Jun 28, 2008

Plot Outline: Richard Martin, a well renowned gunman is traveling by train in the old west in our introduction. Things go bad when the train is hijacked and robbed by the sadistic Billy Kane. Kane begins killing any and all witnesses, that is until he gets to Martin’s cabin. Martin and Kane have a small confrontation and we learn that Martin is actually the man who taught Kane all he knows, but Kane has the upper hand (is that a pun?) when he draws faster than Martin. Martin is lined up against the cabin and Kane puts a bullet through each of his hands. We skip forward in time and find Martin now runs a small traveling ‘old west’ carnival show. Here he displays a gunman by the name of “Ricky Shot” who is soon ‘shot’ dead by a stranger in the audience who wants to test his skills. Martin gets angry and starts a fight with the outlaws, he eventually wins too with the help of a young man. Martin sees the talent in the kid and offers him a job and training. He accepts and becomes the new “Ricky Shot”. Martin has more ideas than just making some easy money off the kid, revenge is on his mind.

The Review: Your loyal webmaster ‘il pantsman’ is having a bit of a spaghetti western revival this week.In case you haven’t got it just yet, every movie reviewed during this revival is going to start with that same sentence. Anyway, even though whoever may be reading this isn’t going through all of these ‘sgetti western reviews in the order in which they were written, I’m still making sure people know the numbers. This here is number three on the revival, and so far, this has been the best. Compañeros and The Big Gundown were both great and fun little sits, but Bandidos is definitely the only ‘classic’ I’ve reviewed thus far. I mean classic in every sense of the word. It’s pulp cinema, but it’s also the kind of film that will stick in your head days after watching it. A film that may have been made on a low budget, but never the less inspires whoever watches it. The style, the technique, the characters, the writing and most of all; the fun. It’s a fun film, not overly long (about 90 minutes) like many Italian westerns tend to be and it’s just brimming with so much substance that it’s almost surprising to find in a cheap western that time has nearly forgot. Nearly forgotten is right too. No dvd release and with basically no buzz or cult following surrounding the film, I had no expectations walking in. Well, if I expected anything, I expected it to not be very good. It seems like Cut Throats Nine had more hype surrounding it than this film. Maybe I’m just seeing gold when it’s really plastic, but I couldn’t help but fall in love with this film.

Within the first ten or so minutes of the film I remember thinking to myself, ‘man this film is violent!’ It must have been some time around the point where a innocent circus performer is shot dead on stage for no other reason than being a good shot. Before that in the beginning of the film, our lead villain massacres about fifty or so people on a train. He and his men just walk around the train shooting anyone who moves. It’s not violent like The Wild Bunch, it’s more of a subconscious thing. The pure viciousness of the murders and the cold heart of the murderers themselves gives death a significance in the bundles of people who are murdered. It’s something you really don’t see much of in these ‘sgetti pictures, usually if someone is seeking revenge it can almost seem phony because of how untouchable our heroes are, but here the man seeking revenge is crippled. This is why I loved the old man’s character so much. His character was deeply flawed, but still righteous. His using Ricky Shot to get his revenge came out looking incredibly selfish on screen, but the reasons for his wanting revenge were so strong, more so than just his hands being shot by him. Then there’s our hero Ricky Shot, who at first seems like a gullible hooligan, but transforms into the ultimate toughguy. His reasons for following the old man aren’t really revealed until later in the film, but it all comes out so effortless. It could be argued that the characters are just generic anti-hero spaghetti western stars I’m sure, but the characters are more flawed than I’m personally used to. Even Billy Kane, who is as about as despicable of a villain as you can get, wasn’t hated by me. There’s a certain turning point in the film where Kane shows that, even though he is a sadistic human being, he is still incredibly loyal, which at this point is more than we can say for our ‘hero’.

If deeply written characters and great acting isn’t your thing, you can always rely on the action, and action there is. Plenty of it. As I discussed in my The Big Gundown review, I sometimes expect either a Leone style standoff or a big gun battle to end most spaghetti westerns (or any western really), the ending here is of the big gun battle variety. A great gun battle it is too. Our hero and our villain have to face each other with almost the same exact skills. And Being good with a gun isn’t just being able to shoot a target in this film, much like El Topo, being good with a gun is almost equal to having super powers. Characters can basically shoot anything at any distance if trained hard enough. This aspect of the film reminded me heavily of the films of Change Cheh, or any kung fu film to be honest. That’s what makes the film so great! It’s as equally artistic as it is entertaining, and if you ask me if a film doesn’t have a share of both then it’s not worth your attention. Anyway, what really caught my eye while watching the film was the director’s choice of shots and all of the different angles. You wouldn’t expect there to be so much style, but after the scene where a character slides a glass down the bar and the camera follows it right until it’s in our character’s hand, I was hooked. The same trick is used once again in the film, and it’s still just as impressive. There are tons of moments in the film where I was just as impressed with the camera work, and it makes me wonder even more, why isn’t this film more well known?

The Conclusion
I could just be completely and utterly insane, and it’s quite the possibility, but I felt like Bandidos was one of the best spaghetti westerns I’ve seen in a while. How it would fair against Cut Throats Nine though, I’m not too sure on that one. I’m not recommending it for everyone because this may be a chance of ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’, but for what it’s worth, I absolutely adore it. What’s the forecast for today? ‘Sgetti!