Hate Is My God review

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L'odio è il mio Dio Emilio Giordana (as Claudio Gora) 1969

Bizarre, delirious and totally insane this film is labelled. And a strange spaghetti western it is. But make no mistake about it; it is not some disjointed film with lots of plot holes and story inconsistencies. It is well-written, stylishly directed and carefully edited. The action scenes are ample and well handled, even the body count adds up neatly.

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We are in a small Colorado town, Big Springs, 1873. A hanging is about to take place. Inside a prison cell an allegedly insane man is put into a strait jacket and dealt a double blow to the temples that leaves him still unconscious when hanged later in the day.

Meanwhile, the town’s most prominent men are waiting nervously at the banker’s office, the Judge, a land owner, Field, and the banker himself: Carter. The editor of the town’s newspaper is also there. We hear the prisoner’s transport take off outside. The editor hurries back to his office. A handwritten note on his desk reads: “Today, at 1:00 pm, Stephen Kearny, the murderer of the clerk of the court, was hanged on the scene of his crime. In madness, his last words were:” The rest is struck out. The note is for the front page of today’s newspaper. When the editor starts the press, the hanging has still not taken place.

There are suggestions of corruption: Is Kearny framed for a killing he didn’t commit so that Field can take over Kearny’s land? The hanging is witnessed by Kearny’s kid brother, Vincent. When alone, Vincent eases his brother’s lifeless body to the ground, then he is driven off by vultures already gathering, plucking at the boy’s hands.

Years later Vincent, a young man, is back in Big Springs seeking revenge. Kearny’s farm is now Field’s residence, the old house replaced by a manor. Big Springs is all set for an anniversary. Also, the town’s triumvirate is all set for Vincent’s return. Vincent is met by a welcome committee under instruction to scare him off or kill him. At the same time a black-clad stranger arrives in Big Springs: Il Nero.

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From the moment they arrive neither Vincent nor Il Nero speak a word. Do they know each other? Their first meeting in the hotel’s saloon seems accidental. The second time at the farm seems not: Il Nero saves Vincent from being shot by Jeff, Kearny’s former farm hand now Field’s foreman, killing him in quite a savage fashion. Il Nero is Vincent’s guardian angel then? Or, does Il Nero have reasons of his own to be in Big Springs?

A scene where Vincent meets with a saloon girl, Blanche, is left out in the German version. She tells Vincent she knew his brother professionally, that he did the killing he was hanged for[1], but he was no murderer. He stood up against Carter and his consorts, they branded him insane to silence him, he was forced to kill, convicted and hanged. By now the reek of corruption hangs over Big Springs like the fly ribbon from the ceiling of Carter’s office.

Vincent kills the Judge and Field. Carter realises he is next in line. He sends for an old associate, Sweetly, a killer, to take care of Vincent and Il Nero both. Sweetly has no idea Il Nero is one of the men he is paid to kill, until he meets him face to face on Big Springs’ deserted main street, then recognizes him instantly. They have met before in a violent past under other names, and they have scores to settle with one another.

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The film’s music is written by a young Pippo Franco, later to become an established Italian comedian. It is far from your usual spaghetti western score; some of it more like circus music, some as if made for a silent movie. Franco also appears in the film as a half-wit guitar playing minstrel[2]. The song L'americana, a sarcastic comment on the ongoings, is also left out in the German version.

Gora’s son Carlo Giordana is Vincent as a young man. There is an almost hideous likeness to Vincent as a boy, played by Giusva Fioravanti[3]. Blanche is played by Gora’s wife Marina Berti. We have another outing by Venantino Venantini (Billy Kane in Bandidos) as Sweetly, and by Halina Zalewska (Eden in The Bounty Killer) as Rosalind Field.

You might think that Carlo is not well cast as the young revenger, and perhaps you would have preferred his younger brother Andrea for the part. Or you might feel the score does not serve the film well, even creates distance to it. Or the strangeness of it all might put you off. Nonetheless, I think the film turned out more or less exactly the film Giordana wanted to make, and at that nothing less than an outstanding contribution to the filone.

--by morgan

based on a 94 min version


[1] Giusti, who didn’t like the film, relies for his comments, among others, on Vincenzo Cerami, one of the co-writers. Cerami, who didn’t like Gora interfering with the writing, recounts that Gora, in his head, wanted Franko to be just like Bob Dylan in Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid. Odd, considering that Pat Garrett was released several years after Hate Is My God.

[2] In the German version the cut is compensated for in the scene at Big Spring News’ office, where the editor, while the camera zooms in on the front page of the 13th of April 1873 edition of the paper, tells Vincent that his brother killed the court assistant in self-defence. This is not in the Italian version.

[3] About Fioravanti see note to Shango Review (Scherpschutter).

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