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Gentleman Killer (Shamango) Film/DVD Review

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UNDER CONSTRUCTION

Gentleman Killer (Gentleman Jo ... uccidi!)

See Database Page

The second of three spaghetti westerns directed by Giorgio Stegani. His first, the Gemma vehicle Adios Gringo, was a highly Americanized Italian western (based on a story by American author Harry Wittington) about a cowboy who must try to clear his name after being falsely accused of stealing cattle; his third, the Van Cleef vehicle Beyond the Law, would be a fairly lighthearted affair, almost a comedy, presenting Van Cleef as a talkative rascal instead of the stoic avenger whose eyes burn holes in the screen. At first sight Gentleman Killer is the most straightforward of the three movies. It's a grim revenge movie with a high body count. And yet it comes up with a couple of true surprises, among them an ending that wasn't appreciated by all genre fans - to put it mildly.


Anthony Steffen is the gentleman from the title, a well-dressed, clean-shaven cardsharp called Jo (1), who arrives in the border town of Douglas. The town has become the subject of a political debate, with both the American and Mexican government vying for the control it. The US army is trying to protect the American citizens, but marauding Mexican bandits have slaughtered a regiment and taken over the town. After the only defender of the town, an army captain, is killed, the siege turns into a reign of terror, but what the bandits didn't know, was that the captain and the fashionable cardsharp were brothers. Steffen adopts his brother's identity, and starts terrorizing the bandits, killing them one by one ... The story device of the avenger taking another person's identity, reminded me of a Karl May story, called The Ghost of the Llano Estacado. In this story a young man called Bloody Fox systematically hunts down the members of a group of bandits who are responsible for the death of his parents. He never approaches his opponents, but (like Steffen in this movie) stalks them and shoots them from a distance, creating the impression that he's a ghost. And there's a second story element which reminded me of the Winnetou movies: the controversial ending, with the Mexican army replacing Winnetou's braves who come to the rescue of the citizens under attack in true cavalry style.


So was Gentleman Killer inspired by the Karl May novels (and movies) or are these similarities purely coincidental? We'll probably never know. A few trips are made to Almeria (or a local sandpit), but the overall impression is that of a town-bound and studio-bound production. The film's basic flaw is that it fails to create a claustrophobic feeling of a town under siege. I liked this controversial ending, it adds a playful note to an otherwise passable, but undistinguished movie. I found some of the supporting actors better than the two leads, notably Spanish actor Antonio Iranzo (the guy on the left on the second screenshot) as one of Fajardo henchmen, the small guy who doesn't want to be called Muchachito. The action is decent, if a bit daft at times (Steffen enters a house through the chimney in one scene!) and a couple of action moments have been sped-up. The best thing about the whole thing, is Bruno Nicolai's rousing score, inspired by Orff's O Fortuna (from Carmina Burana). For the occasion Nicolai and Morricone swapped roles: usually it's Nicolai conducting a Morricone score, this time around it's Morricone conducting a Nicolai score (they both score good points, by the way).


THE DVD

German R2 release of Gentleman Jo... uccidi, called Shamango, PAL, R2, Running Time: 1:33: The release is part of the

DVD Features:

  • The Film in 2,35:1, Anamorphic
  • Audio: German, Italian, English DD 2.0 Mono
  • Subtitles: German (Optional)
  • Featurette 'Shamango tötet sie alle'
  • German Trailer
  • German
  • Photo gallery

The anamorphic image is clean but it's quite hazy (a bit more so on the right side than on the left), which causes some problems during night scenes. It's a decent transfer, but not one of Koch's best. It's of course a release of a minor genre movie of a respectable age, and we can't expect any Leone quality (neither from the movie not from the release). The three audio tracks do the job pretty well; the English track is the quality-wise the least impressive, but dialogue is understandable throughout. The featurette is no more than an interview with an Italian film historian (who talks a lot but doesn't say that much), but the photo gallery is particularly exhaustive and this German trailer sure looks energetic. Shamango!


Note:

  • In some versions the hero is called Shamango, in others (of course) Django. In Italy it was realesed under two different titles, and they couldn't agree on the spelling of the hero's name: Gentleman Jo ... Uccidi versus Ehi... Gentleman Joe... frega il morto e... spara al vivo.
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