Although most of the films included have been released previously, it’s hard not to be extremely excited for Arrow Video’s recent release of Vengeance Trails. This four-film box set includes a fantastic set of films for any western aficionado from some of the biggest directors and stars of the time period. The new high-definition restorations are gorgeous, the extras are solid as expected, and the packaging is a delight to have on a collector’s shelf. This review is meant to cover the films included in the set - although any previous coverage we have run at Blood Brothers will be linked below, but if you’re a fan of those classic Italian gritty westerns, it’s hard not to recommend Vengeance Trails upfront.
For more information about the set, please see the details following the film reviews below.
MASSACRE TIME (1966)
Director: Lucio Fulci
Notable Cast: Franco Nero, George Hilton
The first film in this box set is a noteworthy film for a few reasons, but it’s most notable for being the first time that iconic Italian director Lucio Fulci ventured down the western trail. Although most of his work prior to this was in the comedic realm, Massacre Time (also known as the Brute and the Beast in the US and was previously reviewed on this site as such HERE) is anything but comedic. In fact, it's through the balance of dramatic subtext and bursts of intense violence that the film finds its identity.
Like most spaghetti westerns, it follows a familiar formula where the outsider, played by the steely eyed Franco Nero, comes back to town to find his family fortune squandered by a vicious landlord and his insane son. He partners up with his brother (George Hilton, absolutely stealing the show as a drunken gunfighter) to change the tide of power in the old west of New Mexico. The performances are top notch with the two leads brilliantly playing off of the energy of the other and gorging within the things unsaid between them and the action is frenetic, violent, and incredibly well shot by Fulci. Although I’m not sure this film is his best western (Four for the Apocalypse is still a stone-cold stunner of a film) it’s one hell of a kick off to his all too brief foray in the genre.
To say more would steal some of the surprise away from the execution of the film, but you’re welcome to read Eric’s review of the film linked in the first paragraph for more information.
MY NAME IS PECOS (1966)
Director: Maurizio Lucidi
Notable Cast: Robert Woods, Pier Paolo Capponi, Lucia Modugno, George Eastman
After being immersed in the well-executed western debut of Lucio Fulci, it’s hard not to find the follow up within this boxset a bit disappointing. My Name Is Pecos does its best to entertain despite its rather intense adherence to the tropes of the genre. While the story of a Mexican coming back into town to take revenge on the racist white men who slaughtered his family is entertaining to the Nth degree (if I’m being honest, it’s a premise I’ll watch a thousand times) it’s not the most riveting films in execution. If a film adheres so strongly to formula, it must stand out in its style or substance and this one just runs a bit thin on both of those.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle that My Name Is Pecos must overcome is the lacking big bold lead characters in the film. Many of the secondary characters are far more interesting, including the various individuals that help our hero Pecos like the young women or the man with crushed hands, but the leads feel a tad bland. Robert Woods delivers in some key moments, particularly the final lines of the film or the whiplash of personality in the highly entertaining opening of the film that sees him purchase a gun from an arrogant gunslinger, but his portrayal can run a bit too conventional at times. The fact that he’s trying to perform in “brown face” make up with tape around his eyes doesn’t help. The same goes for the villain of the film where Pier Paolo Capponi desperately tries to add a level of evil to his performance, but it’s such a relatively straightforward character that it doesn’t help.
The direction from Maurizio Lucidi is also fairly mundane and it’s only some moments that stand out from the peers of the genre. It’s a lot of meh with a few moments that carry its audience through the story. The film did well enough to earn at least one sequel, Pecos Cleans Up, also from director Lucidi, and even though My Name Is Pecos didn’t fully thrill me, I hope that Arrow Video eventually releases it on Blu.
ARROW VIDEO FEATURES
4-DISC LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS
- · High Definition Blu-ray™ (1080p) presentations of all four films
- · 2K restorations of all four films from the original 35mm camera negatives, with Massacre Time, My Name is Pecos and Bandidos newly restored by Arrow Films for this release
- · Restored lossless mono Italian and English soundtracks
- · English subtitles for the Italian soundtracks
- · English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtracks
- · Galleries for all four films
- · Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by author and critic Howard Hughes
- · Fold-out double-sided poster featuring newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx
- · Limited edition packaging with reversible sleeves featuring original artwork and a slipcover featuring newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx
DISC 1 – MASSACRE TIME
- · Alternate US dub
- · New commentary by authors and critics C. Courtney Joyner and Henry Parke
- · New documentary featuring a new video interview with actor Franco Nero and an archival video interview with actor George Hilton
- · New video interview with film historian Fabio Melelli
- · Italian trailer
DISC 2 – MY NAME IS PECOS
- · New commentary by actor Robert Woods and C. Courtney Joyner
- · New interview with actor George Eastman
- · New interview with actress Lucia Modugno
- · New documentary featuring a new interview with Fabio Melelli and an archival interview with cinematographer Franco Villa
- · Italian trailer
Written By Matt Reifschneider