Sunday, December 23, 2007

23/03/07: Spaghetti War and Western double #1!

A Town Called Bastard

UK/Spain 1971 colour

aka A Town Called Hell, Una Ciudad llamada Bastarda

Directors Robert Parrish, [uncredited] Irving Lerner Writers Richard Aubrey, Benjamin Fisz

Cast Telly Savalas (Don Carlos), Robert Shaw (The Priest), Stella Stevens (Alvira), Fernando Rey (blind man), Michael Craig (Paco), Martin Landau (The Colonel). Aldo Sambrell (Calebra)

The credits say “A Town Called Hell” but I still prefer its original title, A Town Called Bastard. And “bastard” really is the word to describe the movie - a scruffy mongrel hybrid that has no right to look as good as it does. How else would you describe a British production filmed in Spain posing as an Italian western with American and Greek actors? It truly is a film with a thousand fathers.

Beautifully framed against the Spanish desert posing as revolution-era Mexico, the town called Bastard is not what it appears to be - Robert Shaw may or not be a priest who arrives with a blonde prostitute played by Stella Stevens, who is actually an exterminating angel avenging her husband’s killers. Martin Landau wears a Mexican uniform and calls himself “The Colonel”, but should he? The genuine article is the genuinely awful Telly Savalas, the local villain who takes pleasure in hanging most of the townsfolk, and is so greasy it looks like he combs his bald dome with a pork chop. And before you can say, “Isn’t that the guy who played Kojak?”, La Revolution erupts in a blaze of gunfire and explosions.

It’s almost a parody from a unique period in film history when the bastards appeared to have won. It was a sign of the times; a jaded and cynical West was trying to emulate the Sergio Leone-inspired westerns from their shabbier European cousins, right down to their sardonic humour and hero-free nihilism. This British/Spanish co-production is no different: violent, repugnant, and with no redeeming features other than its inherent ugliness. Basically all you could ever want in a spaghetti western, or its even poorer offspring. Schlock Treatment is proud to present the son of a son a bitch, the 1971 A Town Called Bastard.

Five For Hell

Italy 1968 colour

aka Cinque Per L’Inferno, Five Into Hell

Director “Frank Kramer”/Gianfranco Parolini Story Sergio Garrone Screenplay Renato Izzo, Gianfranco Parolini

Cast “John”/Gianni Garko (Lt. Glenn Hoffmann), Klaus Kinski (Colonel Mueller), “Nick Jordan”/Aldo Canti (Nick Amadori), Margaret Lee (Helga Richter), Sal Borgese (Al Siracusa)

At a time when spaghetti westerns were riding tall in the saddle, the Italians still found time for a cheap knockoff of the classic 1967 war movie The Dirty Dozen. In fact the film is SO cheap they could only afford five of the dozen. Welcome to Five For Hell.

The entire cast and crew are all veterans of the pasta factory that churned out endless spaghetti westerns, sword and sandal films, spy movies and masked superhero capers. If there was a popular film in America or abroad, the Italians would crank out ten carbon copies which, to bad movie fans like myself, are sometimes more entertaining than the originals.

Italian hero John (or Gianni) Garko plays Lootenant Hoffman, an American officer and baseball nut charged with taking four other misfits into the heart of Nazi-occupied Italy (where else?) to steal the blueprints for a German attack. At the same villa is the sadistic SS Colonel Muller, essayed with the generic dead fish-eyed finesse of Klaus Kinski, and the similarly dead-inside undercover agent Frau Richter, played by the ubiquitous Euro starlet Margaret Lee.

You definitely get the feeling it’s a comedy missing a punchline, and it’s not hard to imagine considering the director “Frank Kramer” (or Gianfranco Parolini) and the two acrobatic stars Nick Jordan and Sal Borgese, ran riot on European screens in the Sixties in a series of pajama-clad Three Fantastic Supermen movies. Parolini here makes his Supermen break into a tapdance routine for no reason whatsoever, and makes some crazed improvements on the Dirty Dozen scenario that border on the surreal, including a portable trampoline and exploding baseballs - and you can’t get more American than that.

In a league of its own, we present to you the ludicrous spaghetti war antics with heaps of extra cheese: the 1968 Five For Hell.

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