‘Spaghetti’ Western meets THE DIRTY DOZEN in this odd (though not odd enough) Civil War actioner with top-lined James Coburn, Bud Spenser & Telly Savalas. Director Tonino Valerii, who’d follow with the popular MY NAME IS NOBODY/’73 for Sergio Leone, puts together propulsive battle scenes, but moves his plot forward with conveniently overheard conversations, planted Boulevard Farce style. And many a blackout cutaway to cover up all the narrative culs-de-sac. Still, it’s a decent enough set up, spotting Coburn in front of a motley crew of condemned cutthroats who’ve joined his suicide-mission to save their necks . . . temporarily. Coburn’s got three goals: Recapture the fort he surrendered to Johnny Reb without a fight; Steal a fortune in Confederate gold; Wreak personal revenge against fort commander Telly Savalas. It’s possible that the ill-defined moves & motives add up better in longer cuts released abroad (up to half an hour extra), but only the 90 minute Stateside release has Coburn doing his own vocals. So, cuts and all, best to stick with the sharp looking Kino-Lorber DVD. These things are what they are, a decent time waster with Coburn in fighting trim, a likeably chunked out Bud Spencer, Savalas holding a silent menacing stare in lieu of much dialogue, unnaturally large chins on the convict-fighters and little attempt to hide either the Spanish locations or Spaniards dressed in grey, going down as Johnny Reb.
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Go back a year for some real Sergio Leone/James Coburn in the underseen DUCK, YOU SUCKER/’71. Leone wasn’t planning on directing that one either, but Coburn & co-star Rod Steiger shamed him into it. It takes its time gearing up, but once it does, boy, oh boy!
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: This film’s composer, Riz Ortolani, honors Ennio Morricone with ‘the sincerest form of flattery’ all thru the pic.