Tuesday, July 20, 2021

 Vengeance Trails: Four Classic Westerns (Limited Edition) – Arrow Video (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Dates: Italy, 1966 (Massacre Time, My Name is Pecos), Italy, 1967 (Bandidos), Italy, 1970 (And God Said to Cain)
Directors: Lucio Fulci (Massacre Time), Maurizio Lucidi (My Name is Pecos), Massimo Dallamano (Bandidos), Antonio Margheriti (And God Said to Cain)
Cast: Franco Nero, George Hilton, Linda Sini, Giuseppe Addobbati, Nino Castelnuovo (Massacre Time), Robert Wood, Pier Paolo Capponi, Lucia Modugno, Cristina Iosani, George Eastman (My Name is Pecos), Enrico Maria Salerno, Terry Jenkins, María Martín, Venantino Venantini (Bandidos), Klaus Kinski, Peter Carsten, Marcella Michelangeli, Antonio Cantafora, Giuliano Raffaelli, Luciano Pigozzi (And God Said to Cain)

Release Date: July 26th, 2021 (UK), July 27th, 2021 (USA)
Approximate Running Times: 92 Minutes 12 Seconds (Massacre Time), 85 Minutes 10 Seconds  (My Name is Pecos), 95 Minutes 47 Seconds (Bandidos), 100 Minutes 12 Seconds (And God Said to Cain)
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (All Films)
Rating: 18 (UK), NR (USA)
Sound: LPCM Mono Italian, LPCM Mono English (Massacre Time, My Name is Pecos), DTS-HD Mono Italian, DTS-HD Mono English (Bandidos, And God Said to Cain)
Subtitles: English, English SDH (All Films)
Region Coding: Region A,B
Retail Price: £69.99 (UK), $99.95 (USA)

Massacre Time "In Lucio Fulci’s (Zombie Flesh Eaters) Massacre Time (1966), Franco Nero (Django) and George Hilton (The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail) star as estranged brothers forced to band together against the powerful businessman (Nino Castelnuovo, Strip Nude for Your Killer) and his sadistic son who’ve seized control of their hometown." - synopsis provided by the distributor

My Name is Pecos "In Maurizio Lucidi’s (The Sicilian Cross) My Name is Pecos (1966), Robert Woods (Johnny Colt) stars as the eponymous Mexican gunslinger, returning to Houston to settle a long-standing score against the racist gang boss (Pier Paolo Capponi, The Cat O’ Nine Tails) who wiped out his entire family." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Bandidos "In Massimo Dallamano’s (What Have You Done to Solange?) Bandidos (1967), Enrico Maria Salerno (Savage Three) plays a former top marksman who, years after being maimed by a former protégé (Venantino Venantini, City of the Living Dead), teams up with a fresh apprentice (Terry Jenkins, Paint Your Wagon) to get his revenge against the man who betrayed him." - synopsis provided by the distributor

And God Said to Cain "Finally, in Antonio Margheriti’s (Cannibal Apocalypse) And God Said to Cain (1970), the inimitable Klaus Kinski (Double Face) stars as a man who has spent the last decade in a prison work camp for a crime he didn’t commit and who, upon his release, immediately sets out to wreak vengeance on the men who framed him." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4.5/5 (Massacre Time, My Name is Pecos), 4.25/5 (Bandidos, And God Said to Cain)

Here’s the information provided about the transfers, "Scanning and restoration work was completed at L'Immagine Ritrovata, Bologna. The original 35mm camera negatives were scanned in 2K resolution. The films were graded at R3Store Studios, London."

Massacre Time comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 46.5 GB

Feature: 27.9 GB

My Name is Pecos comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 39.8 GB

Feature: 22.8 GB

Bandidos comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 36.8 GB

Feature: 25.5 GB

And God Said to Cain comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 36.1 GB

Feature: 27.8 GB

Arrow Video has done a great job with all four transfers. Their sources are in excellent shape and any source related imperfection are minimal. Colors look very good, image clarity and black levels look strong throughout. That said, when compared to these film’s other home video releases and other Spaghetti Westerns released on Blu-ray, most viewers should-be very happy with these transfers.

Audio: 4/5 Massacre Time, My Name is Pecos, Bandidos, And God Said to Cain)

Massacre Time, My Name is Pecos, Bandidos and And God Said to Cain each come with two audio options, English and Italian. Massacre Time and My Name is Pecos come with LPCM mono, while Bandidos and And God Said to Cain come with DTS-HD mono. All of the audio tracks are in great shape, dialog comes through clearly, there are no issues with distortion, everything sounds balanced, ambient sounds are well-represented and the scores sound appropriately robust. It should-be noted that the English language track for Massacre Time has some instances of background hiss. Massacre Time, My Name is Pecos, Bandidos and And God Said to Cain each come with two subtitle options, English for the Italian language tracks and English SDH for the English language tracks. 

