DROPDEAD • Demos 1991 LP

DROPDEAD • Demos 1991 LP

Armagedon Label

August 2020

Dropdead Demos_1

For me Dropdead might be one of the most important 1990s HC bands. I first saw them shortly after the demos were released in 1992 with Taste of Fear and Disrupt at a Unitarian Church in Albany, NY. Bob scared all of us by strutting around, and getting in peoples faces looking like an insane drill instructor or something. They helped to change and shape me forever. Their politics, and love for all things living really hit home with me. On top of that the fast gritty raw noise that they made was always keen to my ears. A perfect match.

If you aren’t familiar with Dropdead they are from Providence, Rhode Island, and have been around for 30 years, or something ridiculous. These demos started it all… “At the Cost of an Animal” is a brutal classic anthem that thousands of punks world wide know and sing along to religiously. It’s sort of their “Breaking the Law”… they play it at every show no mater what.  

Dropdead Demos_4

At any rate this LP is a remastered version of the bands two 1991 demos.  Seventeen songs on side 1, and another 8 songs on side 2 (including a cool Infest cover). I’m glad to see this finally come out, I’m really not sure how it hasn’t been booted already after all these years. It’s always been evident to me that the band was really influenced musically by Swedish and Japanese HC …No Security is who first comes to mind when I listen to Dropdead, but there are many other bands that influenced these guys.  (NW)

Hit me up on Instagram if you want to send me your release for review at: nate_gloom

___________________________________________________________________

Justin Dratson: JD   Nate Wilson: NW   Matt Average: MA

 

HELL BENT • Apocalyptic Lamentations LP (2019)

HELL BENT • Apocalyptic Lamentations LP (2019)

Armageddon Label

Atomic Action

hellbent_1

This is some raw as fuck hardcore punk disguised as metal.  It rarely slows down and has elements of crust, D beat, traditional metal, thrash, black metal (at times)… I think it’s safe to just call this poor man’s metal or some type of crossover.  It’s like a lot of the stuff that I heard in the 80s and didn’t really get right away due to rawness and production. Well, I get it now.  This will resinate well with fans of extreme metal music for sure.  My favorite song on this was the slower one called “Ichthyosis” (track three).  It reminded me of Destructor.  Dudes cover a Znowhite tune as well.  

hellbent_2

I hope these Rhode Island freaks keep at it putting out more records and playing some shows in NJ near me.  The band features members of Dropdead, and Ulcer.   I’m pretty glad I got this one on wax.  Great cover art as well.  (NW)

___________________________________________________________________

Justin Dratson: JD   Nate Wilson: NW   Matt Average: MA

MARYLAND DEATH FEST 2019 and MUDHONEY

Maryland Death Fest 2019 and Mudhoney
 
This isn’t a show review as much as it is my experience at an event.
 
6 weeks before MDF I was explaining to my lady friend, Trish C., about Maryland Death Fest (MDF going forward) and how I don’t really know about that style of music:
Me – It’s a  4 day festival of 75 or more, mostly Death Metal bands, I guess
Trish – If you’re not super into it then why are you going?
Me – To hang out with Will and Keith and Kyle and Mario and Dave and Will’s cousin-in-law (Steve) that I haven’t met yet and prolly Rob and they love the stuff.
Trish – How do you know if it’s a death metal band?
Me – By their logo
Trish – The font they use?
Me – Well, no. It’s more like, um,… have you ever been doing yard work and you rake a bunch of sticks and twigs together and it almost looks like words?
Trish – Yes!
Me – That pile of twigs and sticks could also be a death metal logo.
Trish – Ohhhhh, so what does it sound like?
Me – Prolly what you think.
Trish – Sorta yacht-goth-ska?
Me – Sorta.
 
