Seven Winchesters for a Massacre Review
The first of two westerns directed by Enzo G. Castellari starring American actor Edd Byrnes, who was popular in Italy for his role as "Kookie" in the TV series 77 Sunset Strip. Written by Castellari and Tito Carpi, the script is a bizarre hodgepodge of violence and comedy. The opening is powerful: the southern Colonel Blake (Madison) refuses to give up his arms when the Civil war is over, assembling a marauding mob to continue his private war. In reality Blake is not interested in any political cause and simply wants to lay his hands on a load of gold, hidden by southern general Beauregard in a secret place (shades of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly). Among the members of his gang are a Mexican, an Indian - a sadist who uses his spurs to kill or torture people - and even a Frenchman, who works as Blake's private cook and sommelier. The victims aren't Yankees, so we are told, but southerners, like the colonel himself.
The opening feels like a preamble of a serious, melancholic western about lawlessness in a post-war society, but once the gang is joined by the poncho-clad Byrnes (shades of For a few Dollars More) the film takes a drastic turn towards ... I-don't-know-exactly-what . It's supposed to be funny and exciting, but it's neither. Many jokes are lame, others look promising, but are blown up to ridiculous proportions. In Leone's movies gunslingers sometimes prove their abilities by shooting (for instance) a cigar out of another person's mouth. I don't particularly like those idiosyncrasies, but kept within bounds, they're not too obnoxious either. But here candles are shot from a candlestick, a water-jug is shot from a person's mouth, playing cards are shot from another person's hands, a gun is whipped (yes, whipped) out of a holster, a holster shot from a hip and ... and God knows what more.
Seven Winchesters for a Massacre is the work of a young man with considerable talent, but little experience, showing a surplus of ideas but a lack of self-control. After the silly, meandering mid-section, the film turns back to a more serious tone with the bloody massacre (of almost Peckinpah pretentions) that gave the film its title, and a reasonably well executed finale, set on an Indian graveyard. But when it seems all over, one more twist (involving female lead Luisa Baratto) is added, that is quite ludicrous if you think about it. Byrnes makes the best of it, keeping a smile on his face and that famous fifties forelock in shape. Reportedly Madison had drinking problems while making this film; he often looks as if he hadn't been able to sleep off his liquor. Some sparks are added by Luisa Baratto, as a mysterious beauty, and the relatively unknown Attilio Severini as the sadistic 'spur killer'. Like the film's script, Francesco de Masi's score is a mixed bag. It's moody and atmospheric during the first twenty minutes and more cheerful afterwards. Appropriately I had mixed feelings about it. With both an exciting opening and an entertaining finale, this is not a bad film. But it's very uneven and Castellari would do better in the future.
Robert Redford in a spaghetti western?
No, he never appeared in one, but in one of his many interviews, Enzo has stated that Robert Redford was interested in making a movie with him (*1). He had met Redford – a great art lover – during an exhibition in Florence, and he had already sent a script to the young American actor, but then he was told by his producer, Edmundo Amati, that he had contracted television actor Edd Byrnes for the part.
- (1) The interview was added as an extra to the Danish Another World release of Keoma.
Director: Enzo G. Castellari - Cast: Edd Byrnes, Guy Madison, Ennio Girolamo, Louisa Baratto, Federico Boido, Attilio Severini, Pedro Sanchez, Music: Francesco de Masi
Aka: Payment in Blood