32 Caliber Killer Review
A gang is systematically robbing the stagecoach and when one day all passengers are killed, one of the local dignitaries decides it's time to call for the Pinkerton Agency. One of his colleagues has a better plan: like the local sheriff, Pinkerton agents are supposed to play things by the book and bring bandits to justice. Why not hire a professional killer, who can kill them all at once? There's one in town, who has just blown some local scum to hell, a gentleman killer called Silver ...
32 Caliber Killer is often mentioned as the first spaghetti western with an elegantly dressed protagonist who is as much a detective as a gunslinger. As such it is considered to be a forerunner of the Sartana and Sabata movies, with Peter Lee Lawrence as the stoic investigator calmly unraveling a labyrinth plot. In this case the identity of the gang leader is so mysterious that even the gang members are kept in the dark and are desperately trying to find out who's the person they're working for. Dressed in black, clean shaved, using a 32 caliber pistol with an elongated barrel, Silver is a transitional character, a missing link between Lee Van Cleef's Colonel Mortimer from For a Few dollars More and Gianni Garko's Sartana.
However, in Italy the film was launched with the slogan "Un killer dalla faccia d'angelo" (A killer with an angel face) (1). Faccia d'Angelo was of course Giuliano Gemma's nickname, as well as the alternative title of Long Days of Vengeance, in which Gemma had played a well-dressed hero, looking for the men who had framed him for murder. The presence of Nello Pazzafini in one key scene (a barroom brawl) gave me the quaint idea I was looking at a Gemma movie with Peter Lee replacing Giuliano. Gemma still was a star by this time, an actor only few producers could afford; Peter Lee had his good looks and juvenile charm, but not his athletic skills, and this might also have played a role in the creation of this well-dressed, good-looking, but stoic and more passive hero.
32 Caliber Killer is part western, part mystery movie, and to me it worked better as a mystery movie. There are a few scenes set at night, with people stalking each other, otherwise there's not too much resemblance to the Italian mystery genre par excellence, the Giallo. But the story is quite intricate and there are enough twists and revelations to keep your attention. The western action is merely adequate and there's one particularly silly barroom brawl, with Pazzafini sending his opponents sky high with his blows. Luckily the saloon also offers some distraction of the most delicious kind: saloon lady Hélène Chanel sets the screen ablaze and there are more dancing girls showing their well-shaped legs than in any other spaghetti western.
I've never been a great fan of Peter Lee, but I liked him a lot in this movie. His killer with style is quite a character. He asks $ 1000 dollars a head - $ 999 more than Navajo Joe! (2) - plus expenses. Among his customers are Mexican mine workers, who have saved up $ 1000 to get rid of a sadistic foreman, and he uses a 32 caliber pistol because it makes small, clean bullet holes, while guns of a bigger caliber create an awful lot of mess. He also uses silver bullets (as if he were hunting werewolves) and insists on being called Mr. Silver, not just Silver. No wonder the lady is called Chanel (N° 5, I suppose). Good support is given by Alberto Dell'Acqua (as a younger gunman who forces himself upon the gentleman killer) and Mirko Ellis, as the brave sheriff (called Bear!) who might, and then again might not be trusted. Robby Poitevin's score is adequate, but it sounded suspiciously familiar. Shobary thinks some of it was taken from Pistols Don't Argue (3), not scored by Poitevin, but by a certain Dan Savio (Mr. Morricone himself).
The citizens of a western town hire a professional killer to investigate a series of stagecoach robberies. Being a true gentleman, he uses small bullets (32 caliber), because big bullets make an awful mess (!). A combination of western and Giallo (but without horror effects). Peter Lee's elegant gunman is a forerunner of Sartana and Sabata
Director: Alfonso Brescia - Cast: Peter Lee Lawrence, Hélène Chanel, Agnes Spaak, Andrea Bosic, Mirko Ellis, Alberto Dell'Acqua, Lucy Scay, Nello Pazzafini, Massimo Righi, Franco Pesce - Music: Robby Poitevin
- (1) Marco Giusti, Dizionario del western all'italiana
- (2) Joe asked one dollar a head, and this was also the movie's alternative title in Italian: Un Dollaro a Testa
- (3) See: http://spaghettiwesterns.1g.fi/32caliber/killer.htm
The Well-dressed Gunmen from the Italian West
Or: From Lee to Lee in five steps.
The godfather of all these sophisticated, well-dressed gunmen is of course Colonel Douglas Mortimer, a brave man, like the Prophet explained to Monco. A former officer, he had turned to bounty hunting to make himself a living while looking for the man who had killed his sister. Like our Colonel, Ted Barnett from Long Days of Vengeance is a man of good descent, but he ended up in jail when he was framed for a crime he did not commit. Mortimer and Barnett were avengers, Silver would become the first detective, a man hired to investigate a case. Sartana would be a new kind of western hero, closer to Bond than to Sherlock Holmes; he is, so to speak, 'thrown into a plot': he literally stumbles upon a interesting case (and smells money). Sabata is a bit more down-to-earth, like Silver he's hired by dignitaries to investigate things, but in true Sartana-style, he plays his opponents (or his friends) off against each other.