MDF day 1 Thursday
I woke up at 3AM to make my flight to Baltimore and, due to my poor planning, I arrived 5 hours before the rest of the crew. I decided to take this time to treat myself to some good eats, made a call out to the internet for chomps and was directed to Red Emma’s for the “best vegan Ruben in the world.” Challenge accepted. My second, third, or fourth beer in, I realized that I didn’t know who was playing at MDF this year. I pulled up the flyer, my eyes go straight to Grotesque Organ Defilement. I wondered what would happen if the folks at Grotesque Organ Defilement find out that I had a vegan meal. I don’t know their dietary preferences but I’m pretty certain that their idea of “grotesque organ defilement” isn’t my Great Aunt Clara at her church playing “Light my Fire” on the pipes for 12 hours straight. Then again, who am I to categorize what Grotesque Organ Defilement is without having even heard or seen them? It was a
really good sandwich. When I arrived at the house that contains the floor where I’ll be sleeping for the following 3 days; Keith H, Will T, Mario T, Steve were just arriving as well. Inside the house was abuzz about VoiVod. Sorry Keith, I mean VOIVOD.

MDF-Geezers
Party of the Damned. Photo: Justin Dratson

Pulling up to MDF, our cab driver looked panicked. Garbage cans had been moved to block the road and the contents set ablaze.  You couldn’t see down the road.  It was fiery cans and the kind of black smoke that only comes from man made things like plastic and rubber. This was the start of the road that led to the deserted industrial warehouse district where MDF was being held. Will T. assured the driver that this was the place and that we could walk form there. Just kidding. MDF is held on Baltimore’s Inner Harbor,
a football field’s length from the National Aquarium and a P.F. Chang’s. I wouldn’t be surprised if after MDF ended they set the place up for Grandma Nettie’s Quilt and Mitten Exchange. The event is split between two venues that are a 2 minute walk from each other and packed within that walk are a dozen places for drinks and food and a Slurpee.

We walked into Ram’s Head after missing the first few bands. I bought the first round of drinks and, with my back turned to the band, I was overtaken with a familiar sound. I didn’t know the song inasmuch as the sound of the song. It was transportive to my mid-90s. The band is called Come to Grief but the way the word Grief was written is the exact way of a 90s band called Grief. I wondered why the name change because I was pretty sure they were the same band. Well, I guess that the biggest difference would be that Grief, the word in its singularity, can leave a foreboding and overwhelming impression. Contrary to that, Come to Grief sounds like a party put on by dudes that wear long sweaters with the sleeves pulled over their hands and a lot of clove cigarettes and no girls. I leaned over to Kyle:

Me – Is Come to Grief a Grief cover band?
Kyle – No. It’s pretty much Grief.
I bought some of their stuff and, regardless of the name change, it’s amazing.

MDF-Come to Grief
Come to Grief, Photo: Justin Dratson

Malignancy was the next band that really stood out for me. They have everything going for them; speed, metal, sticks in a pile logo, a wedding proposal, harsh and disturbing imagery. Look, MDF may seem menacing in title, bands playing and appearance but it’s also a place for love and sweetness. I’ve seen more dudes hugging here than any movie about the ancient Romans or ancient Greeks. In between songs the singer paused, invited his lady friend on stage and asked her to marry him. She said yes and everyone cheered. As she left the stage the singer said “OK, this next song is called “Your Life is Shit.”
 
In my notes I have Rippikoulu written down. I must have been moved by them in some way. Maybe it was their dedication to wanting to become god parents and the lengths they’d go through to prove themselves worthy. To be honest, I’d been up for 19 hours (after a previous night of 3 hours sleep) and a steady day of sipping and catching up with everyone, I’m starting to get tired. But I also know that VOIVOD will be playing in 2 hours so I have to make it at least until then.    
 
Two hours later, VOIVOD is perfectly what I thought they’d be; disjointed and Canadian.  My favorite disjointed Canadian band is NOMEANSNO and my second disjointed Canadian band has to be VOIVOD. 

MDF-Voivod
Voidvod. Or, VOIVOD. Photo: Justin Dratson

To be honest, I’ve had 3 hours sleep and going on 21 hours awake, I’m really trying to keep my head up but I want to sleep. I promised I wouldn’t sleep outside under the Season of Mist tent this year but maybe just for a few minutes, just one song. VOIVOD won’t know if I cut out for one song. Flash forward 40 minutes. What’s that word that means that all of your ideas are bad ones?  Well, that’s the word that I lived in. I fell sleep it in a chair at the Season of Mist tent again and was woken up by a stumbling bachelorette party that nearly walked into me and was louder than VOIVOD. Now I don’t
know what that says about VOIVOD or about bachelorette parties but it is a fact and facts are science.
Then I saw Will’s face 10 inches from mine:
Me – Thanks for grabbing me, man. Let’s get back in for VOIVOD
Will – Ya missed it buddy. Come on, we’re headed back
Me – Is Keith gonna be mad I missed it?
 
