Today It's Me... Tomorrow It's You Review
From The Spaghetti Western Database
Bill Kiowa assembles a small militia to get even with Elfego, a machete wielding psychopath who has killed his Indian wife. An Italian revenge western with a pich of Hollywood & Kurosawa. Also starring Bud Spencer (in a gruff mode)
Director: Tonino Cervi - Cast: Brett Halsey, Tatsuya Nakadai, Bud Spencer, Wayde Preston, Jeff Cameron, William Berger, Diana Ghia, Franco Borelli - Cinematography: Sergio D'Offizi - Music: Angelo Francesco Lavagnino
Often presented as a "Spencer-without-Hill" comedy, this film must have created a lot of frustration among fans of the Trinity movies. There are a few hints at comedy, but they're of minor importance. This is a typical revenge movie, bloody and violent, in the best tradition of the Italian western, with a few winks at Hollywood and Kurosawa as well. It uses the Leone technique of the flashback to illustrate the central conflict, but the avenger, Bill Kiowa, is not a loner: before marching up against his arch enemy Elfego - who has surrounded himself with Comancheros - he assembles a small army of specialists in the tradition of The Magnificent Seven or The Seven Samurai.
We immediately understand who is the avenger and who is the villain in this picture, but the explanation of what exactly causes Kiowa to seek revenge on Elfego is postponed, like in For a Few Dollars More. The first half hour, with Kiowa assembling his gang, is a bit short on excitement, but once we've found out what crime Kiowa was framed for by Elfego, the film takes its real start. Once again Elfego tries to frame Kiowa for a crime he did not commit, but this time the latter is saved by his gang members. The two gangs finally meet in a forest, in the film's protracted and violent finale. Before Kiowa and Elfego meet each other face to face, Elfego's men, stalked by Kiowa and his associates, are killed one by one, in rather gruesome fashion. It was one of those spaghetti westerns that met with censorship; in most versions a couple of moments that were cut during the flashback sequence are still missing. You'll notice the cut easily and will understand why it was made.
Today it's me ... tomorrow it's You! is the only spaghetti western directed by producer Tonino Cervi, who also co-wrote the script with Dario Argento. Most outdoor scenes were shot in the (cold and wet) autumn of 1967, in La Caldara di Manziana, northwest of Rome. A couple of scenes (among them a few town scenes) were apparently shot in mid-winter, snow covering the ground. Sergio D'Offizi, who was asked to do the cinematography by Cervi and Argento because they were impressed by his work on Ognuno per se (1). Italian cinematographers were often blamed for having little eye for scenic beauty, but D'Offizi makes the best of the gorgeous landscape and the film really looks marvelously with its rich autumnal colors. He also went looking for odd angles when shooting the town scenes in the Elios studios, in order to make the town scenes look different.
Halsey (playing as Montgomery Ford) has a rather laid-back acting style, while Nakadai lends a certain melancholic aspect to his downright perverted and sadistic character: a rare and interesting combination. But there's a problem concerning this character: is he supposed to be Japanese or Mexican? His name is usually written as 'Elfego', which doesn't mean anything in Spanish as far as I know. If it's read as 'El Fuego' it would mean 'The Fire', but this villain does not burn his victims to death, but uses a sword instead. This sword is however not a samurai sword like some critics have maintained, but a machete. Maybe the man is a half-breed too, like his men and probably even his opponent: the name Bill Kiowa seems to indicate a mixed descent as well (3).
# Alex Cox on the movie (evaluation)
Alex Cox calls this a 'near perfect revenge western'. It's a good movie, but I don't think it's that great. It's a rather straightforward spaghetti western, with a hero dressed in the style of Django and several direct references to Leone, most notably a scene in a gun shop with Halsey chosing a gun in Tuco style. Cervi also seems to have been inspired by Samurai movies (2) and film noir (just look at the clothes and fedora hats in the black & white flashback). The film is a must for genre fans, but it's not a classic. It has a fine supporting cast and the characters are colorful, but at the same time they lack depth; the action is too one-sided, with none of Bill Kiowa's men getting killed and only one seriously wounded, even if the odds are against them. Angelo F. Lavagnino's score isn't exactly memorable, but it's at least different, combining typical Italian and American influences.
La Caldara di Manziana
In 1988 la Caldara was declared a Monumento Naturale (Natural Monument). It's located inside the National Park of Bracciano-Martignano Lakes, about forty kilometers northwest of Rome. The hills are dominated by thick vegetation, maquis, and centuries old trees, mainly oak trees. An exception is la boschetta della betulla bianca with its remarkable stands of white birch trees (very rare this far south). D'Offizzi shot a couple of wonderful scenes in the boschetta. The hills border vast plains marked by marshes and even some small geysers (sulfer springs of gas and water, the water having a temperature of about 20°C). The finale was probably shot in the nearby Bosco di Manziana, one of the greenest areas in the centre of Italy, and more often used for spaghetti western with a 'green' setting, among others Un Dolaro Bucato and California.
- (1) Marco Giusti, Dizionario del western all'italiana
- (2) Chris Casey, who speaks Japanese and is far more familiar with its culture than I am, told me once on Facebook that there's a Japanese tradition of Japanese actors playing Mexicans, so maybe the part is a reference to this tradition. Bret Halsey also thinks the character was supposed to be Mexican (see the interview).
- (3) Alex Cox thinks the final duel between Halsey and Nakadai is a reference to the finale of Kurosawa's Sanjuro (1962), also starring Nakadai. The shot of an immobile Halsey and an equally immobile Nakadai studying each other, waiting for the other to move first, is held very long, for over a minute, like in Kurosawa's movie. And in Kurosawa's movie Nakadai was also on the losing side. Alex Cox, 10,000 Ways to Die, p. 232