Adios Gringo - Wild East Release
Adios Gringo - reviewed by Michael Hauss
This film with any less of a talented or charismatic lead actor could have failed miserably. Not that it is not a solid enough story, but it’s got some serious plausibility issues. Very few Italian western actors could have pulled this still mired in a Hollywood western part off, the way Gemma did. While most of the Spaghetti westerns' success must be directed towards Sergio Leone, there is no denying that Giuliano Gemma helped further cement the genres stability especially in Italy where Gemma became the genres first homegrown superstar. With amazing grace and cat like agility, and blessed with an angelic face, which earned him the fitting nickname in A PISTOL FOR RINGO, of Angel Face, Gemma became an icon of the genre. His death in 2013 was a deep hurt that still resonates today, for all the fans of the Italian western genre and the whole of cinema!
Adios Gringo was one of four Gemma westerns released in 1965, the others being PISTOL FOR RINGO,RETURN OF RINGO and BLOOD FOR A SILVER DOLLAR. The film is an early hybrid that relies more on a traditional Hollywood hero and story, but mixes in enough blood and violence to let the viewer know where the film was made. The plot is simple enough and is a bit laborious to get through as the film begins and really does not pick up until the forty-minute mark.
Brett Landers has just bought a small ranch in the Johnson City area and runs into an old friend of his named Jack Dawson (Nello Pazzafini), who is seemingly overjoyed to see Landers and says to him, the two of them were the “Rowdiest cowboys in five counties.” Dawson sells Landers some cattle and rides off to enjoy the ladies in the next county, with his new-found wealth, saying “Adios Gringo,” to Landers as he rides off. Landers drives the cattle through Johnson City and is stopped by a man name Stan Clevenger (Germano Longo), who says the cattle belong to him. Clevenger who is out with his wife Maude (Monique Saint Claire) in their buggy, rips up and throws in Landers face, the fake bill of sale, Dawson had given him for the purchase of the cattle!
Clevenger feels that Landers is trying to rip him off, and is angry and becoming more and more aggravated and gets to the point, where as he puts it “My blood is a boiling, “he pulls his gun, becoming more and more agitated with each passing second. He opens fire on Landers who returns fire, killing Clevenger. Clevenger’s Maude wife exits the buggy and runs to her dead husband, crying over the top of his body, as the towns folk gather around. Clevenger’s wife starts calling Landers a murderer and that he robbed and killed her husband for a few measly head of cattle. The ugly mob forms and a rope is found for hanging, until Landers fights his way out of the bad situation, pulling a gun and holding the town at bay, and as he mounts his horse he vows to return with Jack Dawson, to help clear his name. Clevenger’s wife offers a bounty for the capture of Brett Landers.
Landers takes off after Jack Dawson, getting info from a blacksmith who had put a new shoe on Jack’s horse, that he headed with two other men towards a place called Los Masos, which is a rocky, barren, desert area. While looking for Jack, Landers hears a moaning and finds a woman naked tied to the desert floor, in an awful shape. Landers unties her and takes her away from the area to get some water, but as he goes to the creek, four men arrive, who have been sent by a man named Avery Ranchester (Massimo Righi), to kill the woman. You see Avery, Jack Dawson and Murphy (Gino Martuaron) had robbed the stagecoach that Lucy was travelling home on from school and the men killed the driver and raped and staked Lucy in the hot sun to die! Landers returns to find three of the men and they tell him to mind his own business and ride off, but Landers refuses to give up Lucy to this despicable lot, who have raping and killing on their minds, Landers shoots the three down and Lucy, who has not spoken since Brett found her screams as the fourth man approaches on horseback, and Landers with the use of his athletic prowess avoids gunfire and plants a well thrown knife in the man’s chest. Lucy asks Brett why he’s doing this for her, and he says “You got to have faith in someone.”
The faith that Lucy shows in Landers is a bit of a jab at organized religion, because Lucy is the daughter of Reverend Tillson, who Lucy realizes won’t accept her back into his home because of her being raped. Lucy needs medical attention and as worried as Brett is about going into the local town of Sage Crossing, with a murder rap on his head, he realizes that Lucy needs medical help. Brett takes her into Sage Crossing on an Indian sled, and the town folks follow along looking and gawking at Lucy as she tries to hide her face in shame. Lucy who was obviously traumatized has become dependent on her savior Brett and although he wants to move on and bring Jack Dawson to Johnson City to clear his name, he stays on to help Lucy recover. The sheriff in town Texas Slaughter (Jesus Puente) questions Brett about what he was doing in the area where the stage was robbed and eventually finds out that Brett is a wanted man. During Lucy’s convalescent, her and Brett go out for a walk and she freaks out when she sees the three men who raped her and when Brett goes into the saloon where Dawson, Avery and Murphy are sitting playing a game of poker, he pulls his gun on the group and attempts to take Dawson back with him to Johnson City, but is foiled by the sheriff and deputy, who have arrived at the saloon. Brett tells the sheriff that the three men are the ones who held up the stage and raped Lucy. The sheriff says to Brett that Avery can’t be guilty, because he comes from a local affluent family and his father Clayton Rochester (Pierre Cressoy), is one of the richest man in the county, and why would Avery rob the stage for a few measly dollars.
