A Man Called Amen Review
Giorgio ('George') Ardisson is as a gunslinger with a price on his head, known by the name of Amen, because he orders his opponents to make the sign of the cross before shooting them (*1). He is approached by a man called Solitaire - who claims to be a governmental agent - to retrieve a stash of gold worth $ 1 million, stolen from the US government by a bandit named Buseba. In return for his services, Amen will be pardoned and also receive a percentage of the gold. Buseba and his men are biding their time in a small border town, waiting for the right moment to cross the Mexican border with the gold. When - after a fistfight in the saloon - one of the bandits threatens to shoot Amen in the back, his life is saved by a ghost-like gunslinger who appears out of nothing, and is therefore called The Phantom by the locals and the bandits ...
Until recently this was a very obscure spaghetti western, seen only by a happy few. It was also the only spaghetti western missing in Marco Giusti's book (*2). The only English friendly version available, was a VHS copy with a 'Not for sale' message embedded through the middle of it. Recently the film was shown on Berlusconi's IRIS Mediaset TV channel and somebody added English audio to a recording of it and loaded his work up on You Tube. The copy isn't great but it's watchable and for genre addicts it's most certainly worth a look. A Man Called Amen is by no means great, but for a low-low-budget obscurity, it's surprisingly entertaining.
The film is a slow starter. The premise is that of a treasure hunt movie (everybody wants to lay his hands on the gold), but the loot is not hidden out there in the mountains, but in town, so we don't get a hunt, but a standstill, with most of the 'action' taking place in the saloon. Things are brightened up a little by the presence of Akim Tamiroff as the town drunk Pigsty (*3), who will do everything for a drop of whiskey, and of course we also keep asking ourselves who this Phantom might be. But once director Zurli gets his movie on track, he comes up with a couple of nice twists and turns and the final half hour is genuinely exciting. The ultimate revelation will be a surprise to many, but those of you trained in the Agatha Christie style of puzzle detectives, will see it coming. The action scenes are very well-handled (a torture scene looks a bit odd though) and Ardisson is a good disgruntled hero (or anti-hero); he gets nice support from Isarco Ravaioli as the ambiguous Solitaire, but unfortunately the charming Lorenza Guerrieri is underused.
Dir: Guido Zurli - Cast: Giorgio Ardisson, Isarco Ravaioli, Lorenza Guerrieri, Paolo Carlini, Akim Tamiroff, Fred Coplan, Calisto Calisti, Attilio Severini - Music: Gino Peguri, "Song of the Cowboy” sung by Peter Boom
- (1) The film is not to be confused with Così sia (1972, Alfio Catabiano), usually referred to as They called him Amen in the English speaking world; the Italian title of this movie is O Tutto o Niente, Either All or Nothing
- Marco Giusti, Dizionario del western all'Italiana, Milano 2007, ristampato 2010
- I thought for a moment that the name and character were a funny reference to Pasolini's Porcile, which translates as Pigsty, but Pasolini's movie was only released one year later and Tamiroff's character is called Puzza in the original version, which rather translates as Stinky