Italy - Spain | 1968
Directed by Enzo G. Castellari
Chuck Connors
Frank Wolff

Franco Citti
| 96 Minutes | Not Rated
Format: DVD (R0 - NTSC)
Wild East Productions
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Review by
Brian Lindsey
    6   10 = Highest Rating  
A fast-paced spaghetti western, Kill Them All and Come Back Alone doesn't waste a spare moment on plot or characterization — indeed, there isn't much of the former and absolutely none of the latter. The film isn't an encomium to the vanished American frontier, nor is it a Marxist allegory about oppression and the struggle for libertad. It's all about explosions, fisticuffs and firefights, in the form of topnotch stunts and set-pieces orchestrated by one of the great old school Italian masters of action cinema, Enzo G. Castellari.
The film opens with a 14-minute pre-titles sequence detailing a Civil War commando raid. Six men, each with their own special talents, deftly infiltrate the strongly-guarded HQ of a high-ranking Confederate general. But they don't assassinate or abduct him. The whole operation is merely an exercise, a test of the commandos' abilities. Introducing each man in turn, the squad's leader, Clyde MacKay (Chuck Connors of Tourist Trap and TV's The Rifleman), explains to the impressed general that his boys are all hard-case cutthroats recruited from prison... Hoagy (Franco Citti) is handy with thrown bola-style weapons. Decker (Leo Anchoriz) is an explosives expert armed with a homemade bazooka. (In 1864???) The aptly named half-breed Blade (Giovanni Cianfriglia, AKA "Ken Wood") prefers to let his knives do the talking. Hulking muscleman Bogard (Hércules Cortés) employs brute strength to smash his way through anything in his path. The acrobatic skills of The Kid (Alberto Dell'Aqua) allow him to get into places no one would think possible. As for MacKay, he's something of a jack-of-all-trades whose main contribution to the team is leadership and brains.
    In a private meeting with the general, MacKay is introduced to intelligence officer Captain Lynch (Frank Wolff, The Great Silence), who briefs him on the mission he and his men will undertake the theft of $1 Million in gold from the Union Army. That this gold is housed in a fort crawling with enemy troops is bad enough... Ratcheting up the danger factor, the trove is stored in a powder magazine with sticks of dynamite placed inside the strongboxes. Despite such formidable obstacles the Confederate high command has confidence that MacKay's team of experts can pull the heist and deprive Union forces in the West of critical operating funds. Concluding the briefing, Capt. Lynch has an additional order for MacKay's ears only: "Kill them all and come back alone." (Cue those opening titles!) MacKay is expected to terminate his own men once the mission is complete.
    This is a spaghetti western, after all, so in between the fist fights, gun battles and exploding TNT you can expect panoramic vistas of desolate, sun-blasted wastes (the ubiquitous Spanish desert) and tight close-ups of extremely sweaty faces. It's also 100% "Guy Flick": there are no female characters to be seduced, raped or, at a minimum, knocked around. (If an Italian movie from the 1960s or '70s has a woman in it, she's gonna get slapped period.) The movie just can't be bothered with any of that stuff, much less a plot, character development and backstory. Such elements would only get in the way of all the brawlin' and killin' and blowin' stuff up. Yet there are times when that's all one requires from an action flick, provided it's made with enthusiasm and a bit of panache. Director Castellari brings those qualities to the table.
    Castellari made films in virtually every genre requiring action sequences, to include poliziotteschi (The Big Racket, The Heroin Busters), military adventure (The Inglorious Bastards), post-apocalyptic sci-fi (The New Barbarians, 1990: The Bronx Warriors), and, of course, spaghetti westerns (Keoma). When he had even a semi-decent budget to work with he could craft entertaining films that were also impressive from a technical standpoint. Such is the case with Kill Them All and Come Back Alone its rowdy, over-the-top action is as boisterously fun as it is absurd. (I mentioned the Civil War-era bazooka, right?) It could be likened to a top-drawer Hong Kong kung fu flick from the same period... You can't really believe any of it for a second, but a good time is practically guaranteed.
    Gaunt and leathery (in some close-ups he resembles a strip of beef jerky with teeth), Chuck Connors was ill during production and subsequently performed few of his own stunts. Castellari nimbly covers for him, however, with his choice of shots and a well-matched stunt double. It helps that Dell'Aqua and Cianfriglia professional stuntmen long before they tried thesping are featured prominently in the sometimes dangerous action scenes.

Wild East's limited (1000 copies) release of Kill Them All and Come Back Alone serves up the English language version of the film although the onscreen credits are in Italian. Presented in the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio (16x9 enhanced), the print used here isn't exactly in the best of shape but is quite watchable. Nicks and scratches, not to mention the occasional missing frame and hair in the gate, never detract from the visuals to any significant degree. Some shimmering is noticeable in a handful of scenes and, overall, the print is a tad dark, but these are relatively minor irritants. The standard mono audio track (Connors did his own voice dubbing) is merely adequate, albeit without issues.
Beyond the expected image gallery (posters, lobby cards) and U.S. theatrical trailer (in ragged condition), I was pleasantly surprised to find an extra of consequence included on this DVD. In a 43-minute interview, Giovanni Cianfriglia talks about his lengthy career as a stuntman/actor. Speaking in his native tongue, with English text translation scrolling up the the side of the screen, the Italian movie veteran — now in his 70s — both extols and disparages the industry he's spent his life in, commenting on many of the actors and directors he's worked with over the years. (And not without dishing a little dirt along the way.) Fans of Italian action cinema, from the pepla of the '60s through the Road Warrior rip-offs of the '80s, will enjoy it. 4/11/08