Quintana Review

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< Quintana

  • 1969
  • Dir: Vincenzo Musolino
  • Cast: Tony Dimitri, Ignazio Spalla, Femi Benussi, Celso Faria, Aldo Bufi Landi, Maria Traversi, Antonietta Fiorito, Spartaco Conversi, Alberto Conversi
  • Music: Felice Di Stefano

To express his aversion for this movie, one Italian critic wrote: "The director, Vincenzo Musolino, died shortly after finishing it, and deservedly so". Not a very likable person if you ask me, this critic, but there’s no denying that Quintana is all but a great movie. With a hero who defends the poor and helpless incognito, Quintana is a bit similar to Giovanni Grimaldi’s Starblack, but whereas Grimaldi’s film was a witty and inventive variation on the ‘avenger for justice’ theme, Quintana is above all an odd movie. It’s not excruciating, it’s not without any entertainment value, but overall it’s mediocrity galore & not a hellova lot more.

Wearing a poncho and covering his face while on the warpath, Quintana is some kind of cross between Clint Eastwood and Zorro. He still lives with his parents, his girlfriend is called Esmeralda, and one of his best friends is a priest, Mansueto, who offers shelter to those who are wanted by the law, that is the corrupt governor and his federal troops. The story is quite intricate. The governor, Don Juan de Leyra, wants to marry the rich heiress Virginia, but she is in love with a guy called Manuel. The governor puts Manuel in jail on a false accusation, but he is freed from captivity by our masked hero. However, the governor also has an official fiancée, Perla, who’s mighty jealous of Virginia, so when Manuel … well, to make a long story short: there are a lot of machinations, twists and turns, and it all ends with a marriage and bloodshed.

Don Camillo (Fernandel)

Quintana often feels like a parody, and not just a parody of the genre. Like in a classic stage play, a relatively simple disguise is one hundred percent effective: a friend of the masked avenger dies in his arms, and asks him to remove the handkerchief because he wants to know who has been hiding behind it all those years. Note that Quintana lives in a town with a population of, let’s say, fifty or sixty, and wears his distinctive poncho all day! The final duel, probably inspired by a similar scene in Day of Anger, has Quintana and De Leyra, both on horseback, riding towards each other, like two knights in a medieval tournament. In the most outrageous scene of the entire movie, Quintana’s friend, father Mansueto, talks to Christ and even gets an answer from him! The scene seems inspired by the character of Don Camillo, from the popular novels by Giovannino Guareschi (and the even more popular films with Fernandel), a priest of a small village in post-WWII Italy, who hears the voice of Christ through the crucifix above the altar in his parish church. It most probably also was a political side-note: Mansueto asks God if he may assist Quintana, who is a rogue, but one with a good heart; in the novels and movies, Don Camillo used to ask God permission to help mayor Peppone, who was a communist, but one with a good heart. What Peppone and Don Camillo had in common, was an interest in the well-being of the village, what Quintana and Mansueto have in common, is an interest in the well-being of the region. In those days Christ was seen as some kind of proto-communist.

As said, the film often feels like a parody, but the thing is that Quintana is all but a light-hearted movie. Most jokes are unintentional and the tone is often more melodramatic than witty or funny. Even Spalla, who usually bubbles over with life, seems a little lethargic here, and Dimitri is so wooden that I thought for a while he was covering his face with a Venetian mask instead of a handkerchief. To make things even more unreal, the sensuality of the delicious Femi Benussi is almost neutralized with one of the most ridiculous wigs in history (screenshot 1). The cinematography isn’t bad, but Musolino too often uses the same oblique camera-angle to give his film an arty look (screenshot 2). However, he does get a few things right. He uses the few locations he has (the Mexican town of the Elios studios, the well-known Villa Mussolini) to good effect and his action scenes (fast & furious) aren’t bad at all. The oblique camera-angles soon become annoying, but Musolino sure had some sense of composition. He made only two spaghetti westerns, and neither of the two rises above the average, but still there were some promising things in them. They feel like movies from a director who was almost there. I have the idea there was a good spaghetti western in him. He just didn’t get the chance to realize it. Too bad.

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--By Scherpschutter

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