Vengeance Film Review

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"Five Men Held The Balance Of Death... ...his revenge explodes in a blaze of hellfire!"

Joko invoca Dio e muori Poster.jpg

Vengeance is a 1967 Italian, West German co-production [Super International Pictures (Rome), Top Film (Munich)] directed by Antonio Margheriti.

  • This review contains spoilers.*

I really think that the only thing that keeps Vengeance from being a classic of the Spaghetti Western genre is the editing. The film just needed to be shortened here and there to help the film get going when it started bogging down, case in point being the overly long siege by the bandit Laredo and his gang on the sheriff's office and the ending shootout between Joko and Mendoza. One thing is sure about this film and that it's Richard Harrison's best spaghetti western performance, and by far the best spaghetti western he appeared in. The film is beautifully shot with great camera work and captured angles and creative framing, the director Antonio Margheriti does a wonderful job helming this film, he directed a great film here that just needed some quicker cuts and a bit more editing. The Italian born Margheriti directed a total of five spaghetti Westerns which included DYNAMITE JOE (Italy, Spain, 1967 ), AND GOD SAID TO CAIN (Italy, W. Germany, 1970 ) which is aided by a great understated controlled performance by the prolific spaghetti western actor Klaus Kinski, STRANGER AND THE GUNFIGHTER (Italy, Spain, Hong Kong, USA, 1974 ) with Lee Van Cleef, TAKE A HARD RIDE (Italy, Spain, USA) with the iconic Lee Van Cleef again, and this film. All are substandard quality films except AND GOD SAID TO CAIN and VENGEANCE, Margheriti, who sometimes went under the alias Anthony Dawson, was better known as a director of Horror films which included the classic CASTLE OF BLOOD (Italy, Spain, 1964), LONG HAIR OF DEATH (Italy, 1964) and CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE (Italy, Spain, 1980), among others. The film opens with a terrific scene where a young man named Ritchie (Alberto Dell'Acqua) is spread eagle between five men on horses with ropes attached to his limbs and waist, they are wanting to know the location of a Joko Barrett. When he won't reveal Joko's whereabouts the group of men decide to split if you will, painfully pulling Ritchie off scene, limb from limb. The five men includes, The Kid, Domingo, Laredo and Yuma, but one man remains a mystery until the end.

One of the men named Domingo (Luciano Pigozzi as Alan Collins) arrives home to find Joko Barrett waiting for him, "let's have a little talk about Ritchie," Joko says. Domingo pleads he "didn't have anything to do with it!" Joko believes that Ritchie and Mendoza, who would be introduced soon in flashback, were both betrayed and he is seeking vengeance against the guilty parties, to avenge his friend's deaths. Domingo runs from the house and Joko slowly follows him in well done Chase scene on foot, until Domingo opens fire and Joko returns fire, cutting Domingo down, Joko places a small piece of bloody rope near Domingo' s dead body, a piece of rope he cut off Ritchie's dead body, four more pieces to go, vengeance to be brought against the guilty. Joko rides into a town and walks into the saloon where Yuma's (Goffredo Unger) sits playing in a crooked game of poker. Jane (Sheyla Rosin) a saloon performer is leaving that day to marry the "trigger happy Mexican" Laredo as Yuma describes him. Tempers flare when Joko seeing Yuma pull a card from his sleeve at the poker table, throws a knife, pinning the card to the table, Joko says "i have an account to settle with you, Yuma." The stage arrives and the townsfolk see Jane off, and after she departs, Yuma and Joko fist fight in the saloon, Joko is getting the upper hand in the fight until Yuma breaks a bottle and waves it menacingly at Joko, Yuma is dispatched when Joko grabs onto a beam and swings his body, using his spurs to cut Yuma's throat open, the second piece of bloody rope is thrown at Yuma's dead body. The newspaper editor who is at the bar when this transpires, figures out the man is Joko Barrett. A stranger appears in black and asks the man who that was and he says J. Barrett, "walked in to do vengeance, nothing but an outlaw, but he's nearly a saint compared to these people." The man in black (Paolo Gozlino) is eventually revealed to be a Pinkerton agent who is looking for the gold that was stolen from the old mission.

