Ringo's Big Night Review
From The Spaghetti Western Database
Ringo's Big Night (La Grande Notte di Ringo)
The name Ringo in the title, was a come-on, a marketing trick to jump on the band wagon of Duccio Tessari's Ringo movies with Giuliano Gemma. The hero (or anti-hero) of this movie is called Jack Balman, and he's never called Ringo. The working title was La Grande Notte del Desperado; the Spanish title was - and still is - Trampa para un Forajido (A Trap for an Outlaw). In Spain, Ringo stays mainly in the plain.
To put an end to a series of stagecoach robberies, two men are arrested and thrown in jail. Jack Balman, a feared gunman, plus a drifter with a broken arm, who claims to be innocent, but seems to have vital information on the most recent robbery. He says the loot must be hidden in the nearby town of Tombstone and also reveals the names of three of the four thieves, but has no idea about the identity of their leader. With the help of his cellmate, Jack breaks out of jail and travels for one night - 'Ringo's big night' - to Tombstone, in order to prove who the real bandits are, and get hold of the money ...
The movie was released in 1966, but shows all characteristics of a product from the early days of the spaghetti western genre. Like most early genre outings, it mixes European and American elements and the final result is somewhat anonymous - it's a western of sorts, far from great, but not too bad either. There are a few similarities between the desperado played by William Berger and the Ringo character played by Gemma (they're both egocentric rascals who end up serving the law and helping the good people), but it's clear that the Ringo in the title was an afterthought. The story about stolen gold and a Pinkerton agent going undercover, definitely has its origins on the other side of the ocean. The villains all being dignitaries, is again a nice Italian touch.
Mario Maffei is credited as director, but in reality the bulk of the movie was directed by two others, Enzo G. Castellari (listed as assistant-director) who did most of the outdoor scenes, and Alberto De Martino (not credited) who did the Tombstone scenes and was also responsible for the opening scene with the stagecoach robbery (1). De Martino is best known for the slightly tongue-in-cheek Django Shoots First and the scenes he directed for this movie, have the same combination of tough action moments and light-hearted, comical touches. In the opening scene the robbers can't find the money until one of them has the idea to open the trunk of the stagecoach: in the trunk is a banker, and in the banker's clothes are the $200,000 the bandits are after ...
Berger (in his first spaghetti appearance) looks so young that it took me at least ten minutes to realize it was him. The actor's rebellious life-style (he moved in circles where experiments with drugs were very common) combined with working in the desert seemed to have ruined his juvenile looks in the second half of the sixties (2). It was a co-production with Spain and some of the Spanish actors in supporting roles, notably Eduardo Fajardo and José Bodalo, would become very familiar genre faces in the years to come. Sexy Adriana Ambesi is second-billed but her part is rather ungrateful: for most part of this long and terrible night, she's gagged and tied to her bed!
Apart from the opening scenes with the stagecoach robbery, the first thirty minutes or so of this movie are quite tedious. It gets better once Jack arrives in Tombstone, but when three different directors work on a movie (which offered a mix of styles to begin with) the result will inevitably lack any consistency. I had the idea it would've worked better if they had turned the whole thing into a caper movie in the style of Castellari's later Any Gun can Play. There are a few moments of visual delight and the script offers a couple of neat ideas, like Fajardo using a gun as a door handle (so he can surprise visitors at any moment), but some of the more light-hearted elements are needlessly silly. The scene in which Jack breaks out of jail, using his cellmate's pants ("Hurry up, take out your pants, there's no time to be shy") must be seen to be believed.
- (1) Marco Giusti, Dizionario del western all'italiana
- (2) See: WILLIAM BERGER - Actor's Page