was an inconsistent director but it’s been suggested that Marino Girolami (the film’s producer) actually directed this show.  Either way, ‘Reverend Colt’ is a rather bland looking effort.  Mild and infrequent but still ill-fitting attempts at comedy relief - usually involving two of the travelers (Cris Huerta’s kilt-wearing MacMurray and a Mexican called Joe) - don’t particularly help matters.  The show’s chief bad guy is cast in the mold of a psychotic hippy-type but he lacks the menace and complexity of similarly coded characters that can be found elsewhere within the genre.
All of that said, the film does have one or two interesting aspects that make it worth a watch.  For the most part, the siege situation scenario is handled quite well.  We do get to learn some interesting details about the travelers’ personal circumstances and histories and a couple of unlikely romances start to bloom.  This part of the show actually brings to mind elements of John Ford’s ‘Stagecoach’.  A flashback reveals why Colt became a man of the cloth and his religious outlook also serves as a plot device that generates a decent amount of suspense:  Colt's pacifist approach to dealing with captured bad guys opens up the possibility that the villains might escape and get the upper hand at any moment.  Elsewhere Sam Peckinpah’s ’The Wild Bunch’ is referenced in the form of local kids acting out the violence of the bank robbery.  The show’s music was composed by Piero Umiliani and Gianni Ferrio but it doesn’t amount to anything particularly special.   
Picture quality here is near enough excellent.  The sound quality is pretty good too bar the odd short outbreak of mild background hiss.  
Extras: six Guy Madison trailers, an image gallery and two alternate opening credits sequences.
'Vengeance is a Colt 45’  Directed by Osvaldo Civirani.  Widescreen (1.77: 1 anamorphic).  1967.  92 minutes.
Django's young son Tracy hears an unseen visitor tell his father “Thompson wants to see us”.  Moments later, the visitor mortally wounds Django and leaves Tracy for dead.  Tracy (Gabriele Tinti) grows into a vengeance-seeker who is determined to track down Django’s killer but his one clue, the name “Thompson", is leading him nowhere.  Then a chance encounter with Logan (Roberto Messina) and Four Aces (Giovanni Ivan Scratuglia) results in Tracy discovering that the duo work for a certain Mr Thompson (Pedro Sanchez) who is embroiled in a vicious range war with a rival named Clay Ferguson (Daniele Vargas).  Tracy starts searching for evidence that will prove that Thompson killed Django but the sudden appearance of a mysterious preacher, Gus Fleming (Guy Madison), prompts Tracy to widen the scope of his investigations.
This is a low budget show but director Osvaldo Civirani (who also doubles up as the film’s cinematographer) largely succeeds in making this a fairly smart looking genre entry albeit in a modest kind of way: there are some thoughtfully composed shots and some neat camera movements to be had here but Civirani isn’t consistent with his delivery overall.  Similarly, Tracy and Fleming both sport interesting and stylish costumes but the striking nature of their outfits does inadvertently serve to underscore how bland looking most of the other characters’ costumes are.  Piero Umiliani’s soundtrack score is pretty good: the best bits (including the classic title song) were later recycled for use in ‘Django Against Sartana’ (also available from Wild East). There are lots of familiar faces in this show and the supporting cast includes Luciano Rossi, Lucio De Santis and John Bartha.
As far as “range war” themed Spaghetti Westerns go, this is quite a lively variant.  The brief presence of a “Django” character, the film’s inclusion of a ‘Death Rides a Horse’ (also available from Wild East) inspired revenge scenario, Guy Madison’s mysterious preacher and a quite detailed character study of a guilt-ridden but cowardly sheriff are just some of the elements that add interest and depth to the proceedings.  However, trying to cram all of this kind of detail into ninety two minutes does result in a fairly frustrating first thirty minutes or so - Civirani has a lot of characters to introduce and getting to grips with who is who and which gang they belong to requires some real concentration.  The pace picks up when Madison makes his late entrance and the show’s latter half works really quite well and steadily builds to a suitably action-packed finale.
Picture quality fluctuates a little here.  It’s generally good but the colour in some scenes appears a little washed out.  Sound quality fluctuates too.  Some sections of the show feature fairly muffled sound, background hiss and the odd crackle.
Extras: an image gallery and an alternate opening credits sequence.        
© 2014 copyright Lee Broughton.

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