Paolo Gozlino who has more than a passing resemblance to Stephen Boyd, appeared in a number of spaghetti Westerns but his most memorable roles in these films was as Rod Murdock in DJANGO THE BASTARD (Italy, 1969) and as Dave Shannon in CLINT THE STRANGER (Italy, Spain, W. GERMANY, 1967). Joko rides off and arrives in the town New Laredo where the people are in fear of the bandit Laredo (Pedro Sanchez) and his men. Joko goes into the general store to buy a rifle and a file to saw it down with, the owners of the store say, "decent folks are running out, it's in account of Laredo, worse scum you could run into." There's no order there because there's no sheriff and no one's man enough to face Laredo. Joko reaches into his pocket and pulls out a sheriff's star and pins it on his shirt. When the stage arrives he takes Jane and places her in a cell at the sheriff's office that is dusty and full of cobwebs. You see Jane was sold to Laredo, to be his wife. Jane is used as bait to lure Laredo, and Joko knows that Laredo will not burn the sheriff's office or dynamite it because he wants his woman.

Jane asks Joko why he killed Domingo and Yuma and Joko replies " because they killed my friends and to get back my share of the gold." Joko continues " Ritchie was a kid and Mendoza, he was little more complicated, no one understood Mendoza, little loco, but he was a genius, I swear he was a genius!" This triggers a flashback with Joko explaining how they robbed the old mission and only brought Domingo along at the last minute to serve as a lookout. Joko felt that Domingo was the one mistake that Mendoza made in the robbery. As Ritchie, Joko and Mendoza make their way through the mission to the safe, a rope is tied to a water wheel and a supporting beam in the safe room, which is tightening as it turns and will eventually bring the ceiling down. Mendoza kisses a sulpher rock he feels is his lucky charm, he wears it around his neck, Mendoza cracks the safe and pulls the gold out, gunfire erupts outside the door, Mendoza covers for Joko and Ritchie as they make their way out. Joko says he left the gold and Ritchie with Domingo and went to try and help Mendoza.

Night has fallen and Laredo and his men have arrived to get Jane and kill the new sheriff, the sheriff's office is under siege by Laredo who calls out for Jane's release and to degrade Joko, " you stinking Indian, come out and fight." Joko who is angered by the insults tells Jane that he lived with the Cheyenne until they kicked him out for being a "disgusting white," but then all the white folks spit in his face, but most who did are dead now" he says. Slowly Joko dispatches Laredo's men one by one, until Laredo who has positioned himself right outside the office still wanting his possession Jane, loads his gun and pulls the hammer back, Joko who has obviously learned to listen and attack silently from his time with the Cheyenne, waits and kills Laredo when he silently sneaks out the office and surprises Laredo, cutting him down, throwing the third bloody rope piece near the dead man, two to go. Joko who had to defeat the gang by himself as the townsfolk did nothing, throws the star to the ground (as Clint Eastwood' s character does in FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE) and tells them to get a new sheriff. Jane has fallen for Joko and wants him to take her along with him, but he has to do what he's got to do alone and rides off,

The kid and his gang lay waiting in the hills, waiting for an Indian who has info on Joko, when he arrives he tells them that Joko will be heading there soon and will camp in the vicinity. Joko does camp there and knows something is amiss and uses the old sleeping bag trick where he makes it appear he is sleeping in the bag, but is hiding elsewhere, only problem is the Indian who had been tracking Joko has snuck up behind him and knocks him out cold with the butt of his rifle. They tie Joko down and put Slivers of wood to hold his eyes open and make him stare at the sun for six hours.

The Kid is played by the fine actor Werner Pochath, who unfortunately only appeared in one other spaghetti western, that being the Sergio Corbucci film SONNY AND JED (Italy, Spain, W. Germany). The Kid who laughs and grins a lot, showing a bit of immaturity, takes Joko to town and after beating him in front of the town's men folk who have been forced there by the gang members, " to see their hero." The Kid grandstands himself saying, " only I the Kid, ain't afraid of him, I, a kid will take care of him." Jane is now staying at the saloon, hearing the commotion rushes out to the landing and stands watching along with the Pinkerton agent as the drama unfolds beneath them. "He can have the Kid's skin if he can take it, or the Kid will send him straight to hell," the Kid boasts.The men townsfolk look on solemnly as the battered, bruised and sight impaired Joko is challenged to a duel by the Kid, which consist of two guns and a two glasses of beer being slide down to the end of the bar for the men to grab and then shoot. The tension builds as the moment slowly approaches and the Bartender slides them down, both men shoot and after a moment the Kid falls mortally wounded to the floor. " You cheated" says Joko " but you made a mistake, I'm left-handed.," throwing the fourth bloody rope piece at the dying Kid. The kid says by killing him Joko will never know who the last man was. Joko shakes the dying Kid, but he dies in his arms, Joko sees the sulphur rock that Mendoza always wore around the Kid's neck.

