Vengeance Trail Film Review
From The Spaghetti Western Database
You don't see that very often: a spaghetti western with Indians. Italian directors had concentrated on the Civil War and the Mexican revolution and never shown much interest in the Indian wars, but in the early Seventies, when the glory days of the genre were over, they were looking for new inspiration, and movies like Little Big Man, Cry for me, Billy and Soldier Blue seemed rewarding models to copy, the more so since most Italian film makers had left-wing political ideas. The Indians were often shown as victims of racism and imperialism. Often the protagonist was a survivor of a massacre, who would become an avenger afterwards. Vengeance Trail (See Database Page) is a nice variation on the 'first victim, then avenger' theme: the survivor is not an Indian, but a white boy who discovers that his family - like the Indians - were victims of the white man's greed.
The boy is called Jim, and in a rather corny opening scene, we learn how his family is living in harmony with the Red Man. But one night the family ranch is attacked by renegade Indians and little Jimmy is the only one to survive the massacre. Ten years after, he has become Jeremiah, a ruthless scalp-hunter. One day, when collecting scalps, he spares the life of a beautiful squaw and brings her into town, where he's approached by the men of Perkins - the richest man in the country and a fervent racist - who offer him a few dollars for the woman, so they can have their way with her. Eventually the whole town turns against the young woman, who is covered with tar and feathers to humiliate her. Jeremiah saves her from the angry mob, and flies with her to a ghost town, but they're soon surprised by Perkins's men, who were still on their trail ...
With an intricate script about prejudice, racial hatred and growing social awareness, this is a very interesting genre entry. The attack on the farm, was of course performed by Perkins' men, disguised as Indians, and when Jeremiah finds out the truth, he teams up with the falsely accused real Indians to attack the Perkins ranch. Director Squitieri, who had strong communist feelings at the time, saw it as an expression of class struggle, with the Indians and poor whites joining forces to beat capitalism and imperialism (ironically, Squitieri later changed his political mind rather drastically and was elected as senator for the right-wing Alleanza Nazionale in 1994) (*1)
Shot entirely in the hills around Rome, the movie has a cheap look, except for the interiors - shot at the Elios studios - which are quite good. The lack of authenticity, location-wise, clashes with the fact that real native Americans were used as warriors: they were foreign students at the university. The scene in which Jeremiah reveals to Perkins who his allies are, works marvelously thanks to the fact that real natives were used :
"Look, they don't need disguises to look like Indians!".
It's also one of the movies that gave Klaus Kinski a bad name. As a person, not as an actor. He was such a pain in the ass, that all others hated his guts. Kinski said his behavior would lead to more 'realism' in the movie, in particular during the scene in which with the townspeople are trying to beat him up. Allegedly, the director chased him with a baseball bat when this scene was shot, screaming "Come here, bastard, I'll show you some realism!" (*2). Leonard Mann, as Jeremiah, remains silent and moody for most part of the film, while Steffen Zacharias, as Doc, the man who nurses Jeremiah back to health after he's been shot (and tells him the truth about the massacre of his family), acts as if he's in some kind of Carry On spoof of a western. Ivan Rassimov, or Sean Todd as most of us know him, is a good villain, and the unknown Eversfield is a true delight as the long-legged, temperamental squaw.
- (1) https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pasquale_Squitieri
- (2) Marco Giusti, Dizionario del western all'italiano
Director: Pasquale Squitieri - Cast: Leonard Mann, Klaus Kinski, Sean Todd (Ivan Rassimov), Steffen Zacharias, Elizabeth Eversfield, Enzo Fiermonte, Teodoro Corrà, Salvatore Billa, Giorgio Dolfin, Isabella Guidotti, Stefano Oppedisano, Gianfranco Tamborra, Yotanka, Pietro Torrisi - Music: Piero Umiliani