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Death at Owell Rock Review

From The Spaghetti Western Database

La morte non conta i dollari DatabasePage.jpg

Director: Riccardo Frega - Cast: Mark Damon, Stephen Forsyth, Nello Pazzafini, Pamela Tudor, Luciana Gilli, Alan Collins (Luciano Pigozzi), Pedro Sanchez (Ignazio Spalla), Spartaco Conversi, Mariella Palmich - Music: Nora Orlandi, Robby Poitevin

BRIEF REVIEW

A young man returns to his hometown to investigate the murder of his father. The murderer is in control of the entire town and the townspeople, but the young man gets some help from a mysterious stranger. A minor but enjoyable spaghetti western with strong influences of comedy and thriller. Damon’s character is modeled after Giuliano Gemma’s Ringo from A Pistol for Ringo.

'Death at Owell Rock' (La Morte non conta i Dollari)

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In the opening scene a rancher is killed in the town of Owell Rock; the only witness of the crime, is caught by the murderers who force the town doctor to tear out the poor man’s tongue. Fifteen years later the victim's son Lawrence is on his way back to his hometown to investigate the crime. The stagecoach is robbed, but the passengers are saved by a laconic gunfighter called Harry Boyd, who’s also traveling to Owell Rock. Lawrence’s sister Jane tells him that Doc Lester, the son of a rivaling family of ranchers, was the evil mastermind, so Lawrence asks the judge to re-open the case, but all citizens seem to be in league with Doc Lester including the judge and the sheriff. But then a mysterious person starts obtaining statements by force from those who are protecting the local tyrant ...


This is the only spaghetti western directed by Riccardo Freda, a veteran from Italian genre cinema (born in 1909), better known for his thriller and horror movies. His movie is a nice - if somewhat chaotic - blend of western and thriller, creating a sort of giallo western (the stranger is dressed in black and always filmed from behind!). Oddly enough the identity of the killer is never up for debate (it's revealed in the opening scene); the movie's not a whodunit but rather a who's who. Damon’s character Harry Boyd is modeled after the Ringo from Duccio Tessari’s A Pistol for Ringo: he’s quick on the draw, has a fine eye for the ladies and the film’s script deliberately creates a few doubts about his trustworthiness: he befriends the evil Doc Lester and accepts the job of sheriff when it’s offered to him. Of course Harry turns out to be a good guy after all (who gets his girl, Pamela Tudor), but the script avoids predictability by coming up - at two thirds of the movie - with a plot twist that will take even experienced detective readers by surprise. Don’t think about this crucial scene too long, these kind of twists are supposed to startle people, not to be credible.


The opening scene with the witness who has his tongue torn out will suggest that this is a spaghetti of the diehard type, but in spite of the vengeance theme, it’s a surprisingly lighthearted movie. Damon in his smiling mood, the women are damsels (often in distress) and the fist fights verge on slapstick, with Damon hitting his opponents so hard that they literally fly through the air. The movie gets a bit more serious as it goes along, but contrary to what’s customary in the Italian West, the villain is not killed but handed over to the authorities. According to the director, the producers removed some of the violent material he had shot because they preferred a more gentle movie (1).

Damon is no Giuliano Gemma (who would’ve made more of these fist fights), and Freda is no Duccio Tessari (who would have brought more coherence to the script), but in spite of its shortcomings this is a fairly entertaining - if minor - genre movie; it was obviously shot on a reduced budget and the camera never left Italy, but cinematographer Gabor Pogany (2) makes the most of the Cinecittà western town, producing some very attractive camera angles.




Notes:

  • (2) He was a Hungarian born immigrant who was educated in Britain but moved to Italy after his studies and worked most of the time in this country. Remarkably, this was his only spaghetti western, but he also worked as director of photography on the American western (shot in Spain) Valdez is Coming; he frequently worked with Vittorio De Sica, but is probably best know for his work on the documentary Pink Floyd in Pompeï.

--By Scherpschutter

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