Extras:

Extras for Massacre Time include reversible cover art, German promotional gallery, a trailer for Massacre Time (3 minutes 2 seconds, Dolby Digital mono Italian with English subtitles), an interview with film historian Fabio Melelli titled The Era of Violence (18 minutes 32 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Italian with English subtitles), a documentary featuring a new video interview with actor Franco Nero and an archival video interview with actor George Hilton titled Two Men Alone (49 minutes 44 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Italian with English subtitles), an option to watch Massacre Time with a alternate US English dub track (92 minutes 12 seconds, LPCM mono English with English SDH subtitles) and an audio commentary with authors and film critics C. Courtney Joyner and Henry Parke.

Extras for My Name is Pecos include reversible cover art, German promotional gallery, a trailer for My Name is Pecos (2 minutes 44 seconds, Dolby Digital mono Italian with English subtitles), an interview with film historian Fabio Melelli titled Pecos Kills (19 minutes 52 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Italian with English subtitles), an interview with actress Lucia Modugno titled Indecent Proposal (18 minutes 36 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Italian with English subtitles), an interview with actor George Eastman titled A Giant in the West (21 minutes 5 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Italian with English subtitles) and an audio commentary with actor Robert Woods and author/film critic C. Courtney Joyner.

Extras for Bandidos include reversible cover art, German promotional gallery, alternate end title sequence (1 minute 18 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), an interview with film historian Fabio Melelli titled Western Bandits (11 minutes 27 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Italian with English subtitles), an interview with actor Gino Barbacane titled They Call Him Simon (11 minutes 40 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Italian with English subtitles), an interview with assistant director Luigi Perelli titled A Man in the Saloon (18 minutes 51 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Italian with English subtitles) and an audio commentary with author and film critic Kat Ellinger.

Extras for And God Said to Cain include reversible cover art, German promotional gallery, an  interview with actor Antonio Cantafora titled Of NIght and Wind (12 minutes 56 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Italian with English subtitles), an interview with film historian Fabio Melelli and an audio interview with actress Marcella Michelangeli titled Between Gothic and Western (19 minutes 57 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Italian with English subtitles) and an audio commentary with author and film critic Howard Hughes.

Rounding out the extras is a fold-out double-sided poster and a fifty-page booklet with cast & crew information for each film, a lengthy essay titled Vengeance Trails: Revenge, Spaghetti Western Style (Lashings of Violence: Lucio Fulci’s Massacre Time/A Rum Deal: Maurizio Lucidi’s My Name is Pecos/Master and Apprentice: Massimo Dallamano’s Bandidos/Divine Retribution: Antonio Margheriti’s And God Said to Cain) written by Howard Hughes and information about the restorations/transfers.

Summary:

Massacre Time: Franco Nero had a handful of Spaghetti Westerns before his performance in Django made him one of the most in demand actors in the Spaghetti Western genre. In 1966 he was the star in three of Spaghetti Westerns, Texas, Adios, Massacre Time and Django.

The story for Massacre Time bears many similarities to Texas, Adios. Both films begin with a death of two brothers’ fathers and they both end with a similar twist where one of the brothers discovers the man they are seeking revenge against their farther. That said, here's where the similarities end with the violence and sadism more prominent in Massacre Time.

Massacre Time’s most memorable moment is the beating Franco’s Nero’s character Tom Corbett suffers at the hands of his nemeses’ Mr. Scott’s son ‘junior’. Nino Castelnuovo is gleefully demented in the role of Jason ‘junior’ Scott.

Massacre Time was the first of three Spaghetti westerns directed by Lucio Fulci. The other two being Four of the Apocalypse and Silver Saddle. A fourth Spaghetti Western A Bullet for Sandoval and his exact role is this production has never been fully confirmed.

Before directing Massacre Time Lucio Fulci had primarily directed comedies and there is some offbeat humor in Massacre Time especially in the character of Jeff Corbett, who's deliriously played by George Hilton. When we are first introduced to the character of Jeff Corbett he is an alcoholic with no ambitions beyond securing his next drink. One interesting attribute of the Jeff Corbett character is his uncanny ability to shoot a gun while inebriated.

Visually Lucio Fulci creates menacing tale filled with tension which leads up to a bloody finale that will stratify even the most hardcore Spaghetti Western fan. Though Coriolano Gori’s score for Massacre Time features the style often employed in most Spaghetti Westerns from this era. This is not to say that the score is not without its own merits it just lacks the timelessness present in many of Ennio Morricone’s scores.

