If revenge was really this cheap, Judge Daryl Loomis would be a whole lot happier.
Look Mother, it's an outlaw! He has a mask on!
These days, it's sadly rare for me to watch an Italian western that I've never seen before. New material just doesn't come out very often anymore. MVD, however, delivers me from my shootout limbo with their Spaghetti Western Double Feature: Volume 2. Both films are new to me; one is pretty mediocre and one is really good, but both remind me why I always want to see more of them.
Facts of the Case
The Last Gun stars Cameron Mitchell (Blood and Black Lace) as gentle Bill, a tailor with a beautiful fiancé (Kitty Carver) and a good life ahead of him. Like everyone else, he's afraid to fight back when Jess and his dastardly gang take over the town. The citizens are terrorized and the sheriff is powerless, but a lone masked man comes out of the dark to put a stop to their crimes. Whoever could it be?
4 Dollars for Revenge features Robert Woods (Pray to God and Dig Your Grave) as army captain Roy Dexter, who plans to parlay his exemplary Civil War service record into a governorship. On his final mission to deliver Confederate gold to the US treasury, his transport is ambushed, his men are killed and, though he survives, he is fingered in a conspiracy. Sentenced to hard time, he escapes, determined to hunt down the men who betrayed him.
While I can't argue with the country of origin of The Last Gun, in principle it barely qualifies as an Italian western. Released in 1964, right at the start of the Spaghetti Western craze, The Last Gun has much more in common with its American counterparts than with the Serio Leone films that popularized the genre. The production qualities, such as the sets and terrible dubbing, are pure Italian cinema, but the plotting and characters are more easily recognized in 1950s American westerns. Cameron Mitchell's lead character is part Lone Ranger, part Superman, and the situation is pure High Noon. Some of the content would have been a little too much for American censors, but that's the only think that separates it from its stateside brethren.
This is an early entry from director Sergio Bergonzelli (Joy), who would eventually go down the softcore erotica path, and he does a journeyman's work here. There's a little style and some good landscapes; it's a standard and professional production that moves along at a brisk pace. Cameron Mitchell shows himself as wooden as he always is, but he works in the role as well as he always does. Livio Lorenzon (Texas, Adios) plays the villain with his usual glower. It's far from a great film, with its trite story and silly characters, but I've seen plenty worse in the genre.
4 Dollars of Revenge, on the other hand, comes as a big surprise, although looking at it, maybe it shouldn't be. It's written by Bruno Corbucci, who also wrote Django and The Great Silence, both directed by brother Sergio Corbucci and two of the very best westerns to come out of Italy. I never noticed the writing in those films, necessarily, but I've seen plenty of Sergio's work, and most of it doesn't measure up to those two films. 4 Dollars of Revenge very much does, and the writing is the link. This is really a straightforward revenge plot, but it's executed extremely well, with a tightly written story and very decent performances. It benefits from its simplicity, going exactly where you expect it to, but does so in smooth and pleasurable fashion. At one point, the hero is in a room with one of his betrayers. He's in disguise and the lights are off. He stands in front of the man in the dark, lights a match, and holds it under his chin, revealing his face. When his betrayer sees his face, his face goes white with shock and he falls dead on the table. If that's not great Spaghetti Western action, I don't know what is.
Mill Creek is today, and always has been, a budget company and I appreciate their modest work, even if the films never look their best. Nothing changes my opinion with in my first experience with one of their Blu-ray releases. I'm very glad to have these two films on disc, especially 4 Dollars of Revenge, but they don't look very much better than their standard definition releases, which really isn't saying a lot. The Last Gun is the better of the two, but only slightly. Both suffer from dirt, scratches, and damage. There is some flickering inconsistency in the brighter scenes, and the darker scenes are murky. For all the problems, though, some of the colors actually look pretty good and the high definition gives it a broader than it would have had on DVD. The sound is standard issue stereo. All the various tracks sound virtually the same. There's a little bit of background noise, but it's not distracting. It's no more than you'd expect, though. There are no extras for either film.
As a Blu-ray release, this double feature doesn't stack up very well. As a pair of gritty westerns, though, Spaghetti Western Double Feature: Volume 2 has plenty to enjoy. The Last Gun is watchable and 4 Dollars of Revenge is much better than I could have hoped, so I walk away happy.
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Studio: Mill Creek Entertainment
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Studio: Mill Creek Entertainment
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