Friday, July 29, 2016

Kill Them All And Come Back Alone

In addition to boasting one of the toughest movie titles of all time, this Italian western directed by action specialist Enzo G. Castellari (THE INGLORIOUS BASTARDS) is a total blast from start to finish. KILL THEM ALL AND COME BACK ALONE (which is a line actually spoken in the film) is the only spaghetti western to star Chuck Connors, an American TV regular (THE RIFLEMAN, BRANDED, COWBOY IN AFRICA) who may have gone overseas to duplicate RAWHIDE star Clint Eastwood’s big-screen success.

Connors has the perfect face for Italian westerns, so perhaps he was just too busy in Hollywood to make others. He plays the Peter Graves/Lee Marvin role, named Clyde MacKay, in this riff on MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE and THE DIRTY DOZEN.

Captain Lynch (Frank Wolff) of the Confederacy has a mission for MacKay and his ragtag squad of ruffians, all of whom have a particular specialty. The blond Kid (Alberto Dell’Aqua) is an athlete and an acrobat. The half-Mexican/half-Indian Blade (Ken Wood, who played the superhero Superargo in two films) is expert with knives. Hoagy (Franco Citti) works with a bolo. Deker (Leo Anchoriz) uses a bazooka shaped like a banjo. Strongman Bogard (Hercules Cortes) looks like Dan Blocker.

Their mission (Wolff reminds MacKay that if he and his men are captured, the Confederates will disavow any knowledge of their actions) is to infiltrate a Union stronghold and make off with $1 million in gold. The catch is that the coins are disguised as sticks of dynamite and scattered among real dynamite stored in a Union compound atop an imposing hill. One misplaced shot could destroy the treasure. Of course, with that much money on the table, you can guess that not everyone’s mind is strictly on the mission they’re assigned to carry out.

Fans of Italian cinema are familiar with Castellari’s skills at creating action scenes, and KILL THEM ALL… is practically nothing but. With Connors’ toothy grin as anchor, Castellari varies the action from small-scale barroom brawls to massive setpieces involving explosions and dozens of extras in the Spanish desert. He even opens the film in media res with Connors’ team showing off their specialties in a precredits sequence that effectively introduces the stars.

If you’re looking for gun battles, fistfights, and stunts for their own sake without pesky subtext or symbolism getting in the way, KILL THEM ALL AND COME BACK ALONE is the perfect romp.

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