Killer Adios Review
Cast: Peter Lee Lawrence, Marisa Solinas, Armando Calvo, Rosalba Neri, Eduardo Fajardo, Nello Pazzafini, Luis Induni, Victor Israel, Paola Barbara, José Jaspe - Director: Primo Zeglio - Music: Claudio Tallino
Often called a twin movie to 32 Calibre Killer, but not really a sequel. Peter Lee Lawrence is again a gunslinger-detective, but the character has a different background. Unlike hired gun Silver from the other movie, he's not a stranger in town who's asked to investigate a murder case, but a gunman of a reputation returning to the very town he had left years before, after shooting a criminal before the man could be interrogated. He is, in other words, a trigger happy young man who's a bit too quick on the draw (and draws too quick) for his own good. In the course of Killer Adios, he will make the same mistake again: shooting an opponent before he could talk.
Peter Lee's name in Killer Adios is Jessy Brayn. It sounds (and looks) a bit odd and it's not the only odd name in the movie. For a moment I thought Eduardo Fajardo's character was called Ringo, but it turned out to be Ringold. The local dignitary who hires Jessy to investigate a series of murders, is called Bill Bragg. Anyway, the victims of the serial killer are all shot in the back and the only clue is a special Winchester rifle - one of a thousand - that belongs to a town bully called Jack Bradshaw. Of course Bradshaw is the main suspect, but detective Jessy knows his classics and understands it can't be that simple.
Killer Adios was the fourth and final western directed by Primo Zeglio, a man who, reportedly, didn't like westerns (1). In an interview he stated that some aspects of his movie had been inspired by one of the few westerns he actually liked, John Ford's The Man Who shot Liberty Valance (1961). There are indeed a few similarities. Liberty Valance is, to some extent, a mystery movie, and in one key scene someone is shot in the back. Both films are also about the coming of law and order in a western town, but Peter Lee's Jessy is not a bookworm, and the script is not concerned with the opposition between myth and reality, or violence and written law. Jessy is quickly appointed deputy, and when the sympathetic but otherwise impotent sheriff is shot, he takes over the man's job and restores order with the help of his six-shooter.
Peter Lee is again a well-dressed hero, but this time around he doesn't look like a forerunner of Sartana or Sabata, but more like a successor of Giuliano Gemma's Ringo from A Pistol for Ringo. Like in 32 Caliber killer, Gemma's shadow hangs over the proceedings. The sophisticated hero, the romantic subplot, the fistfight with Pazzafini, it all suggests that we're dealing with a Gemma movie without Gemma. The film ends with a kiss, like some of Gemma's movies with Ferroni, such as Fort Yuma Gold and Wanted. In this particular case it's not the hero who gets the girl, but (how nice!) the girl who gets the hero. In true Liberty Valance style, the final scene is set on a train.
Again I would say the movie works better as a mystery movie than as a western. There are a few shootouts and several blows are exchanged, but only an early flashback scene (showing the incident that drove Jessy out of town) rises above the ordinary. As a mystery movie, it works pretty well; it may be too talkative to some people's taste, but the sinuous story offers enough suspects and red herrings to keep things moving. And, for what it's worth, it kept me guessing until the very end who was behind all these machinations. The romantic subplot is also quite nice, with Jessy's old flame Fanny (Rosalba Neri) now being courted by the main suspect (the owner of the Winchester) and the sheriff's daughter (Marisa Solinas) almost literally stalking our hero. Since Marisa is a brunette, Rosalba is a lovely redhead for the occasion. All tastes are catered for.
- (1) Marco Giusti, Dizionario del western all'italiano
And again those sophisticated gunslingers ...
Duccio Tessari had proposed the name Ringo to Sergio Leone on the set of A Fistful of Dollars, but Leone didn't like it (apparently because he had read about the historic Johnny Ringo, a member of the Clanton clan). Tessari then used the name for the hero of his own movie. It was decided that Ringo would be a more sophisticated, smooth anti-hero than No Name, clean-shaven and well-dressed. Gemma's favorite actor was Burt Lancaster, and he wanted Ringo to look and behave like Joe Erin, the rascal Lancaster had played in Vera Cruz (1954). However, in 1965 the spaghetti western was not yet ready for a black-clad hero (soon it would be) therefore his clothes were modeled after Gary Cooper's outfit in High Noon (1952). He would also be a rascal with a heart of gold, who therefore ends up on the good side of the law (when he's asked by the sheriff to negotiate with the villains). Like Ringo, Peter Lee's Jessy is a bit of a shady person who's asked by the sheriff to assist him, and like Ringo he's a clean and healthy person: Ringo preferred milk to beer or whiskey, Jessy doesn't smoke and doesn't drink. And if he's a man who shoots opponents before asking them questions, he's so neat and courteous that he tells Marisa Solinas she's too young and frail to be his girlfriend. A true gentleman.