AND GOD SAID TO CAIN… (1970)

And God Said to Cain…
1970 Italian E Dio disse a Caino…
Starring: Klaus Kinski (Gary Hamilton), Peter Carsten (Acobar), Marcella Michelangeli (Maria),
Antonio Cantafora (Dick Acobar) 
Director: Anthony Dawson (aka Antonio Margheriti)
Music: ​ Carlo Savina 
Theme Song Performed by Don Powell
Viewed: Streaming Amazon Prime
Transfer Quality: Good
A ghost returning
And he’ll have only one desire in his heart
Only one thirst. Revenge. –Maria

dioscain

The quality of the anachronistic theme song in an Italian Western is always a good indicator of the caliber of the film to follow (i.e. Django, Keoma, any Morricone related Western, etc.), and this one is right up there. I would put this on any must see Italian Western list.

Gary Hamilton (Kinski) gets a pardon from the chain gang 10 years after being framed by power hungry Acobar (Carsten) who has stolen Hamilton’s house, mining operation, and woman, Maria. Naturally, vengeance must be administered. After Hamilton gains his freedom, an impending tornado serves as an apt means of foreboding his bloody return. It also creates a signature setting for the film where most of the action takes place at night in the midst of the ever threatening and violent windstorm. Every aspect of the tornado intensifies the anxiety surrounding Hamilton’s return; every utterance of his name evokes fear among his enemies.

The tornado also gives Hamilton’s vengeance an air of divine retribution. This is compounded by the Bava-esque eeriness of the night scenes and disorienting winds that add an other-worldliness to his nighttime attack. Using the cover of the storm and his familiarity with his old homestead, Hamilton is like a ninja, evading capture and keeping adversaries off guard while accumulating an insane number of kills single-handedly. Various trapdoors and hidden entrances allow him to move like a ghost through the mining tunnels under the town, constantly outmaneuvering Acobar’s small army. His name is repeatedly invoked in vain as he moves in the shadows, a seemingly supernatural force. The haunting effect is intensified by the tolling church bell and organ music that signal each wave of vengeful slaughter.  Some other reviewers have derided the film’s mirror room shoot-out scene climax a la Orson Welles’ Lady of Shanghai (1949) as too predictable, but I think it’s great as it adds even more nuance to Hamilton’s ghostlike elusiveness. Even in the light he isn’t really there…until you’re dead! Plus, Bruce Lee’s mirror room climax in Enter the Dragon won’t come for another three years, and no one ever complains about that scene.

Beyond the excellent visual composition and well-paced action, it’s the complexity of the characters and their relationships that ensures repeated viewings. Above all, Kinski’s performance rules in this film. Unlike his askew characters in Westerns like The Beast and The Great Silence, Gary Hamilton is cool, collected, focused, and human. Also, beneath the narrative of revenge is a complex tale of family and loyalty. While Acobar’s son, Dick, sympathizes with Hamilton throughout the film, when he learns of his father’s treachery he ultimately chooses family over what he knows in his heart to be right. Ironically, after this turn, it’s Acobar who takes his own son’s life when he mistakes him for Hamilton.

Getting old, so having to watch midnight movies in two or three installments sometimes. Anyway, during my first watch, I must have slept through the exposition that explains why Gary Hamilton is seeking vengeance against Acobar. So, I had initially credited this with a meta-vengeance film genius it didn’t quite deserve. Still, this is a real standout in the genre with a great balance of genre predictability and innovation.

I’d be curious if someone has counted the number of times “Gary Hamilton!!” is uttered throughout the film…one of my favorite details in the film. I’m also wondering about the total number of kills he tallies.  

Anyway, I’ll keep track next time and get back to you with some figures.

P.S. Apparently this is a remake of A Stranger in Paso Bravo (1968), the only film Salvatore Rosso ever directed. I’ll have to track that down for a comparison.  (DC)

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NW: Nate Wilson   DC: Devon Cahill   MA: Matt Average

 

SICARO (2018)

SICARO: Day of the Soldado (2018)

Director: Stefano Sollima

Starring: Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro

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As I’ve stated in a previous review I’m mostly on a 70’s kick lately…but I had to watch this follow up to Sicario from a few years back.  I saw the Original in the theatre and then again at home.   If you haven’t seen that film do yourself a favor and get to it, its a top film from 2015.  

