THEM ALL AND
COME BACK ALONE
= Highest Rating
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
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
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 —
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.
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
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