Las Viboras cambian de Piel / Guns & Guts Review
From The Spaghetti Western Database
Las Viboras cambian de Piel (Guns & Guts)
A Mexican western by one of the most prolific film makers of the country, Rene Cardona Jr., son of director Rene Cardona Sr., father of actor/director Rene Cardona III (Rene seems to have been a popular first name in the Cardona family); it’s quite a bizarre movie, mixing spaghetti western elements with a large scale bloodbath à la Peckinpah, spicing things up with a considerable dose of nudity.
Two men, an escaped convict and a cuckold husband, are on the trail of the man who has ruined their lives. The piece of vermin has become the sheriff of Santa Fé and is living in a fortified monastery, surrounded by an army of gunmen. The two hunters hire a third man, a good-looking, well-dressed pistolero who lives among prostitutes. Once he nearly fell in love with a ‘normal’ woman, a situation that made him feel so miserable that he decided to stick to prostitutes for the rest of his life. In a funny voice over he describes his visions of spending the rest of his days on a remote ranch with his large collection of girls.
Being European, I’m not very familiar with Mexican westerns. If they were released at all in Europe, they got lost in the flood of spaghetti westerns and probably weren’t even identified as Mexican westerns (1). Having seen only a couple of Mexi-westerns, I find it difficult to say how good (or bad) this one is. It’s rather talkative and offers too many fist fights, poorly staged and going on forever. At the same time it’s often (unintentionally?) funny and the scarce moments of gunplay are well-executed, in a style that owns quite a lot to (who else?) Leone. One of the highlights is a well-conceived variation on a Leonesque duel – a slow build-up resulting in a sudden eruption of violence, the pistolero drawing the attention to his right hand, but drawing with his left. The victim is shot in the throat and slowly, very slowly falls to the ground, blood gushing from the wound, a foretaste of the blood-letting of the grand finale.
This finale, the attack on the stronghold, is a large-scale blood ballet, imitating the final shootout of Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch, featuring machine guns and men falling – aaaargggh – from great heights in super slow motion, blood gushing in geysers from their multiple bullet wounds. It’s pretty well done even though the effect never comes close to what Peckinpah achieved; what made the action sequences in The Wild Bunch so special, is not the slow motion as such, but the use of it in combination with parallel action: intercutting a movement with other pieces of action from a different movement, for instance a man falling from a roof in slow motion, intercut by scenes from a horse spinning at normal speed or a rider falling through a window elsewhere; the effect of this editing style, is that audiences get the feeling they’re in the middle of the action (2). In Guns & Guts, the action is spectacular, but remains a spectacle seen from a distance.
The film’s eroticism is of a particularly naughty kind. The highlight is a game of strip poker involving our pistolero and three saloon girls, resulting in an draw: the women topless, the man with his trousers on his ankles.
- (1) Some Mexi-westerns were re-edited and released under a different - Italian - title to make them look and sound like spaghetti westerns.
- (2) Parallel action or cross-cutting - cutting away from one action to another - was already used by film pioneers like Griffith and Eisenstain (notably in Bronenosets Potemkin, Battleship Potemkin). Peckinpah decided to use the technique as intensively as he did in The Wild Bunch because he had shot so many material; a rough cut of the opening massacre, was 21 minutes; if the sequence were to be edited in a more traditional way, Peckinpah would have lost most of the things he had shot. See: David Weddle, If they move ... kill 'em, p. 355-357