MDF Day 2 Friday
I woke up in my sleeping bag on the floor of the kitchen with my underwear on backwards. They were probably like that all day but maybe not too. Dave brought a ton of beer without labels so it’s been a mystery grab morning. We have a song to the tune of the Electric Company’s Spider-Man theme “Mystery can, mystery can, into the mouth and out though your can”. The room was still abuzz with how great VOIVOD was. Let me give a little history, VOIVOD is Keith’s favorite band and, admittedly, influenced his guitar writing style and helped to shape the sound of all the bands he’s been in. At the 2018 MDF Will and Keith had conspired to offer the idea of the 6 of us doing a one-time band at MDF. We have a name and everything. Flash forward to now times:

Keith – I have the best idea with no room for change
All – Ok, sure , let’s hear it, what is it, …
Keith – When we do our thing we should cover the entire War and Pain album.
Me – I’m in. What’s that?
Keith – VIOVOD’s first album
Me – HEY! What if we call it “Warren Payne” and all the songs are about a guy with blonde feathered hair in a tan suit, and the songs are about being employee of the month, and the bland egg salad sandwich he eats for lunch every day?
All – Groans
Keith – Hard no!

MDF-Metal Up Your Ass
“I found a spot on the 2nd floor of Ram’s Head that was clean and terrific except for the person that was there before me had clearly never played in the NBA.” Photo: Justin Dratson

Today we arrived early enough to catch the first bands. All bands were terrific but I was having some bubble gut and had to find a clean place to make a butt baby. I found a spot on the 2nd floor of Ram’s Head that was clean and terrific except for the person that was there before me had clearly never played in the NBA  (see pic). The big deal for me today was that I was going to see the Cro-Mags for the first time. I already had a plan. I was going to walk up to Jon Joseph and it was going to go like this:

Me – Hi Jon.
Jon – Hi Paul. There’s a fukin’ H in my name.
Me – I know, but this is my recap and I changed it so I don’t have your publicist to Google search this and get mad at me.
Jon – Gah ahead.
Me – As you know, my mom’s a vegan and she thinks you’re funny and charming and I’m not asking you to be my new dad, but would you make a recipe for her, and make a Youtube video of it?
Jon – Sure. Does she like fukin’ summer squash ‘n shit?
Me  – Probably.
Jon – I fukin’ got just the thing. 

But guess what. The Cro-Mags had to cancel and somewhere between finding out that they weren’t playing and that Drop Dead was playing, I was told that I can take my beer outside, which opened up an entirely new world. Because of the new mobile drink discovery, I wandered around all of the tents selling all things but always found myself back at the Season of Mist tent. I hung out with them for a while. I think I might have missed 12 bands. My first year there I told them that I didn’t know anything about Death or Metal or Doom but I would give them $50 bux and they could pick out their favorite for me. This year I gave them $100 to give me their favorites. I like everything they’ve sent my way. I can’t say that I’m a fan yet but I’m slowly seeing the bigger picture. It was right around this time that I walked back in to see whichever band was on and I sided up to Mario as the band was about to start:

Me- Did he just say, “We’re called ANAL CRACKPIPE”?
Mario – No, he said Ahhnnl Naathhhrock (Anaal Nathrakh)

Turns out that Anaal Nathrakh are not only pretty great but are also well versed in the enchantments of the great wizard Merlin and lizards that need to remember to brush after every meal.

Earlier, I went to check the Drop Dead merch and started talking to their guitar player/merch slinger Ben. Turns out that my good buddy Derek K. (from Philly) gave Ben his guitar. We started talking about some other stuff:
Me – So… do you have any shirts with swear words on them? My 12 year old daughter Celeste wants a shirt with swears.
Ben – We do. A couple in fact. There’s this one with the head in a vice. He holds it out. It says “Fucking Assholes Don’t Get It” on the front and “Against Animal Experimentation – It’s Not Too Late to Evolve.”

