Requiem for Gringo - Wild East Productions
From The Spaghetti Western Database
The first time I had ever seen Requiem for Gringo was on VHS on the old Trans World video label in the mid-1980's under the title Duel in the Eclipse. Even at that early time in my exploration of the Spaghetti Western genre, I knew this one was something special. In a genre known for repetition, this film while still mired in the tropes of films past brought something new to the table. While the genre was littered with intelligent anti-heroes who were educated in the law of the colt 45, many were not educated book-wise to the point that the hero of this film Ross Logan (Lang Jefferies) was. With a room filled with dusty old books and maps of the world, his intelligence was beyond the level of most professional killers in these films, rivaling that of some of the assorted criminal masterminds. Ross though was not only wise in bookish terms, but also in the game of death, using his intelligence to help in his quest for revenge. The film introduces Logan returning from the war, a commonly used device that was featured in many a western including Blood for a Silver Dollar (Dollaro bucato, Un, 1965), Blood at Sundown (Perché uccidi ancora, 1965),Keoma (1976) and California (1977), among numerous others.
After being away for years fighting in the war of the states, the stylish Ross Logan, in striped union military pants and a Jaguar skin poncho returns to his homestead. A tired man who longs to find some peace is suddenly jolted back into the killing mode when first his brother Dan is Viciously abused and then gunned down by a gang led by the evil Mexican bandit Carranza (Fernando Sancho) and his ranch is set upon by five of Carranza’s men who are looking for fresh horses. After Ross leaves his ranch to extract his revenge, he is met by Dan’s body hanging from an archway, a sign attached telling the peons of the consequences of interfering with Carranza and his men. Ross stops at a weigh station to bid his time until an eclipse is due to make an appearance on April 17, 1867, at which time he will ride in to confront Carranza and use that natural phenomenon to his benefit.
Carranza has overtaken the Ramirez ranch and has killed all the family, including Dan Logan, who had arrived to pay a visit to the lovely ladies of the ranch. Carranza and his gang had overtaken the ranch after their large group had split up after a robbery and Carranza and a small group ended up at the ranch, while the other group headed to the border to hide out until things die down. Dan is forced to play a game of "Rope Duel," which consists of two men tied to a column by a rope and then the rope being shot in two by another gunman and then the men rush to escape the binds and draw. Dan flat out refuses to draw even as his ropes slip from his body and the malicious Ted Corbin (Carlo Gaddi) escapes his binds. When finally pushed to the point of having to draw on Ted, Dan finds out the cylinder in his pistol has been removed and Ted proceeds to fill him full of lead as the other men maniacally laugh in obvious enjoyment of the killing. The revenge for a murdered loved one was also a commonly used plot device used most effectively in the films For A Few Dollars More (Per qualche dollaro in più, 1965), Johnny Hamlet (Quella sporca storia nel west, 1968), The Great Silence (Grande silenzio, Il, 1968) and Keoma.
Carranza surrounds himself with three notorious pistoleros, Ted Corbin, Tom Leader (Ruben Rojo) and Charley Fair (Aldo Sambrell). Ted Corbin the smartest of the bunch is sleeping with Carranza’s girl Alma (Femi Benussi) behind his back and plotting with her to kill Carranza and make off with the jewels from the robbery when the time is right. Ross Logan hides in the shadows and has earned a reputation as a “man with magical powers,” after Nina the peon who Ted Corbin is lusting after, is told by Ross to leave before a storm hits, to which Nina replies, “it never rains in April,” as the thunder and lightening effects start on cue. Ross through information gathering and lurking about in the shadows has found that each of the three pistoleros has a weakness and he can exploit them through that weakness and extract his revenge. That is until he faces Carranza on April 17, and with the help of the impending eclipse he plans on completing his revenge. The use of the eclipse, the foreboding of stormy weather and the eerie mysterious movements of the Ross Logan character brings the film And God Said to Cain (E Dio disse a Caino, 1970) to mind and its supernatural elements and its impending doom in the shape of a tornado and the Gary Hamilton character (Klaus Kinski).
Ross Logan is a man possessed with a burning hatred, dead set upon revenge, but, going about it intelligently and stoically, using the character's flaws to help facilitate his vengeance. Like most bandit gangs the underlings are always itching to eliminate the boss. But in this film Tom Leader does not wish to take the gang over, only to get the jewels and make off with the girl after he kills Carranza. Carranza is not a man of action in the film and is portrayed multiple times as a man unsure of himself and leery of the men underneath him. And what Ross discovers, and Carranza has stated earlier in the film, the three pistoleros are dependent on each other and much bolder and more effective as a unit, as opposed to individually, which is why Ross lures each separately into his traps. But the shaky Carranza upon his throne is not to escape the methodical vengeance of Ross, who with the help of the eclipse and his trusty colt 45, brings the wrath of god upon Carranza and the rest of the gang.
Requiem for Gringo is one of the best Italian westerns made. While much of the narrative bits had been used countless times before, the use of the astronomy adds another dimension to the film and Lang Jefferies turns in an outstanding performance. Sadly, this is Jefferies only Italian western, which to me is a shame as he had the mannerisms down pat and really shone in this part. The rest of the cast is outstanding including a very nuanced performance by Fernando Sancho and outstanding turns by the three Italian western regulars; Aldo Sambrell as Charley Fair, with his clicking silver dentures, Ruben Rojo of The Brainiac (El barón del terror, 1962) fame as Tom Leader and the wonderfully menacing Carlo Gaddi as the sadistic, black-clad Ted Corbin. The absolutely stunning Femi Benussi plays Alma, who is sleeping with but is repulsed by Carranza and in cahoots with Tom Leader to kill Carranza and escape with the loot. Benussi sells the part perfectly turning in an ice cold performance as a woman enticed by the jewels which adorn her beautiful body, and the financial security they offer and with Tom Leader who promises her the finer things in life back east after they escape with the jewels. The prolific Angel Alvarez appears as Samuel the bartender, Alvarez is best remembered as Jonathan the bartender in the seminal Sergio Corbucci film Django (1966). The direction by Jose Marino is handled adroitly and the score which is wonderfully memorable Is by the vastly underrated Angelo Francesco Lavaginino.
The new Blu-Ray release from Wild East Productions is absolutely stellar. Everything is immaculate from the eye-catching Blu-ray cover to the pristine print used and the full rich audio. This is Wild East’s second foray into the Blu-Ray market after their twofer release of My Name is Pecos (Due once di piombo, 1966) and Pecos Cleans Up (Pecos è qui: prega e muori, 1967) from a few years back, and lets hope its not their last. I purchase all the new Italian western Blu-ray releases here in the states that I can get my hands on, and this release to me from the overall package standpoint is one of the best releases of this year, for that matter any year. Also included are the Italian Theatrical Trailer, German Theatrical Trailer, English Title Sequences and a Picture Gallery.
Thanks as always to spaghetti western expert Tom Betts, and a shout-out to Carl Black!