This film I’m reviewing really has nothing to do with the first one other than a couple of the same characters.  Both Josh Brolin (of RKL fame) and Benicio Del Toro mark their return in this one.  I love the bruteness of both their characters.  Throw in any plot with terrorism and I’m fucking sold.  This time around the cartels are smuggling terrorist across the border into the United States.  It goes beyond that with the US government intentionally kidnapping a cartel leaders daughter, to trick them into starting a war with another cartel.  I cherish the violence, and the acting.  Additionally the music is dreary & fucking heavy in a very none rock n roll sorta way.  It can make you feel uncomfortable and on edge.  It works well. 

There are some weak links in the film for sure… for one,  by the end of the flick you sort of have forgotten that this fantastic story all occurred because of terrorism.  More than that the main character is an FBI agent,  when he’s actually acting more on the lines of a CIA spook (International shit).  Still this is a very solid flick that I’d watch again.   (NW)

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NW: Nate Wilson    DC: Devon Cahill   MA: Matt Average

BREMEN

Bremen group shot

I first learned of the duo Bremen while flipping through the bins of records for review at Razorcake one afternoon a few years back. It was a copy of their debut self-titled LP on Skrammel, sandwiched among all the usual punk stuff. The Bremen LP stood out among all the gaudy and ugly record covers that surrounded it. The front cover is of two men (I’m assuming it’s them) walking away from the viewer . The overcast sky looms large. With song titles like “A Long Way from Faraway,” “Debris in Orbit,” and “Far Beyond the Depth” I was further intrigued. Not really knowing what to expect I took the album home for review and was more than pleasantly surprised: I was hooked.

Bremen are Jonas Tiljander (Brainbombs, and Brainmen), and Lanchy (Totalitär, Teenage Graves, and Krig i Hudik) working together creating music that upends any notions you may have on what they sound like given their past output. Instead the loud and abrasive way, Bremen go towards cosmic sounds that fit at home with some far off space lounge in an undiscovered galaxy, or could be used as a soundtrack for upscale sci-fi or arthouse horror.

Dark and sometimes soaring, utilizing synths, drums, guitars, and other sounds to create a mood and paint mental imagery for you, the listener. At present have have four albums out (their latest is Enter Silencereleased on Blackest Ever Black), I suggest getting all of them.

Interview was conducted through the magic of e-mail with Jonas. 

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Something I’m sure a lot of people have asked you from the beginning, but, how did you guys go from playing in bands like Brainbombs and Totalitär to something like Bremen? Your prior two mentioned bands are known for being harsh and agressive, and then you form Bremen, which is something else entirely. How did you arrive at this point?

Speaking for myself I have listened to krautrock, progressive rock, space rock and experimental music since the eighties as well as punk, noise, power electronics, classical, free jazz and lots of other music. So there’s really not a point that I have arrived to, more like a fortunate moment in my life where I happened to have the right gear and find a small studio together with Lanchy. This would be in 2010. Then the music which is closest to my heart got the opportunity to be made. I have played other stuff as well and Lanchy who also played in Totalitär, The Teenage Graves and other bands have for instance played country, blues, rockabilly and pop even. Brainbombs are about raw energy that is created by pouring the ugliest sides of human nature through rock and roll basically. There is, I think, a darkness in Bremen too, but as opposed to with Brainbombs it’s from the observers point of view rather than from the perpetrator. The repetition is apparent in Bremen too. That is a power in it’s own right that we’ve always enjoyed. Brainbombs were formed in 1985 and the main influences back then were Whitehouse, Chrome and James Chance together with Peter Sotos writings. From then on, we’ve resurfaced from time to time to record or (very rarely) play a gig, but we never rehearsed and have never really been an active band. Bremen is more of an ongoing project. Bremen is also the result of our slightly different background and approach to music. I am untrained and have never really learned that much basics on the guitar such as scales and on keyboards I am totally unschooled, I just go for sounds and feelings. Lanchy is more of a trained musician and I think that Bremens sound is partly made from the balance between our slightly different approaches.

How do you go about composing your songs? Is it spontaneous, or do you have an idea in mind?

