It is difficult to review film genres that one hasn’t spent a lot of time with, but sometimes it is a necessity of the job. Reviewing these films are no different than any other film, though, in that the critic sits back with an open mind and hopes to be entertained for a couple of hours. For me, the western genre falls into this category. Aside from a couple of the bigger names in the genre, this is one I haven’t spent much time with. I only say this so that the reader can understand where I am coming from as I sit down to watch this Mill Creek Entertainment double feature.
What I do know is that spaghetti westerns were big in the 1960s, and that Clint Eastwood cemented himself as a movie star with the Man With No Name Trilogy (A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly). What Mill Creek Entertainment brings us in this double feature are two of the lesser-known films of the sub-genre: Bergonzelli’s The Last Gun (1964) and Balcázar’s Four Dollars of Revenge (1965).
The Last Gun
In The Last Gun, a gang lead by an evil man named Jess takes over a small town. Jess and his henchmen bully the small town’s local shopkeeper, and try to rape the women. Fortunately for the town, former outlaw Jim Hart has turned to a life of good instead of evil, and the masked man helps the small town deal with Jess and his gang.
The Last Gun is generic as genre films come. Though I haven’t watched much of this genre, this film reeks of the western’s equivalent to horror’s “five teens get lost on the highway and come across a creepy house”. The only thing that is memorable about The Last Gun is how similar it is to the story of Peter Parker/Spider-Man in that a masked man looks out for his town, and the love of his life. The acting is what I expected from the genre, with Cameron Mitchell standing out as the lead. Célina Cély is beautiful as Dolores, the main female role, but her acting isn’t as pretty.
The whole film builds to an incredibly predictable gunfight that the viewer can see coming from the first moment the protagonist, Jim Hart, is introduced. The worst part is that this gunfight is as unexciting as the opening gunfight, thus making this spaghetti western a snoozefest to sit through.
Four Dollars of Revenge
Four Dollars of Revenge tells the story of Captain Roy Dexter (Robert Woods), who is asked to escort a fortune of gold coins to Washington when Mexican bandits ambush him and his men. Dexter survives, but is subsequently accused of setting the whole ambush up, and is sentenced to life in prison. Dexter finds a way to escape the prison, and his goal becomes to punish those that set him up in the first place.
Where Four Dollars of Revenge trumps The Last Gun is in cinematography and story, but the plot structure is just as poor. Director Jaime Jesús Balcázar manages to find interesting camera angles and uses the beautiful landscape around him to his advantage. The action in Revenge is more exciting and prevalent than in Last Gun, and this gives the movie a forward-moving feeling, making it more exciting to watch. Unfortunately the way the plot unfolds is just as predictable as Last Gun, and I was able to guess the ending by the end of the first act.
The acting is on par with Last Gun, except for the lead, Robert Woods, who delivers an excellent performance. Woods is the only great actor in the bunch, though, and the rest of the cast ranges from mediocre to awful (most of the extras that have one or two lines are laughable).
Even though Four Dollars of Revenge is a better film than The Last Gun, neither are movies I would recommend to a friend. This is not a good place to start with the western genre, but fanatics looking for something else to fill in a couple of hours might enjoy the campiness that these two films bring to the genre. Aside from that niche audience, these films are not worth the time.
Both of these movies were originally released in the mid-1960s, and it shows in the transfers. Mill Creek Entertainment has done a nice job with what they had to work with, though, and I imagine this is the best these films can, and will, ever look. It is important to note, however, that there are some lighting problems throughout, quite a bit of grain, as well as other miscellaneous imperfections with both films. Fans of Last Gun and Revenge will surely enjoy the work done by Mill Creek, but will not be able to forget that these films are over 35 years old. The Blu-ray Disc lists Last Gun with a 1.96:1 contrast ratio, and Revenge with a 2.46:1 contrast ratio.
Both films have three sound options: English 2.0 DTS-HD, English 2.0 Dolby Digital, and English 2.0 PMC Uncompressed Audio. I had a hard time distinguishing between the three sound options as I was watching the films, but they all had the same problem: the audio lagged. The Last Gun’s audio was out of sync, but by a minute amount. Four Dollars of Revenge, however, got frustrating to watch because the audio was almost an entire word behind the picture. I use a Sony 5.1 surround system, but never have this problem with other Blu-ray Discs, which leads me to believe the problem rests in the Blu-ray itself.
There are no subtitle options for either film.
Trailers (4:44): Trailers for both The Last Gun and Four Dollars of Revenge are available.
Also Available (5:05): Trailers for the first Spaghetti Western Double Feature from Mill Creek Entertainment are on this feature. The two films in the package are Django and Now They Call Him Sacramento. The Django trailer looks interesting, mixing what appears to be automatic weapons with the western genre, and a catchy song. The second trailer looks like more typical western genre garb with shades of The Three Stooges.
This spaghetti western double feature doesn’t have a lot going for it: the films are mediocre at best, the special features are a nothing the viewer can’t watch online, and the audio is out of synch with the picture (not to mention the back of the BD case says that Last Gun is 126 minutes long when it is only 96 minutes in length). Mill Creek has done an admirable job with the picture quality, but it too is imperfect. This Blu-ray Disc is not recommended, even with its budget price tag.
Mill Creek Entertainment presents Spaghetti Western Double Feature: The Last Gun & Four Dollars of Revenge. Directed by: Sergio Bergonzelli (The Last Gun) & Jaime Jesús Balcázar (Four Dollars of Revenge). Starring: Robert Woods, Dana Ghia, Angelo Infanti, Cameron Mitchell, Carl Möhner and Célina Cély. Written by: Ambrogio Molteni and James Wilde Jr. (The Last Gun) & Bruno Corbucci, Aldo Grimaldi, and Giovanni Grimaldi (Four Dollars of Revenge). Running time: 184 total minutes. Rating: Not Rated. Released on Blu-ray: March 22, 2011.
Tags: Clint Eastwood