MDF_Dropdead
“… so this is better than some lewd shit.” Photo: Justin Dratson

Me – I’ll take it. A few years ago, when Celeste was in 1st grade, she decided she didn’t want to eat meat anymore so this is better than just some lewd shit.
Ben – What made her decide that?
Me – Every day she would walk by these cows that our neighbor, the topless farmer, had and…
Ben –Topless farmer?
Me – Dude never wore a shirt. I mean ever. And he had 10 cows with name tags in their ears. Celeste fed them grass and it got so when the cows would hear the school bus pull up that they’d go over to the fence and wait for her. Jordan and Sam were her favorites. One day they weren’t there anymore so we had to gently explain that the topless farmer raised them to eat them. She cried like crazy.
Ben – Ohh man.
Me – Here’s the kicker, we’d just recently put our Great Dane Buttercup to sleep because she was riddled with bone cancer, so Celeste asked if we were going to eat Buttercup, so I got to use that Gorilla Biscuits line.
Ben – The cats and dogs one?
Me –Yeah, so… I guess that was cool?

When I arrived back to see Drop Dead play they were already a couple songs in, & the place was packed. I made my way around to the right side of the stage. Over the PA I heard something about millions of animals being slaughtered and that’s when I saw the most wonderful thing I had ever seen. Up front, against the stage were two people  kissing. No, I mean making out. They were going at it like they were teenagers at a basement party locked in a closet. I thought it would stop when the song was over but it
didn’t and it didn’t stop after the next song or after the following 10 songs. Drop Dead played a brutal and amazing set of all the classics and even a couple new ones. When they were over, the couple was still making out. After the room had cleared out, they were still making out. It was so ostentatious that photos of the two could be used in a teenage abstinence pamphlet titled “Toilet Seats and Kissing Will Get You Pregnant”. And at the same time, it was heartwarming. People had been leaping over them, bumping into them, Drop Dead even made mention of them during their set.

DropDead_3
“Up front, against the stage were two people  kissing. No, I mean making out.” Photo: Justin Dratson

 

DropDead_1
The amorous sounds of Drop Dead on display at Maryland Death Fest. Photo: Justin Dratson
DropDead_2
“Drop Dead played a brutal and amazing set of all the classics and even a couple new ones. When they were over, the couple was still making out.” Photo: Justin Dratson

MFD day 3 Saturday
Things are a bit blurry here. In my notes I had written “Coffin Dust killed it” and nothing else. I was excited to see Grotesque Organ Defilement, and see if it was a bunch of Aunt Claras playing church organs, or if it fell more in line with rest of the fest. Also, I wanted to see Squash Bowels because … Squash Bowels! Right!? Are they vegetables that are created in labs to take the place of damaged human bowels or is it a 2 word order to go and start squashing bowels? And the answer to both these questions is I don’t know. I
was talking and goofing around and I completely missed both of the bands. Somewhere in here Steve started drinking these bright blue drinks and then we all were drinking them, our tongues changed color, we laughed a bunch, and all of the bands I wanted to see I missed. 
 
MDF Day 4 Sunday
I left. We went out to brunch with a couple of Mario’s old hometown pals but I had to go meet my friend Derek in Chicago to see Mudhoney. Metz opened and were concussive and nonstop. Mudhoney came out and did their thing. Interestingly to me is that it seemed like when they did their encore of “You Stupid Asshole” by the Angry Samoans, that few people in the crowd seemed to know the song, but when they played “Hate the Police” by the Dicks, everyone went nuts. Question… is it possible that people think that
“Hate the Police” is a Mudhoney song?  After their show we went to the bar at the front of the venue.  My vision was blurred from the long weekend of little sleep and too many mystery cans of beer that when a group of mid/late 50s folks in boat shoes and pastel shorts walked over to the doors we’d just left through, I leaned over to Derek: 
Me- Look at all those drunk uncles walking over to that lady that looks my Aunt Linda
Derek – (glances over his shoulder and back at me) That’s Mark Arm.
Me – Oh…want to get a picture with him?
Derek – I do.

