Price of Death Review (Scherpschutter)

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Price of Death (Il venditore di morte)

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The third and final part in a (loose) trilogy about the sophisticated gunslinger-detective Silver, following 32 Calibre Killer and Killer Adios. In this third entry, Silver has retired, enjoying old age (well, not that old) on a remote ranch in the countryside, surrounded by fine wines, delicious meals and lovely señoritas. He is also played by a different actor: in the first two movies the character was played by baby face Peter Lee Lawrence, in this latecomer, a mature and dignified Gianni Garko takes over. Lorenzo Gicca Palli, who had scripted 32 Calibre Killer Calibro 32, occupies the directional chair for the occasion.

In the opening minutes, two crimes take place at the same time, in the same western town: a Mexican girl is killed after a rape attempt and a saloon is robbed by three masked men; two of them are shot while leaving the saloon, a third one manages to escape, but the townspeople think the notorious troublemaker Chester Conway must be the culprit. Conway (Kinski in a maniacal performance) is brought to trail and convicted to the gallows but two people strongly believe in his innocence, Conway's former flame, the prostitute Polly, and his lawyer Plummer, who noticed that the judge had determined the defendant's guilt beforehand. In the meantime Silver is asked by the girl's parents to investigate the rape-murder of their daughter, but they can only offer him $ 600 dollars and Silver asks $ 1000 - his price of death - for any case. Polly & Plummer have more money, and therefore more success, so Silver brushes up his spurs, trims his fashionable moustache and rides into town ...

Peter Lee's Silver was a bit of an angry young man, too quick on the draw, and drawing too quick; played Gianni things are of course completely different: his silver only uses his gun when it far too late for any normal person, but not for a man like Silver. Peter Lee's Silver also seemed a transitional character in the line of well-dressed spaghetti western heroes, the missing link between the determined avenger Colonel Mortimer and the whimsical magicians in the style of Sartana. Played by Garko, he is of course Sartana, only a Sartana with a different name, dressed in fashionable brown instead of black, but still using those miniature guns, hidden in his sleeve.

Like the previous movies, this third adventure works better as a detective story than as a western. Apart from the tricks with the Derringer there is very little western action and the film also has a queer, cheap look. The outdoor scenes are supposed to be shot on the premises of the Elios studios, but apparently only a couple of barns and other buildings were left intact in 1971, and the western town looks like a deserted place (with a very crowded saloon). It doesn't really matter, if the western atmosphere is minimal, we still have Garko and Kinski (having a hard time in jail) and a script that is well-constructed, neatly prolonging the suspense and presenting its twists and turns with verve. The finale, in which the two storylines are interwoven, is particularly well done.

Il Venditore di Morte is hardly memorable, but remarkably enjoyable if you take it for what it is: a hardly memorable but enjoyable latecomer in the genre. A few slapstick fistfights are thrown in for good measure (after all we're in the Trinity phase), among them the most ridiculous saloon brawl you'll ever see in your spaghetti western life. According to persistent rumors, there was also a version XXX, most probably intended for foreign markets, with some added nudity and one hard-core scene.

Wild West Gals

Obviously the scenes were shot and some alternative version have been in circulation, but it's not clear who was responsible for exactly what. An early (soft-core) scene is said to feature Gela Genka, the actress playing Polly, and French beauty Dominique Badou; since Badou does not appear in the 'normal' version (she does appear in a couple of other late spaghettis, such as Blindman and Si, puo fare, Amigo), it must have been taken from another source. And then there's this hard-core scene, reportedly starring body builder Pietro Torrisi, who has an uncredited cameo in the movie, and an unknown blonde. In a volume called Wild West Gals, published in 2008, it is revealed that (illegal or semi-legal) soft or hard-core versions of genre movies were often edited by producers and sold under the counter. These procedures apparently started in the early seventies and along with Death Played the Flute, Il Venditore di Morte must have been one of the earliest spaghetti westerns falling prey to it.

For some discussions on the XXX-version of this movie, see the following links (all in Italian):

--By Scherpschutter

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