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Between God, the Devil and a Winchester Film Review

From The Spaghetti Western Database


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This time it's neither a Greek myth nor a Shakespearean drama that is retold as a spaghetti western, but Robert Louis Stevenson's classic adventure story Treasure Island. We get the desert instead of the deep blue sea, Mexican bandits instead of pirates and a Long John Silver with a hand of steel instead of a wooden leg. The film was directed by Marino Girolami, father of Enzo G. Castellari, brother of Romolo Guerrieri and Ennio Girolami. According to various sources both Ennio and Enzo appear in the movie, but I haven't spotted Enzo.

The old sailor Billy Bones, the one who sets the original story in motion, has become a Confederate Colonel called Bob Ford (huh?), played by a terribly overweight Folco Lulli. Ford is on the run for a group of Mexican bandits who are after the treasure map in his possession. After his accidental death - he falls from the roof when the bandits put the inn on fire - the map is retrieved by the innkeeper's son Tommy, who passes it on to a visitor, a debonair guy called Jordan (Richard Harrison). Jordan hires a shady Mexican adventurer to lead him and Tommy through the desert and over the sierras, to the place where the treasure is buried, but in the meantime every bandit in the border region has caught the smell of gold so the journey will be a long a dangerous one ...


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Having read a couple of negative comments on this movie, I was surprised to notice how well (at least some of) the original story material translated into the idioms of a spaghetti western. No, this is not a great movie, but if you imagine a pirate without an eye-patch, you might as well imagine someone looking like Raf Baldassare. Gilbert Roland's Chasquido, deceitful and greedy (but only killing those who try to kill him!) is almost as colorful and enigmatic as the character from the novel he was modeled after, the immortal Long John Silver. But if some characters work, a couple of others don't. Treasure Island is a coming-of-age story; it's a first-person narrative, told by Jim Hawkins, an impulsive young person who gains wisdom in the course of the journey. The impetuous teen has been turned into a kid in peril and we all know that kids and spaghettis are not a good combination. Richard Harrison's character isn't very interesting either: it turns out that he is a priest who wants to recover some valuables stolen from his mission in Guadeloupe and has sworn never to use violence, even though one scene shows us that he's very proficient with the gun (*1).

The first third of the movie is the best, with some real spaghetti western violence; in the pre-credit sequence - cut from some versions for this reason - a man is killed with a bullet in the forehead (*2). The film loses momentum after the arrival of Harrison's character, the gunslinger turned priest. The character also creates some false expectations: I thought he would be forced to use his former skills at a crucial moment, preferably to save the boy from being killed - a similar scene could have given some depth to the character - but no: the scene of Harrison confessing that he has renounced violence is never referred to again and he remains a passive character. After a plodding mid-section the film turns back to some spaghetti western violence, but when it seems over, we get a small extra in the form of saccharine ending with Long John Roland promising the kid to become the uncle the boy has lost on the journey. Come on! Silver was always kind to Jim Hawkins, but Stevenson never meant him to be a Long John with a Heart of Gold.


Notes:


Dir: Marion Girolami - Cast: Richard Harrison, Gilbert Roland, Ennio Girolami, Roberto Camardiel, Dominique Boschero, Humberto Sempere, Raf Baldassarre, Folco Lulli, Luis Barboo, Xan das Bolas, Enzo G. Castellari - Music: Carlo Savina

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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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