The sheriff along with Landers rides out to talk to Avery and we are introduced to Clayton, who is at first angered by the accusations against Avery, but eventually agrees to bring Avery to town the next day to face Lucy. Landers who the sheriff had sent out of the house during the heated confrontation with Clayton, is knocked over the head by Jack Dawson and along with Avery and Murphy is taken to the ranch hands bunkhouse, Landers when he comes to, attempts to fight his way out, but is done in by the superior numbers, he is beaten senseless and then hog tie, and placed in the bunkhouse and left there for safe keeping, but eventually escapes killing Murphy in the process. The sheriff, when he exits the Ranchester home, does not see Landers and is told that he had ridden off, believing that Landers has ran out on him, because of the bounty on his head, the sheriff sets a trap for him at the doctor’s house, thinking Landers will return to get Lucy. Murphy and Dawson go to the doctor’s house and Murphy sneaks inside to kill Lucy, but first disposes of the deputy, who is guarding Lucy, stabbing him in the back with Landers’ knife he had taken from him during the beating at the bunkhouse. Murphy finds that Lucy is not there, but finds his deputy dead and Landers’ knife at the scene of the crime. Murphy finds the “Wanted” poster for Brett at the doctor’s house and after giving it to Dawson, Jack then has it delivered to Clayton Rochester.
After finding out that the man accusing his son Avery of the dastardly deeds of rape and robbery is a man wanted for murder, Clayton Ranchester goes into town and buys the saloon patrons drinks and rallies the mob behind him, telling them how the sheriff is harboring a murderer. The mob takes to the streets, heading to the doctor’s house to get at Landers, but the sheriff and doctor in cahoots, get Lucy and Brett to a wagon, so they can escape from the town. After knocking the sheriff out with a well thrown rock, that hits him in the head, the mob looks through the house and can’t find Brett or Lucy, so they mount up and head out in search of the buckboard carrying Brett and Lucy.
The film like noted above has some plausibility issues including a sheriff, who allows a man wanted for murder to wonder freely about and gives him free reign in the town of Sage Crossing, and even allows him to go free after finding Landers' knife at the scene of the deputy’s murder. Another issue crops up when the sheriff says that Avery could not have been involved in the Stage robbery because the money stolen was measly, but its eventually revealed that the amount pilfered from the stage was $20,000, not a measly amount now or in the time frame the movie was set in and that coming from a sheriff who made all of $95 a month. The most annoying issue with the english dubbed version of the fllm is the name of the hero Brett Landers, who is called that through most of the film, but is also called Brent occasionally and the "Wanted" poster shows his name as Brent Landers!The film does have the evil town boss in Clayton Ranchester, who while initially supportive of the judicial system concerning his son, eventually decides at all cost to protect his son, with ultimately tragic results. The sheriff is a Hollywood type as is the doctor, as both play respectful, righteous sorts, who aid the wanted Brett in his quest to save Lucy and clear his name.
The whole crew is outstanding including the great Nello Pazzafini, as Jack Dawson, an ornery man who is as tough as they come and engages Brett in an exciting fight scene towards the ending, which is the highlight of the movie. Evelyn Stewart (Ida Galli) is beautiful to look at, but is left with little to do, but does provide a nice emotional bond with Brett and with the viewer, who is wanting revenge for her, and for the clean-cut Brett and her to begin a life together. Stewart appeared with Gemma in the other film on this twofer from Wild East BLOOD FOR A SILVER DOLLAR. Roberto Camardiel as the doctor is a fine actor and turns in an excellent performance, that’s miles away from his most notorious turn in the film DJANGO KILL… IF YOU LIVE SHOOT (1967).
Adios Gringo is based on the novel “Adios” by the American author Harry Whittington, with the story by the director Giorgio Stegani. Stegani directed only nine films, but does have many writing credits, he did direct two other Italian westerns, including the very good violent GENTLEMAN KILLER (1967) and the very underrated Lee Van Cleef film BEYOND THE LAW (1968). The companion film on this disc BLOOD FOR A SILVER DOLLAR was from a story by Giorgio Stegani, but directed by another Giorgio, in Giorgio Ferroni. The make-up department on this film of Massimo Giustini and Isabel Mella, deserve credit also for the horrifying and realistic make-up work performed on the Lucy character, because of the effects of her sun exposure, giving Blonde in GGU during his journey through the desert, a run for his money in the gross out sun effect. According to the Spaghetti Western expert Tom Betts, Adios Gringo was filmed "mainly in Italy but some scenes were done around Madrid. Madrid locations have most of the rocks and small pine trees you see in films. Almeria is desert and ramblas."
The Wild East release of Adios Gringo is another beauty to add to their impressive resume. The picture quality is exceptional and the audio is crisp, with only a few audio hisses and pops. The outdoor scenes in the hot arid locale, really are amplified on this release and shows off the fine cinematography by the great Francisco Sempere, whose work is best utilized in the utterly engaging horror film THE LIVING DEAD AT THE MANCHESTER MORGUE (1974). The Wild East twofer has the two films along with trailers, picture gallery and a moving “In Memory of Giuliano Gemma,” that is a Spaghetti Western career recap.
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It was hard for me personally the day I found out that Giuliano Gemma had died, and still struggle to this day, with the fact that the first actor who i truly idolized in Italian Westerns is dead. Though we must all come to grips with the fact and bid "Adios Gringo" to the great man, Gemma will live on forever on the screen and in our hearts!
Thanks as always to the spaghetti western expert Tom Betts