Dead Men Ride (Anda Muchacho, Spara!) Review
The second of only two spaghetti westerns directed by Aldo Florio (the other one being I cinque della vendetta). Released in 1971, Dead Men Ride (See Database Page) is a late spaghetti western of the violent kind. It offers most characteristics the genre is identified with, such as stylized shootouts, protracted silences and a riveting score, and refrains from the slapstick antics that had overtaken the genre by then. For this reason has been described as an honest homage to the house that Sergio built, but the intricate, often confusing script was not appreciated by all spaghetti western aficionados.
Fabio Testi is Roy, an escaped convict who finds refuge in a mining camp near the Mexican border. The miners are Mexicans who are forced to low wage work by a trio of ruthless American businessmen. When Roy travels to town after his recuperation, he starts asking questions about a certain 'Emiliano', apparently a friend who died under mysterious circumstances. When he shoots the local barber in self defense, he attracts the attention of the local tyrant Redfield and his associates Lawrence and Newman ...
Dead Men Ride borrows heavily from Sergio Leone's A Fistful of Dollars. There are Mexicans on one side and Americans on the other, and Roy is the proverbial man in the middle. He obviously sympathizes with the Mexicans, but after returning a stolen load of gold to town, he is approached by the local tyrants and at one point the most powerful of them, Redfield, uses him to eliminate his business partners. Like No Name in Fistful, Roy is exposed as a traitor and brutally tortured, but he is saved and nursed back to health by some of the townspeople who have chosen his side. The difference with Sergio Leone's movie, is that the Mexicans have become poor workers and the Americans rich and cruel capitalists; the script has, in other words, a political dimension that was absent in A Fistful of Dollars (*1). But there's no reason to worry about this, Dead Men Ride doesn't feel like a political movie at all.
The movie left me with mixed feelings. It's extremely derivative and adds a couple of subplots - presented in flashback style - to the main story, resulting in a rather convoluted film, that looks over-familiar at the same time. We learn only very late into the movie who this 'Emiliano' is and what Redfield and his associates had to do with his miserable fate. Once Upon a Time in the West was the obvious model here, but in that movie one crucial revelation put all things in the right perspective; in Dead Men Ride we hardly have a clue about what's going on most of the time and then, when the movie is almost over, we get one revelation after another. It all feels a little cluttered and disorganized (*2). On the other hand the action scenes are well-choreographed and the film has two charismatic leads. I've never been a real fan of Fajardo, but he's very good in this movie as Redfield, the pervert who likes to spy on his business partners Lawrence and Newman when they abuse the woman they're both madly in love with. And before I forget: in 1971 censors had become more lenient towards nudity, so for those who care - and I know lots of fans do - there are a few boobs on display.
- (1) Ironically Dashiell Hammett's Red Harvest, the novel whose plot device (described by Christopher Frayling as the servant of two masters) served as model for both A Fistful of Dollars and Kurosawa's Yojimbo, was a political novel, see: Four Artists and a Man with No Name
- (2) But of course de gustibus et coloribus non est disputandum. Forum member Bill San Antonio wrote: "I like the structure of the film where the flashbacks are small snippets here and there and keep you wondering what is it all about."
Director: Aldo Florio - Cast: Fabio Testi, Eduardo Fajardo, Charo López, José Calvo, Ben Carra, Romano Puppo, Massimo Serato, Daniel Martin, Goffredo Unger, Luciano Pigozzi, Francisco Sanz, José Nieto, Rufino Inglés,Mario Novelli - Music: Bruno Nicolai