Mendoza played by Claudio Camaso (brother of Gian Maria Volonte) is a bit flaky and prone to dramatics, his skin has botches of yellow which either come from the yellow cavernous walls or from an undisclosed illness. He looks of a man who is obviously on drugs, even though it's never shown on screen or implied (Richard Harrison in an accompanying interview included on this disc says that Camaso, was indeed on drugs). Tom Betts, the spaghetti western expert on Camaso, "Camaso was the younger brother of actor Gian Maria Volonte. He was married to an actress named Verena Baer from 1970-1977. They had a child named Saba in 1971. Claudio appeared in more than 20 films between 1965-1976. On September 16, 1977, he got into an argument with a 27 year-old electrician named Vincenzo Mazza. The argument led to a fight and Mazza was killed. Some claim the guy was harassing Camaso’s wife others say Claudio became jealous of Mazza over his affection towards his wife. Camaso claimed it was an accident and while awaiting trial he was found hanged in the bathroom of his cell in Regina Coeli prison Rome, Italy. Most likely a suicide."

Joko goes to the sulphur mine and quickly dispatches Mendoza' s men and sets off after Mendoza through the mine, whose walls are yellowish, giving it a distinctly gothic look to the proceedings within the mine, which is beautifully lit and filmed. They shoot back and forth with Joko chasing Mendoza in a scene in desperate need of editing, until the end where Joko finally traps the bullet less Mendoza, Joko throws him a bullet, but Mendoza flings a knife, sticking it into Joko' s left shooting hand, making him use his right, they draw and Joko kills Mendoza, who does the star death, thrashing about until he perished after firing his only bullet, missing Joko, the last bloody rope piece is thrown on to the dead Mendoza. The Pinkerton Agent and Jane arrive and the agent tells Joko, that he's only there for the money. Joko and Jane walk from the scene and Joko who had pushed Jane and everyone away throughout the movie, puts his arm around her waist and leads her from the mine. The film is a very good example of a revenge based spaghetti western. Richard Harrison really excels in his role and the rest of the cast are all outstanding. The issue with this film ultimately revolves around the length of some scenes and the need for quicker editing as I noted earlier in the review. The movie moves at a great clip until after the killing of Yuma, then the movie moves at a more choppy pace and can at times be down right laborious. The film has a fantastic soundtrack by the ultra prolific composer Carlo Savina. The soundtrack also has a fine vocal performance by Don Powell performing the theme song "Vengeance."

The Code Red release of Vengeance is a decent print, some scenes have some visual flaws and the soundtrack pops and cracks here and there, but all in all a pretty nice example of this fine film. The film's run time is listed as 81 minutes on the back DVD cover, but the actual films running time here is 100 minutes. The interview with Harrison does not elaborate much on this film, tending to encompass more of his overall career. In the Alfredo Leone interview he states that it was his ideal to use the opening scene with Ritchie being pulled apart, as another opening was intended. The extras are all outstanding and make this disc a worthy investment. The disc is anamorphic widescreen presentation in 2.35:1 ratio. It's in English mono and is a region 0 release. The extras included on this disc includes

  • Brand New HiDef Transfer from 35mm Vault Element
  • Joko Lives: Interview with Richard Harrison
  • Create Vengeance: Interview with Alfedo Leone
  • European Trailer for Vengeance
  • Code Red Trailers

Thanks as always to the spaghetti western expert Tom Betts for the cast and crew list and his help on this review.

Article written by Michael Hauss, author of several reviews for Monster magazine, We Belong Dead, Multitude of Movies, Divine Exploitation and blogs that includes Multitude of Movies, Theater of Guts and the SWDb. He has a love of film with particular interest in the Spaghetti Western and Horror genres. Michael lives in the United States where he resides with his daughter and their two cats Rotten Ralph and Fatty boo-boo.
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