MDF-Mudhoney
Mudhoney. Photo: Derek

A few weeks later I sent an LP mockup of “Warren Payne” to our MDF secret band group.

MDF_Warren Payne
The Monocle “Warren Payne” LP. Already sold out. Photo: Justin Dratson

MDF 2020 is May 21-24. I already have my weekend pass. 257 days away. See ya there, perhaps.  (JD)
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/maryland-deathfest-2020-tickets-63476056594?aff=website

ROBO VAMPIRE (1988)

ROBO VAMPIRE

1988, Hong Kong
Starring: Ernst Mausser as Bill Young and a bunch of other people
Directors: Godfrey Ho & (probably) Tomas Tang
Viewed: Streaming
Transfer: Decent
Robo Vampire
Boss Young: Listen, I must find a way to handle Tom, that goddamn anti-drug agent.
Lackey: Boss, what are your plans then?
Boss Young: I’ve employed a Daoist. He’ll train vampires to deal with him.
Apparently Robo Vampire is actually two movies sewn together, so that means it’s gotta be twice as good, right? Yes, most definitely!

It certainly has everything…kung fu, drug smuggling mercenaries, Hong Kong slapstick, hopping vampires, dummy stunt men, sexy ghosts, a silver lamé version of Robocop, and even some nooky from beyond the grave. Every moment in this film is either awesome or just about to get awesome, nicely counteracting the need for a cohesive plot. Don’t worry if you doze off for a bit or forget to pause it when you head for the kitchen to get a snack…just hop right back in. I only wish Nate and Matt were here to experience it with me as this should definitely be watched with friends for maximum entertainment value.

So a quick sketch of the story here…drug kingpin Boss Young—or is it Cole? I’m still confused—has a hard on for DEA agent Tom Wilde and plans to thwart him by enlisting a Daoist monk who can summon an army of vampires that are, of course, (super-) naturally impervious to machine gun fire. The smuggling method that Tom disrupted to initiate this revenge is never made clear, but it seems like the new plan is to transport the drugs in corpses…but then there’s also a gratuitous scene of a ox-like animal being opened up and having drugs sewn up inside its body. None of this is ever explained, but it’s not really important. Anyway, going on a tip from agent in the field, Sophie, Tom & Co. confront Young’s crew all guns blazing and manage to out maneuver the smugglers despite some early casualties. As the momentum shifts toward the “good guys,” however, the monk springs into action calling up his undead henchman to make short work of the agents, Tom included. For some reason, even though all the agents are killed, only Tom is deemed worthy of being reanimated as a cyborg super-cop.

Cyborg super-cop certainly sounds familiar, but by the end of this you’ll be asking yourself “Robocop who?” Much like wrestling’s Honkytonk Man, the Mylar Murphy rip-off in this will leave you more than half-convinced that the copy is WAY better than the original. I also like the parallel of the two different imaginings of the undead: the traditional Chinese vampires born again via the supernatural, and Tom resuscitated via science: both stripped of their self-determination and slaves to the bidding of others. Get it? Robo-Vampire…I mean this shit’s deep.

It’s hard to pin down a favorite scene in this…there’s Sophie’s Chinese water torture absurdity, Cyborg Tom’s existential crisis/romantic flashback as he witnesses vampire and ghost consummate their marriage, any one of the incredible vampire vs. cyborg battle scenes…just so many ludicrous and memorable moments. Cyborg Tom’s assembly montage that segues into his test run is one of my favorites, though. I love how they just take some random dumpster dived e-waste objects with knobs and stuff and jam them unconvincingly into what looks like a hollow metal leg. However, cut to some beeping and flashing equipment, a 4th of July sparkler posing as a welding tool, and some shots of all involved nodding knowingly, and somehow it totally works. Plus we get to see him put together all over again after he’s blown to bits at the end of his first battle.

