Horror movies get blended with Spaghetti Westerns in this revenge tale from Europe’s boot.
The film begins with convicted thief, Gary Hamilton, working a rock pile in the scorching desert sun. A rattlesnake turns up and almost puts the bite on him, but this guy is cool as ice and dispatches the serpent by mashing its head to a pulp with his county-issued pickaxe. Good thing, too, as he is promptly released by a judicial order thanking him for his prior military service. Too bad they waited 10 years, because he’s been festering like a ripe boil. All he wants to do is go home and kill the man who set him up and took his woman.
It’s a small world for Hamilton. He finds himself sharing a stagecoach with the son of the man he is seeking. He gets out a few miles before town and tells the young man to let his dad, Acombar, know that he will be stopping by in the evening.
First, he has to stop at a remote stable and buy a horse, a gun and some ammunition form a sunburnt codger who has dirt cheap prices and a toxic case of body odor. He thanks the old man by shooting the weather vane off his barn. The old fella doesn’t seem too upset, though, and lets him know a big tornado is coming towards town.
Hamilton arrives, as if you didn’t know, just as the storm hits. He quickly goes about killing all of the gunmen in town by sneaking about through a series of old Indian tunnels. This allows him to leap out at anytime and get the drop on guys before melting back into the dark. Meanwhile, Acombar must contend with an angry son who wants to know why this man has come. He eventually learns that his dad robbed a military payroll and planted evidence to pin the crime on Hamilton. Dad then took up with Hamilton’s woman, Mary.
Acombar decides to take care of the problem himself. Well, he actually has no choice, since Hamilton kills all 30 of his goons over the course of the night. The best death has Hamilton tricking the men into cutting down a church bell which then crushes one of the bad guys. Soon, it is down to Acombar and Hamilton for a final shootout in a mirror-filled room, a la Orson Welles’ “Lady from Shanghai.”
By 1970, Spaghetti Westerns were a dying breed, so the studios were wise to let people get creative. Anthony Dawson made this one and his background in horror films served him well. This plays more like a terror flick, with the hero striking out in the dark and disappearing. That and the fact that they cast Klaus Kinski (“Nosferatu”) as the hero. He was well known for playing monsters (when he wasn’t drinking to excess and threatening to kill his directors), so you know right away that anything goes.
The bulk of the film takes place at night, so that adds an edge, too. My favorite scene has Acombar sitting down to a formal dinner with Mary and his son while gunshots ring out all over town as his men duke it out with Hamilton.
The biblical title also works, because this is an epic case of revenge in the West. Starting with the tornado being a sign of wrath, the film progresses to a blood-drenched finale in which the remaining evildoers are consumed in fire after facing Hamilton’s blazing guns.
Hamilton may have a boring name, but the elements fear it. Birds of prey flee and windows slam shut whenever someone even mentions him.
This is a simple story but told with so much style you get caught up. Good stuff and dirt cheap on DVD, where it is featured on several economy-priced Western sets.
Best line: “Would you prefer to live in a dung heap?”