Lanchy and I meet in the studio every second week and improvise and record songs. Bremen is the music I have in me the whole time. Although I listen to all kinds of more conventional music I have never been very good at doing the straight, verse/refrain-linear kind of music and I have never been inspired with doing that. Semi free improvisation around themes is what inspires me. Spontaneous music. Usually we start jamming, me on keyboard, Lanchy on guitar and sometimes we kind of stumble on a sound or a few notes, without any thoughts on how it should sound. We usually recognize that moment and record it and then we continue working on that base track, mostly improvising around it and sharing ideas. Usually we leave the base track until next time we meet and it will feel fresh and give us new ideas. We record overdubs, sometimes I lay down another guitar or Lanchy does, or either of us play some drums, or bass. Many times the song is finished the next time and we will mix it down and listen to it for a while at home. Maybe there are some small changes but the whole process does not really take more than a few weeks, and a total of maybe six hours studio time. But only about half the songs end up on the final master though because we record a lot of songs.

bremenfirst
Debut album released on Skrammel Records.

Is creating music for Bremen more challenging than what you created in your previous bands? 

For me, Bremen, just as with Brainbombs, is more about getting the right feeling, the right moment. With Brainbombs that happens when I channel all my frustration, darkness and aggressiveness through my guitar and let it pour out through the amp, with Bremen it’s when I stop thinking about what I am playing completely and I just feel the music without being aware of the constraints of music. By that I mean without thinking about how music “should” be done, but also, without being aware of my own limitations. And since I am not trained on any instrument, especially not keyboards ha ha, I am lucky that the music I like to do is minimalistic and droney in character. So doing music that is challenging per se is mainly limiting my creativity really, I do best when I can just be spontaneous. The process can be challenging sometimes though, when we get an idea how a certain element should sound and not quite are able to get that sound. And Brainbombs can be challenging in that it can be tiresome playing that intense riff with energy for more than five minutes.

By not being musically trained, as you say, I would think that you have no limits to how music should be. Really challenging music comes from somewhere no one has gone before. I would also like to think that as you play and create more over the years, that you naturally break away from all that is expected in music. That really there are no limits, especially when your approach is spontaneous. When I listen to Bremen, I like to think you guys are going to go further and further out there in your sound and what can be done. Is this something that you guys feel as well? 

I would say that hopefully we evolve and our next album are a bit different, but we have no agenda to bring it further just for the sake of it. But we are limitless in that we have no expectations from ourselves when we play, and we don’t skip a musical idea just because that’s not how you do it. I think that’s what makes us enjoy recording and that’s what give us our sound. It comes naturally really. Our aim is not to make challenging music, and I don’t think Bremen is very challenging, but we don’t hesitate in doing long drones or noisy stuff among more soft passages just because we would think some listeners wouldn’t enjoy that. And we don´t decide that we will make a record in a given time limit. We just record when we feel we have something worth recording, then after a year we have, perhaps 25 songs and we pick out the ones that are worth release and make up a coherent album. Luckily, we have a label who want to release it.

From your song titles and artwork used in the gatefold of Second Launch, that outer space is your muse. Is this correct? If so, what is it about space that you feel compelled to create music for? 

I’ve always loved all things space but it also come naturally for both of us since space perfectly illustrate the feeling of loneliness, death, darkness, coldness, strangeness in our music that we really like and sort of come naturally. I never enjoyed happy music that much and there are no such thing as happy space music. Space make us feel wonder and make us feel small and lost and close to death. That’s whats going on in Bremen´s music.

Can you tell us about the song “Hollow Wave”? It’s one of those songs that takes over the room whenever I hear it, and it certainly has this darkness to it that is alluring.

That’s one of the more spontaneous songs where we just jam around and in this case I came up with this lonely organ sound which turn like a hollow wave. The emptiness and hollowness of that sound immediately inspired us and we recorded everything on the spot. That’s when we both feel that Bremen lives on it’s own and it just happens and these kind of songs are the ones we are most satisfied with. We get caught in the mood right away, especially when it’s, like you describe it, an alluring darkness to it. I wish there were more songs like that happening but it might be too much of the same thing then since we also enjoy a bit variety in our material as well.

What was the inspiration to “Walking The Skies”? 

