Kill or Be Killed Review (Scherpschutter)
|Tonio Boccia’s first western is a grab bag of classic and modern influences; a Ringo on the run (for his own reputation) arrives in a small town and gets involved in a family feud. He also plays the violin, falls in love and must face the notorious black-clad Baltimore Joe. The hero is called Ringo, but with his poncho and stubble beard he looks more like The Man with No Name.|
Kill or Be Killed (Uccidi o muori)
Kill or be killed opens with a bizarre scene of a funeral procession being attacked. None of the people are shot, but the coffin is riddled with bullets. We’re in the middle of a family feud between the Drummonds and the Griffiths, and when people try to kill enemies who are already dead, we can be sure they hate each other like hell. But there’s some light at the end of the tunnel: the oldest son of the Griffith family, Chester, is madly in love with beautiful Linda Drummond, and that’s why the bullets were aimed at the coffin, and not at her.
Shortly thereafter, a Fiddler with no Name rides into town. Actually he has a name, Jerry, but we'll soon find out that it’s a false one, his real name is Ringo, and he’s on the run. After he had become the fastest gun in the West, he has killed so many men that he has grown sick and tired of it. When making this confession, to Linda Drumond (who has fallen in love with him), he has already killed four opponents, among them Scott, the youngest Griffith. The Griffiths are all after him and Chester has put a price on his head. The infamous gunslinger Baltimore Joe is interested in the blood money ...
Tanio Boccia’s first western is a odd mix of styles and influences. The hero is named after the character from Duccio Tessari’s Ringo movies, but with his stubble beard and poncho he looks more like the Man with no Name. The character of a man doomed by his fame, is more similar to the Ringo played by Gregory Peck in The Gunfighter (1950) than the rather cheerful gentleman gunslinger impersonated by Giuliano Gemma. And then our Ringo on the Run also accepts a work as a cowhand on a farm, as if he were supposed to be a pseudo Shane, biding his time, waiting for the right moment to shoot it out with the black-clad killer send after him (Gordon Mitchell, every bit as mean and black as Jack Palance’s Wilson).
In other words: this movie is hodgepodge; it freely borrows form Hollywood classics but we have arrived in 1966 and the style is mostly Italian; Boccia (working as Amerigo Anton) handles some of the material well, but doesn’t know what to do with those scenes set on the Drumond ranch and therefore the second part of the movie occasionally feels like a Hollywood B-movie; there’s even a would-be funny old man of the grumpy type, who talks to his dog (who is smarter than he and saves the hero’s life). The ending echoes the final events of a knight’s tale, with our chivalrous hero - fancied dead by his sweetheart - arriving just in time to prevent the poor lady from marrying the black Knight - sorry, the evil Chester Griffith.
It would take Boccia one more effort to strike the right chords; his Kill the Wickeds, made one year later, is often called a minor genre classic. But even this small entry isn’t all bad; the shootouts are quite good, but there aren’t enough of them (it’s not a particularly violent movie) and the brief and sudden action moments are better than this protracted finale, which goes on far too long; the best scene, is the one with Ringo surprising four opponents in the main street (a clear reference to the famous scene from Tessari’s A Pistol for Ringo set on the children’s playgound). The score is a grab bag of tunes, some bad, some good, but hardly ever creating a real spaghetti western atmosphere. Kill or be Killed is not as bad as some may tell you, but I can only recommend it to aficionados. If you’re relatively new to the genre, there are many other entries you should check out first.
The Man with the Violin
Could it be that Harmonica, the world’s most famous musical avenger from Once Upon a time in the West, was based on the violin playing hero from this movie? It’s was has been suggested on the French forum by forum member and spaghetti western expert Breccio. It must be said that the violin in this movie doesn’t serve any special purpose; in Once Upon a Time in the West the harmonica launches the flashbacks, bringing back the memories of the vicious murder of the older brother, fueling the hero’s feeling of revenge; in Kill or Be Killed the violin is just a gimmick. But a musical instrument is still a remarkable object and there’s another moment that the movie may have attracted Leone’s attention: when Ringo finally faces this infamous Joe from Baltimore, he seems unarmed, like Harmonica arriving on the station, but surprises his opponent with a pistol he was carrying behind his back.
- For Breccio’s comments (in French) see: http://western-maniac.forum-pro.fr/t348-ringo-contre-jerry-colt-uccidi-o-muori-tanio-boccia-1967?highlight=uccidi+o+muori