I would love to see a wide screen version, as this was modified for TV at some point, but don’t touch those overdubs! Also, if someone has a theory on how the opening scene fits into the chronology of the film, I’m all ears. (DC)

____________________________________________________________________________________

NW: Nate Wilson  DC: Devon Cahill  HR: Heath Row  MA: Matt Average

MUTILATED TONGUE Fuel the Flame LP

MUTILATED TONGUEFuel The Flame LP (2019)

Armageddon Records

mutilatedtongue_1

I’m pretty out of touch with what has been happening in the DIY hardcore/punk scene for a few years now.  I can tell you this though..this shit is straight up fucking refreshingly awesome.  Total C.O.C. Animosity worship vox happening here…It’s blatant, and great!  Who doesn’t love Mike Dean 80s era Corrosion Of Conformity?

I  mean almost everything about this record is godly, and almost perfect (I’ll get into the almost perfect part later).  

The musicianship on this is stellar, and you can tell when dropping the needle onto the wax that these folks are vets.  The drums don’t stop pounding, this dude is able to do it all.  Heavy toms, fast beats, slow beats all caught on a totally raw but pro recording.  It almost makes me wish I lived in Oakland to take some drum lessons from this hero (I said almost).  The song writing is ferociously brilliant.  I love the short little melodic Discharge guitar leads that are thrown in.  This record flys by and is almost over as soon as it starts.  

mutilatedtongue_2

It is hard to imagine that this can be pulled off live due to the fact that they are a three piece, and the guitarist sings.  Thats always a tough one to do.  Again though, these folks are vets, and they are probably pulling it off.  

I mentioned “almost perfect” at the beginning of this review. Well the almost for me is the band name… It has had me standoffish about whether this could be good from the moment I heard of them. Guess what? After three listens now, I’m starting to warm up to the name a little. I’d love to know the origin of it or what it really means to the people involved. Not a band shirt I could wear to pick up my daughter from school. I guess thats the point though, right?

I’m not going to get into all the ex bands that this group have on their resume. The music speaks for itself and really doesn’t need that hype. Just go buy this and support the people involved in making this happen. (NW)

___________________________________________________________________

Justin Dratson: JD   Nate Wilson: NW   Matt Average: MA

THE DEVASTATOR (1988)

THE DEVASTATOR (aka Hostile Takeover, aka Office Party) (1988)

Canada

Director: George Mihalka

Starring: David Warner (Eugene Bracken), Michael Ironside (Larry Gaylord), Kate

Vernon (Sally), Will Lyman (Smolen), John Vernon (Mayor)

Music: Billy Bryans, Aaron Davis

Viewed: Streaming Amazon Prime

Transfer quality: Bad

devastator

A man takes three co-workers hostage while working overtime on Thanksgiving weekend. He has no demands. –IMDB

This short description should have come with a spoiler alert, because that was pretty much it.

Man, this was a long slog. I had to pause this more than once to check that I was watching the right movie.

There’s a moment towards the middle of this where I got excited that I would get to see “The Devastator,” when Police Chief Smolen (Will Lyman) rues the Mayor’s (John Vernon, Animal House, Savage Streets) decision to bring in the SWAT team for assistance and refers to SWAT commander Garlas (Anthony Sherwood, Terror Train, Heartbreak High) as “Robocop.” I actually woke up and sat up in my chair a bit, hopeful that this shallow attempt at a “deep” philosophical movie was going to ride off the rails into something amazing. I was sadly mistaken, however, as Garlas turned out to be just a cut-rate Billy Dee Williams trying, very unconvincingly I might add, to out strut Chief Smolen. So no Devastator, terrible soundtrack, and an atrocious transfer…seriously, the only redeeming value of this film is that it gives you the ability to link Scanners to Animal House in a game of 7 degrees of Kevin Bacon.

I suppose rebranding this film as “The Devastator” achieved its goal of suckering me into wasting an hour and a half of my movie watching time, but I wasn’t happy about it. I’m not even convinced this is a legit title, as IMDB lists the possible titles as Hostile Takeover and Office Party. Screw you, Amazon. (DC)

________________________________________________________________________

Nate Wilson: NW  Devon Cahill: DC  Heath Row: HR  Matt Average: MR

 

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)

______________________________________________________________

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