“Walking The Skies” was made in the same way as a lot of our songs, a loop or musical figure on the organ that evoke a certain feeling, in this case a sort of helpless floating in space without any means of influence. Not necessarily a bad thing, it’s rather an ecstatic feeling, hence a lot of delay and reverb and falling tones. We start with an idea, and that idea starts our imagination. But it’s not like we think: this is how it should sound, and try to put that into music. The music comes immediately. The title comes later when we found a title that goes with the feeling of the song.

Bremen second
Second album, appropriately titled, Second Launch, released on Blackest Ever Black.

“Voxnan”, to me, has a mood similar to “Hollow Wave”. Maybe it’s the use of the piano. What is a “voxnan”, and could you please tell us more about this song? Listening to it, I imagine two people in a craft in the farthest reaches of space witnessing something we have no comprehension of due to our limited knowledge.

Any evoked feeling or imagination that comes from listening to music is always right, since it is a personal experience. I like your picture and that could describe some other songs too. As for “Voxnan”, it is a specific Scandinavian dark and melancholic atmosphere that came out of the guitar riff which in turn evoked the piano notes and the organ. Voxnan is a river which runs through the province of Hälsingland were we are from originally and the title evoke the feeling of a slowly moving, timeless river through the landscape of hills and dark woods of spruce and pines. This melancholic atmosphere are found in a lot of Swedish music, way back in early folk music of the region, via the late jazz pianist Jan Johansson to the current rock act Dungen. It is something we’ve grown up with I think. Personally it evokes the feeling of nature as an uncontrollable force and also the feeling of loneliness in a vast nature (or space) since one cannot fully comprehend this force. I think it has a lot to do with this particular landscape in the southern part of northern Sweden which is rather sparsely populated as well. So your description is accurate really: two people in a craft floating slowly on the river Voxnan through empty dark woods, witnessing a dark, mysterious nature (space) and feeling a sort of melancholic loneliness since they cannot comprehend what they see. There is also an example in this song of the improvisational nature of Bremen, ha, ha, ha. About nine minutes into the song something unexpected happens with the echo stompbox which makes the guitar slowly fade away. In anger Lanchy strikes the string one last time and suddenly the sound returns and Voxnan can go on for a couple of minutes. We thought this dramatic little turn made sense to the song and let it be.

“Laika” has a different vibe than most of your other material. It has a mid 1960s to mid 1970s idea of galactic jazz. What ideas did you have in mind when this piece was put together? 

I made a hammond bass loop upon which Lanchy laid a few chords on the guitar. Then I improvised some organ on top of that and added some synth effects. Many songs are built like this with me playing different keyboards and Lanchy adding bass and guitar but I also add guitars quite often, as well as bass and drums which we take turns playing. Laika was done in one occasion. Our early songs often starts with some kind of loop which we improvise over and I guess we were more melodic then and started leaning towards more drone stuff later on. However the new album has more melodic songs than Second Launch. Laika differs, and unfortunately, a one time stroke of luck. It just happened. Of course there are strong influences like the ones you mentioned and also of Bo Hansson I think but it’s the kind of influences you carry with you all the time. When the song was finished we thought of Laika floating alone in space, hence the title and the distant dog barking in the end.

Who is Leslie Smith, and why name a song after them? 

The title is just a hint on me using the Leslie on the organ. We just made the name up to give an impression of some real person we wanted to tribute

“Bastogne” on your first album is an amazing piece. So much emotion is in the music. The piano sounds somewhat sad and resolute, while the guitar gives off a feeling of a new beginning. It’s a very cinematic song. It sounds like something you would hear towards the end of a 1970s sci-fi film. Has anyone approached Bremen about scoring a movie?

I had read a captivating story about the world war two battle of Bastogne and had those empty piano chords in my mind to catch the feeling of the Bastogne forest just after the battle. Silent and filled with dead soldiers, frozen stiff in the cold winter night. We would be honoured if any of our songs would be used in a score but have not been approached with any offer. I guess our music tends to be cinematic. We often picture ourselves different scenes when we play I guess. Or after a track has been laid down. That is often how we come up with the titles also.

If you could score a soundtrack to any movie, which one would it be, and why? 

Lanchy thought of Taxi Driver because of the dark, slow and brooding feeling throughout the movie. I would like something like Moon by Duncan Jones since it matches our soundtrack of the slow paced emptiness of space.

