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A Pistol for a Hundred Coffins Review

From The Spaghetti Western Database


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The second of two spaghetti westerns directed by Umberto Lenzi. If the first one, Tutto per tutto, was a tongue-in-cheek adventure movie of the treasure hunt type, the second one (See Database Page) is a genuine revenge western in the style of the diehard spaghettis.

A Confederate soldier named John Slade (Peter Lee Lawrence) is sentenced to two years of forced labor as a conscientious objector because his faith - he's a Jehovah's witness (*1) - forbids him to use violence. After the war, this peaceful man becomes a hardened killer when he discovers that his family is slaughtered by a gang of ruthless bandits. His uncle teaches him how to use a gun and Slade tracks down - and easily kills - three of the four bandits, but the fourth, a Texan called Corbett, has become the leader of a gang terrorizing the region. Because of his skills with the six shooter, Slade is elected sheriff by the citizens of a small border town who are afraid that Corbett will rob their bank. With the help of a mysterious loner called Douglas (John Ireland) - like Slade himself a man of God who's very quick on the draw - he manages to round up the gang, but in his dying seconds, Corbett reveals a terrible secret ...


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The transition from pacific Jehovah's witness to a merciless avenger is way too abrupt (Slade seems to have become a proficient gunslinger overnight!) but otherwise the first thirty minutes of this movie are eventful and atmospheric. The film becomes more generic afterwards but a couple of weird ideas and bizarre plot twists prevent it from becoming too predictable. The weirdest idea is the introduction of a group of lunatics who were imprisoned after one of them had set the asylum ablaze. The twist ending is vaguely similar to the climax of Death Rides a Horse, but the character whose true identity is revealed in the dying seconds of the movie, is not redeemed: Lenzi remains loyal to the blood calls for blood philosophy of the genre until the bitter end.

It's often said that Lenzi didn't like westerns and felt more at ease within the fields of thriller and horror. There are clear influences of both genres, but Lenzi had also studied the genre classics (notably the Dollar Trilogy and Django) and adopted their style and atmosphere, as well as some plot elements. I had watched Una Pistola per Cento Bare before, and didn't have fond memories of it, but compared to the bottom of the barrel stuff I have been watching (and reviewing) lately, the film almost felt like a classic. Peter Lee never looks more determined and menacing than ever and Lenzi had selected some of the genre's weirdest faces to play the lunatics who start wreaking havoc on the town after their escape. They are too foolish to be convincing (they're laughing all of the time and no-one speaks a word), but the appearance of Eduardo Fajardo's axe-wielding maniac in the film's finale is worth waiting for: apparently he has lost his axe and therefore uses an immense white crucifix to kill his opponent - a truly bizarre idea.


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★★★☆☆

Cast: Peter Lee Lawrence, John Ireland, Gloria Osuna, Eduardo Fajardo, Piero Lulli, Raf Baldassarre, Frank Braña, Calisto Calisti, Víctor Israel, Andrea Scotti, Franco Pesce, Miguel del Castillo, Herman Reynoso, Gino Turini, Julio Pena, José Jaspe - Dir: Umberto Lenzi - Music: Angelo Francesco Lavagnino

Notes:

(*1) Like forum member Jonathan Corbett had already noticed, the use of the term 'Jehovah's Witness' is an anachronism; the movement was founded in the late 1870s (at least a decade after the Civil War); it emerged from other Bible study groups and the first official name (introduced shortly after) was Zion's Watch Tower Tract society. The name Jehovah's Witnesses was only adopted in 1931 after a schism in the Watchtower society.

Simon Gelten
Simon Gelten is a long time contributor to the SWDb. "I'm not as old as Tom B. but I'm working on it. I hope to catch up with him by the end of the next decade.", he says. Simon saw all movies by Sergio Leone and several by Sergio Corbucci in cinema, most of the time in Eindhoven, the city where he was born. Currently, Simon is living in Turnhout, Belgium. Simon is active within the database as both Scherpschutter and his alter ego Tiratore Scelto.
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