Vendetta per vendetta Review
Vendetta per vendetta is, as the SWDB Forum member Reverend Danite so eloquently put it, “yet another unhealthy slice of dark, moody and violent spaghetti-pie”.(1) It might not be in many people's top twenty. But it is certainly a strong contester for two other prizes; one for the longest whipping scene and the other for most rounds fired in a revolver duel without reloading in any spaghetti western ever.
After getting to grips with my past reluctance towards the “lesser” spaghetti westerns, I have come to think that a dark atmosphere and a good score sometimes go a long way to compensate for a film's weaknesses in other departments. Vendetta per vendetta is such a film. The story is not entirely consistent, and the dialogue not always fortunate. However, it reeks of greed, lust and brutality. And what is more, Angelo Lavagnino’s haunting score really pulls you in.
Shaliko, a Métis gunman (Gianni Medici), arrives in town just in time to watch a hanging ordered by major Bower (John Ireland), an ex southern army officer. After the hanging, Shaliko is run out of a saloon by Bower’s gunslinger Jeb (Giovanni Scratuglia). As he has also run out of tobacco, he enters a grocery store, where he runs into the major’s wife Ann (Loredana Nusciak). Outside, he shoots it out with Jeb, while Ann watches through the store window. Set on leaving town the morning after, he shacks up for the night in a stable. When he bars the door, Ann is already inside, and there is no beating around the bush.
In the morning, Bower and his men are looking for Shaliko, suspecting he has something to do with Ann’s absence. Sahliko escapes with Ann, who takes him to a hut where she used to live with her father. Only now Shaliko learns she is Bower’s wife. She tells him she suspects the major married her only to get his hands on her father’s prospected gold which she so far has hidden from him. They are overrun by Bower’s gang. Bower has Ann whipped for her adultery, then he beats her up himself to force her to tell him where the gold is, then kills her by accident. Bower suspects Ann has told Shaliko where the gold is, and Shaliko lets him think so, taking advice from Ann’s last words to him.
Vendetta per vendetta was directed in 1968 by Mario Colucci (2), who also wrote the story and the screenplay. He could have used some assistance in the latter department. And I really don’t know what to say about the ending. Not a merited director, he still managed to turn out one hardcore spaghetti western.
You would expect a film with a title like this to have a strong revenge theme. Actually, it has not. Shaliko, a stranger with no known past and no future, arrives in Bower’s town for no reason. He accidentally ends up in the sack with the major’s wife. There are no old scores to be settled. Revenge is mentioned only when Bower’s capo Pico asks him why he doesn’t finish his vendetta with Shaliko. Answer: “I like revenge, Pico, maybe I like gold more”. As for Shaliko, it seems he likes revenge more. So he goes about exacting it, and it seems he knows every trick in the book.
Even if it the story is a simple one, the characters are not. A contemporary critic commented on "the stunning psychological climate in which this rather trivial intrigue is embedded ". (3) We have an excellent John Ireland as a power crazed brutal tyrant, interacting really well with the less merited Gianni Medici as the hard as nails gunslinger with an Indian strike. We have a yellow-bellied gunslinger (Scratuglia), compensating with flashy manners and dressing; he literally has a weak stomach, this one. We have a saloon keeper’s daughter, Sandy (Conny Caracciolo), as greedy and scheming as she is tantalizing. And to top a good cast, the gorgeous Loredana Nusciak plays another strong part as Ann. Her whipping, by the way, is not the only reference to Django. We have a sadistic preacher as well, using a spur for torturing, and some djangoesque sceneries.
A gayish theme has been suggested (4). I don’t think so. Our friend Shaliko seems invariably to end up in the sack with any attractive woman who come his way, and no complaints received in the morning. As for the major, he is not only a ruthless bastard, he is a horny one too. On the very night of the day of his wife’s death, there is a fiesta at Bower’s ranch. There is a disturbing scene where the major sits drinking and watching a voluptuous Mexican woman swinging and swaying before him while he relives the beating up and killing of his wife. Then after failing to get Sandy to stay the night, he goes upstairs with another Mexican woman.
Regrettably no DVD release is available. Different uploads of poor quality are to be found on YouTube (as Vengeance for Vengeance); they all seem to be lifted from the same Greek release. Thanks to Reverend Danite for providing me with a decent copy.
(1) See forum
(2) After Vendetta per vendetta he wrote and directed one more film: Something Creeping in the Dark (1971), a giallo, with the participation of Lavagnino, Medici and even Nusciak, the latter only in a portrait.
(3) J.M. Sabatier, Saison ‘74, cited from Giusti.
(4) By David Pulici, referred to by Marco Giusti in Dizionario Del Western All'Italiana. Pulici’s thesis is that “this is spaghetti a little gayuccio where you love and you shoot only among males”. Giusti comments on Pulici’s thesis as follows: "È possibile. Le donne servono a poco." ("Possibly, the women serve little purpose.") I couldn’t disagree more. In this film the women really are the ones setting things in motion.