Has Bremen performed in front of an audience, or is this strictly a studio project? 

We did one short gig shortly before the first album came out. We did a long version of “Far Beyond The Depth” and got positive response in reviews and from the audience. If we were to do more gigs it would be a bit different and more downscaled than on the albums. The drone things would be possible perhaps. No, it is a studio project since we’re more into the creative process itself and to sink into it without any distractions. But someday we might do another gig. At least we’ve had offers.

Have you begun work on a new album? 

Since we sent the master of Eclipsed to BEB this spring we have continued recording as usual. Since this album is delayed (due to the pressing plant) it will at least take another year before any new album, we have plenty of time to record and pick out tracks worthy of release. Eclipsed will be out finally in January. After that we will put together at least one digital album that will be for sale exclusively on our Bandcamp site.

Bremen eclipsed
Third album, Eclipsed, released on Blackest Ever Black.
a3286013351_10
Fourth album, released on Blackest Ever Black.

MACABRE (1980)

macabre

MACABRE  (aka MACABRO) (1980)

Director: Lamberto Bava

Starring some people I’ve never heard of: Bernice Stegers & Robert Molnar

This Movie is a true cult classic.  Its been recommended to me forever by my buddy Mark Mccoy who loves the director.  At any rate I finally got back to watching some older films this week, and this one was at the top of my list.  The director is the son of famed director Mario Bava who apparently died just two months after seeing this his sons first ever film.  

Don’t be mistaken, this is not a gore film, but more a slow moving psychological thriller that at any moment you the viewer feel as though things are going to get really nasty really quickly.   

So much occurs in the story that its hard to fathom how it all gets sorted out in an hour and a half.  Somehow it does.  

The main character goes through two horrific deaths in one day (her lover, and her son).  After being away for sometime she returns to the boarding house where her lover lived upstairs.  Downstairs lives the landlord who is a blind man that creepily fixes musical instruments.  He basically falls in love with her, but upstairs she just makes love to herself (or her dead lover), while the blind man listens on. The woman also has a daughter who is a sick little turd.  

Its a great “true” story that supposedly Bava found in a New Orleans newspaper, and then decided to make a movie about.  Everything about this film is great.  The setting in New Orleans… the boarding house where much of everything takes place… everything looks splendid.  Music is super tense. The acting is top notch.  The smile and eyes of the main character make everything so believable.  The blind man truly comes off as blind.  The story is just wickedly odd and unique.  

Don’t sleep on this, its streaming on Amazon Prime right now.  Its a really decent transfer as well (unlike the shit Devon will sit through).  (NW)

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NW: Nate Wilson    DC: Devon Cahill   MA: Matt Average

LONGSHOT (1981)

LONGSHOT (aka Long Shot Kids)

1981, USA

Director: E.W. Swackhamer

Starring: Leif Garret as Paul Rogers, Linda Manz as Maxine Gripp, Ralph Seymour as Leroy Curtis, Zoé Chauveau as Marie-Christine, etc.

Viewed: Streaming

Transfer Quality: Not so great

longshot

College Rep: I will make sure you get a full scholarship and everything will be paid for!

Rogers: Um, I’ve decided to go to Europe and become a pro.

Dad: Europe?! Just how in the hell do you to intend to finance this little venture?!?

Rogers: By winning the Foosball Spectacular in Lake Tahoe.

College Rep: (incredulously) Foosball?!?

I’d started watching Bronson in Love & Bullets for review but was totally distracted by the confusing description of a film I’d never heard of called Longshot with Leif Garret, “a young foosball player who wants to earn the big dollars that will be used to play soccer in Europe by winning the foosball world championships.” Of course, my first thought was how have I never heard of this movie? and my second thought was MUST watch this movie immediately! On top of that, the promo art masterpiece consists of roughly cropped images of two of the stars (images not from this movie, I might add) and an oddly angled foosball table, all of which looks like it was laid out in MS Word. At this point my hopes were up that this would be like the movies I would stay up until 5am to watch for 5 weekends in a row on USA network when I was 13…maybe a foosball version of Equals Against Devils, or at least something as sublimely absurd as The Van. In other words, so jammed with ridiculousness that it would be mercilessly re-watchable.

