Thursday, December 20, 2012

Movie Review: BETWEEN GOD, THE DEVIL AND A WINCHESTER

BETWEEN GOD, THE DEVIL AND A WINCHESTER

Anche nel west c'era una volta Dio
"God Was in the West, Too, at One Time"
1968, Something Weird Video, HF/LB, $20.00 ppd, 94m 34s, VHS

By John Charles

Originally published in Video Watchdog #93

Pursued by a band of killers, ex-Confederate colonel-turned-bandit Bob Ford (LIGHTNING BOLT's Folco Lulli) offers wagonmaster Juan Chasquido (Gilbert Roland) $5,000 to take him to the dangerous region of Sierra Blanco, no questions asked. Ford perishes shortly thereafter when the inn he is staying at is invaded by a gang of mexican bandits, led by Pedro Butch (GET MEAN's Raf Baldassare). Pat Jordan (Richard Harrison) happens by the place and offers Chasquido (who wears a steel gauntlet over his useless left hand) the same deal that Ford proposed. A young boy named Tommy saw where the colonel hid a treasure map and passed it along to Jordan, who now seeks the fortune in loot that Ford stashed away. Chasquido secretly cuts a deal with Butch to split the haul once Jordan and his party have located it. However, he then proceeds to make the same offer to the other men (led by Ennio Girolami) on the Jordan expedition. Tommy overhears this bit of skulduggery, and informs Jordan, but Chasquido has more surprises in store.

A spaghetti western version of "Treasure Island," this minor effort benefits from the magnetism veteran Gilbert Roland brings to the proceedings. Fairly spry and comparatively youthful looking at 62, Roland easily stands out amidst a cast that adds little to their weakly written characters. Harrison's performance is appropriately reserved, given Jordan's true identity as a priest out to recover his parish's golden artifacts. The rest of the actors, however, are broad and graceless, the worst offender being Roberto Camardiel (UP THE MACGREGORS), who provides tired comic relief as "Uncle Pink," a seemingly brain-damaged inn owner/bad cook. The gunplay and intrigue are routine as these films go, but Carlo Savina's score provides some panache and the climax (which takes place in picturesque caves) is satisfactorily staged. Director Marino Girolami (credited here as "Dario Silvestri") is the father of Ennio Girolami; the latter's younger brother, director Enzo G. Castellari, also reportedly has a small role here, but we missed him.

A cropped version of BETWEEN GOD, THE DEVIL AND A WINCHESTER was previously available from Unicorn Video. Something Weird's transfer is letterboxed, but suffers from major problems that largely negate its utility. The source material suffers from numerous disruptive splices during the opening reel (in the prologue, a supporting actor is talking to another and then --SPLICE-- is dead on the ground with a bullet hole in his chest) and so much dialogue is missing that conversations in the opening minutes are completely incoherent. The breaks become far less frequent after that but stains and arc burn are constantly in evidence. Blacks are light, whites tend to bloom, and the Eastmancolor hues often look bleached out; the sound is hissy but passable. Although the Techniscope frame measures 2.30:1, the image is noticeably squeezed, the credits do not fit comfortably onscreen, and the vertical framing is extremely tight. It is our guess that the telecine operator squeezed the image to about 2.1 and then slapped a 2.30 matte on it, leaving the presentation almost as uncomfortable to watch as a sloppily panned-and-scanned transfer. The SWV bug appears in the right hand corner of the picture throughout.

(A much better quality version was later released on DVD by Wild East on a double bill with JOHNNY YUMA. As of this writing, it is listed as Sold Out on the company's website)

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