Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Pistol for Ringo (1965)

Director: Duccio Tessari
Notable Cast: Giuliano Gemma, George Martin, Fernando Sancho, Nieves Navarro, Antonio Casas, Hally Hammond, Jose Manuel Martin

Giuliano Gemma has really grown on me as a Spaghetti Western star. He just had a little too much boyish charm for my taste in films such as "Fort Yuma Gold" and "Ben and Charlie". Now after seeing him in numerous films, I can honestly say his boyish charm is grown on me as he characters also tend to have a lethal mean streak, as seen here in one of his most defining films "A Pistol for Ringo."

Christmas celebration in a small southern town comes to a complete halt when a Mexican gang rides in and violently robs the towns bank. With the sheriff and posse hot on their trail, the gang takes refuge in a ranch and threatens to shoot a ranch hand every morning and night for which they are not allowed to cross over into Mexico with money in hand. As a last resort the sheriff sends in a prisoner named Ringo (Gemma) in order to kill them off, rescuing the sheriff's fiancée.

Gemma is wonderful in the eccentric character of Ringo. Who else could pull off a character who is introduced playing hopscotch with kids before brutally killing two bastards in cold blood? What Gemma plays off so well is the duel nature of Ringo. The audience never knows if they can trust this guy. First of all he demands 30% of the stolen cash from the town in order to rescue the ranch owners. Then he sells out ot the gang for 40% to help the defeat the town, and then vice versa again. Don't let the clean cut nature of his character fool you into thinking that this is going to be hero... he's just as much an anti-hero as the scruffy Leone characters, just with a little more wit and silly charm.

The rest of the cast is competent, lead by Fernando Sancho playing the gang leader named, what else, Sancho. This guy is picture perfect as the fat, arrogant Mexican gang leader and he's played this same type of character umpteen times before. Seriously I've lost count how many times I've seen this guy playing the same skuzzy characters in Spaghetti Westerns.

My favorite aspect of the film is the dead on humor brilliantly placed by director Duccio Tessari. I openly laughed on more than one occasion and this isn't even a Spaghetti Western comedy. Of course there's the opening hopscotch killings, a bullet ricochet off a bell that kills a goon, some silly knife throwing scenes and of course the peculiar aspect that our antihero doesn't drink whiskey, only milk. The quotable dialogue also gets the laughs coming deep within.

Ennio Morricone's score, however, sounds more Americanized like it's more tailored for an American westerns. I know it's blasphemy to say anything against Morricone but this score just isn't very Spaghetti Westernish. I also wasn't keen on how many of the climatic sequences were filmed in that dreaded 'day-for-night' bullshit where they film in the daylight but darken the film.

Overall, "A Pistol for Ringo" is a very satisfying Spaghetti Western and it proved popular enough to be followed by one official sequel ("Return of Ringo") and enough unofficial knock-offs utilizing the name Ringo to rival as many unofficial sequels to "Django." Giuliano Gemma also was catapulted into superstardom in Italy and went on to star in numerous entries into this loveable subgenre. As for DVD releases the only good release I could hunt down is in a box set entitled "The Best of Spaghetti Westerns". "A Pistol for Ringo", as with the rest of the films, has a decent widescreen transfer.

Written By Eric Reifschneider


As Eric mentions in his review above, A Pistol for Ringo is not necessarily the best spaghetti western on the docket, but it certainly is an outrageously fun one. In a way, it plays against its own stereotypes by having its anti-hero, the titular Ringo, played as a quirky and offbeat character that rides the line between the wild card and the class clown. This gives the film a strange and memorable tone overall, particularly as he is played as a midway point between the emotional brutality of the film’s villain and the stoic clean-cut nature of the film’s sheriff. Director Duccio Terssari loves to play with this give and take tonality of the character in the narrative and feel of the film which works very impressively when it does - like in the sequences where Ringo is haggling for a cut of the stolen goods or in Ringo’s introduction where he brutally slays his pursuers while playing hopscotch with some children. The film has its own problems, thanks to some strange narrative choices for some of the secondary cast, but it ultimately entertains in spades with its lovable asshole lead character and the strange situation he finds himself in as he helps the local townspeople with the hostage situation and robbery of the bank.

Of course, Arrow Video do an admirable job with the release with a brand new 2K restoration of the film, some older featurettes, and audio commentaries by western cinematic experts. Perhaps the best part of this release though is that you get both of the Ringo films from Duccio Tessari in the new restored versions and watching A Pistol for Ringo back to back with The Return of Ringo is a delight that most spaghetti western fans will want to add to their collections.
  • Brand new 2K restorations of both films from the original negative
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Original Italian and English soundtracks
  • Uncompressed Mono 1.0 PCM audio
  • Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
  • Audio commentaries for both films by Spaghetti Western experts C. Courtney Joyner and Henry Parke
  • They Called Him Ringo, an archival featurette with star Giuliano Gemma
  • A Western Greek Tragedy, an archival featurette with Lorella de Luca and camera operator Sergio D Offizi
  • Original trailers
  • Gallery of original promotional images
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx
 Written By Matt Reifschneider

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