The title sequence and first few scenes didn’t disappoint, but it quickly devolved (or evolved, depending on your tastes) into a pretty run of the mill Cinderella story tournament movie filled with teen love drama, destiny, and redemption. In other words: Big, gaping yawn. Not bad enough to be good, not good enough to think about ever watching again. Not to mention, foosball?!? You can probably imagine the amount of tension and depth of metaphor present, as Leif and company enter the arena of the foosball kumite: Not much.

Soundtrack wasn’t horrible and the title track actually has a pretty good hook. However, the transfer on this was almost as bad as it gets. Aside from the night scenes where the screen was just black, there was also a two-minute section in the middle where the screen went red. My guess is it was to patch over a rough spot on the VHS when it was transferred?

Trivia tidbit: I’m not an Oingo Boingo fan, but for whatever it’s worth, they perform at the Foosball Spectacular.  (DC)

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NW: Nate Wilson    DC: Devon Cahill   MA: Matt Average

Marquee Mania: TUNNEL VISION (1976)

TUNNEL VISION (1976) 

directors: Neal Israel, and Bradley Swirnoff

Starring: Chevy Chase, Howard Hessman, Phil Proctor, Betty Thomas, Joe Flaherty, John Candy, Al Franken, Tom Davis, Laraine Newman

In 35mm at the New Beverly

Midnight showing of this sketch comedy movie from 1976 starring cast members from Saturday Night Live, and SCTV. Total running time of 70 minutes, a perfect length for those late hours when your mind begins to go sideways.  

marquee mania 3:16:19
Tunnel Vision, at the New Beverly, March 16, 2019. Photo: Matt Average

YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE (2017)

YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE (2017)

Director: Lynn Ramsay

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix

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This movie truly surprised me in the best of ways.  I’ve been on a year long kick of only really just watching 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s film.  So this is one of the few modern films I’ve watched lately.  This one stars Joaquin Phoenix, and is straight up gut wrenching and brutal. Punishing really.   Its done in an almost severely demented Charles Bronson revenge film sort of way.  The story is that of a whacked out vet who is now a “gun for hire”  He deals in rescuing trafficked underage girls.  Joe’s weapon of choice is a ball peen hammer.  Joe is as a anti hero…he really is demented and sick, but this film had me supportive of him and his methods all the way through it.  As a father this film really had a deep impact on me all the way through it.  The score is pretty insane, it really never stops, and just gets in your head to further the sickness of whats happening in the movie.  I loved this one. (NW)

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NW: Nate Wilson    DC: Devon Cahill   MA: Matt Average

 

CHINO (1973)

CHINO(1973)

Director: John Sturges, Duilio Coletti

Starring: Charles Bronson and Jill Ireland

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I was super excited to watch this Charles Bronson Flick on Amazon Prime pretty recently.  Bronson is a favorite of mine and I’ve never really seen anything he’s starred in that I didn’t like.  This film in my opinion was pretty damn unwatchable… Who knows, I might really enjoy watching a decent transfer of it, but this version was fucking awful.  I’m a child of the 70’s and grew up watching static B&W VHF/UHF TV, so I’m not completely spoiled rotten…but this for some reason felt even worse to watch then those days in the 70’s.  Amazon can’t clean this shit up?  It was literally transferred by having a camera placed in front of an old TV and cut off an old fuzzed out VHS tape version of the film (every once in a while someone seems to be bumping into the camera stand).  The opening credits/scene have a terrible folk song that goes on for like 3 mins.  People seem to love it.   The story is that of a “halfbreed” horse trainer played by Bronson.  He somehow has a young runaway boy show up at his doorstep (sounds gay I know…).   He teaches the boy the ropes and shows him how to break a horse.  Bronson later falls in love with a woman (played by his actual real life wife), and like all Bronson films trouble ensues.  This might not be considered by many elitists to be a true Spaghetti Western but it is… Its just missing most of the tasty sauce.  To much romance and emotional crap, and not enough gun play.  The bar scene fight is pretty awesome though.  This was filmed in Spain.  Don’t waste your time on this version, sometimes Amazon Prime just truly disappoints.  (NW)

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NW: Nate Wilson    DC: Devon Cahill    MA: Matt Average