In the lead role of Tom Corbett is Franco Nero, who’s performance while solid is not as memorable as his work in other Spaghetti westerns like Django, The Mercenary and Companeros. Franco Nero as usual has a strong psychical presence that really shines during action sequences. Without a doubt, Massacre Time's greatest asset is pairing up of Franco Nero with George Hilton whose comic relief perfectly balances Franco’s stern exterior. Ultimately, Massacre Time is fast paced tale about revenge that fully exploits all the elements that one would expect in a quality Spaghetti Western.

My Name is Pecos: Though the premise covers familiar ground. The result is an inventive take that ultimately succeeds by making this as much a fish out of water story as it is a tale about revenge. With the protagonist Peco’s being a Mexican gunslinger who returns home looking for the man who murdered his family.

Though director Maurizio Lucidi spent more time in the Spaghetti Western genre than in any other genre. He’s most remembered for directing The Designated Victim, a thriller that takes Strangers on a Train’s premise and distills it through the lens of Italian cinema.

From a production standpoint, My Name is Pecos is a well-made Spaghetti Western that far exceeds its anemic resources. The premise is well-executed and a briskly paced narrative builds to a very satisfying ending. Another strength of My Name is Peco’s is Robert Wood’s portrayal of the protagonist. Though his character is a man of few words, his ability with a gun more than makes up for his moments of silence. Robert Woods would reprise the role of Pecos in Pecos Cleans Up. Ultimately, My Name is Pecos is a highly entertaining film that fans of Spaghetti Westerns should thoroughly enjoy.    

Bandidos: Made during the peak of the Spaghetti Western genre, Bandidos features all the core elements that have become synonymous with this genre. At the heart of Bandidos is a classic revenge tale that features the teacher and the student premise. With the plot revolving around a man who’s wrongly accused of murder, a skilled gunslinger named Richard Martin and the gunslinger’s former protégé a vicious killer named Billy Kane who left his mentor a cripple who can no longer hold a gun.

With Bandidos renowned cinematographer Massimo Dallamano made his directorial debut. As a cinematographer his notable Spaghetti Western credits include Gunfight in the Red Sands, Bullets Don't Argue, A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More.   

From its opening moments Bandidos establishes a harsh tone with scenes like a violent train robbery where men, women and children are all killed by the bandit’s indiscriminately. And to further drive home Billy Kane's brutality, there is a stylistic tracking shot that reveals the carnage left in the wake of his bandits robbing the train. Throughout Bandidos this character's sadistic side is constantly reinforced with each new victim he knocks off.

The most interesting aspect of Bandidos is the relationship between Richard Martin and Ricky Shot. Though on the surface they seem to have the same goal, one is more driven by revenge, while the other wants his former life back. Ultimately Bandidos heart and soul is the bond they forge. 

Performance wise, though the cast are all very good in their respective roles. No performance shines brighter than Enrico Maria Salerno’s portrayal of Richard Martin. Though Bandidos covers ground before explored in countless other Spaghetti Western’s. The result is a very satisfying revenge themed film that moves along briskly and there's never a dull moment.

And God Said to Cain: Though Antonio Margheriti was a versatile director who worked in just about every genre that was popular in 1960’s/1970’s Italy. His contributions to the Spaghetti Western genre would come later in this genre's cycle right before it transitioned to comedy/western hybrids that dominated the Italian box office in the early 1970’s.

By the time Antonio Margheriti directed And God Said to Cain, he had already directed two unremarkable Spaghetti Westerns, Dynamite Joe and Vengeance. And though most of his films feel like work for hire by the number’s filmmaking. In his filmography there are few diamonds in the rough. Case in point And God Said to Cain, his third foray into the Spaghetti Western genre.

Content wise, And God Said to Cain is a satisfying mix of all the elements that have become synonymous with the Spaghetti Western genre and some Gothic horror (the genre that Antonio Margheriti most excelled) elements is thrown in for good measure. Another strength of And God Said to Cain is how it never devolves into the silliness that had become all too common with the Spaghetti Western genre in the early 1970’s. Tonally And God Said to Cain is right in line with the Spaghetti Westerns made during the mid-1960’s.

From a production standpoint, there’s not an area where And God Said to Cain does not excel. The premise is superbly realized, the narrative does a great job building tension and the excellent finale provides a perfect climax. Another strength of And God Said to Cain are its visuals which are overflowing with atmosphere. Not too be overlooked is Klaus Kinski’s portrayal of Gary Hamilton, a wrongly accused man who’s out for vengeance. Ultimately, And God Said to Cain is a solid film that deserves its place among the best Spaghetti Westerns.

Arrow Video continues to put a spotlight on films from Italian genre cinema of the 1960’s and 1970’s by giving them phenomenal releases that come with solid transfers, multiple audio options and a wealth of insightful extra content, highly recommended.

































Written by Michael Den Boer

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