Six-Gun Reviews is back, and this week Michael Hauss gives his verdict on Pistoleros (1967) aka Ballad Of A Gunman, aka Ringo, Pray To Your God And Die, starring Anthony Ghidra (aka Dragomir Gidra Bojanic) and Angelo Infanti.
Pistoleros is a derivative of the Leone films, except it never finds its own voice and has too many paper thin characterizations to make it a fully rewarding viewing experience. The film does, however, boast at least one nicely fleshed-out character, that being Rocco played by the fine actor Anthony Ghidra (Dragomir Gidra Bojanic). Ghidra portrays an ex-sheriff seeking revenge against the man who framed him and got him sentenced to 15 years in jail. The Yugoslavian-born Ghidra was a fine European actor who had a great screen presence – he appeared in a number of films including spaghetti westerns like The Last Killer (1967), And Then A Time Of Dying (1968), Hole In The Forehead (1968) and May God Forgive You… But I Won’t (1968).
Ghidra plays the mature ex-sheriff Rocco as a man with principles who is out to right a wrong. In his pursuit for revenge he is joined by a young bounty killer named Blackie (Angelo Infanti), who is in it because he wants to claim the bounties on the men they both must inevitably face for different reasons. Infanti is a good actor: he looks great as the black leather-clad bounty killer, but is wasted in his role and only ever seems to mop up situations, as Ghidra – the star of the show – is the main participant in all the extended fisticuffs and shootouts.
The men are pursuing two bandit brothers named El Bedoja (Alfio Caltabiano) – the elder brother – and Chiuchi (Mario Novelli), who, with their gang, have robbed the Allentown bank and made off with the contents of the safe. El Bedoja is another paper thin character, virtually a copy of Ramon and his clan from the first two Leone Dollars films. He plays the controlling mastermind of the gang as a nasty s.o.b. who manipulates his brother into following him by the use of violence, and by reminding him (or should that be emotionally blackmailing him?) that he promised their mother he would take care of him.
Rocco and Blackie eventually come to realize that they are brothers also, as they both have a gold gun-shaped medallion their father gave them. Blackie never knew Rocco because, of course, he was incarcerated while he was growing up. Rocco and Blackie are joined in their pursuit by a man named Explosion (Dante Maggio), who first agrees to help dispatch the gang for monetary reasons, but whose motives prove to be to rid the area of the marauding bandits. Explosion is another under-developed character who has very little to do – in a genre littered with unforgettable supporting characters, many of whom enhance these films immeasurably, Explosion (quirky as he is) represents a lost opportunity to enrich this particular story. The whole film ties up nicely at the end, telling in flashback the story of the wronged Rocco and the man who done him wrong.
The film is a really beautifully shot film and the framing of scenes is eye-catching. The score, by the very underrated Marcello Giombini, is a macho, pulsating, adrenaline-filled masterpiece. Giombini is best remembered for his scores for the Mario Bava film Knives Of The Avenger (1966), plus two Lee Van Cleef films: Sabata (1969) and Return Of Sabata (1971).
The problem with the film is that the characters are never given anything to do beyond their basic thematic introductions. The disconnect the viewer feels toward them is a direct result of them never being given enough to do to warrant a connection; there is simply too much weak structuring of the characters. The whole film revolves around Rocco, who is ultimately the only fleshed-out character – otherwise the film is full of weak characterizations. The older, wiser gunman helping the younger bounty killer was borrowed and used to better effect in the film For A Few Dollars More (1965). Likewise, Blackie’s character is never given an opportunity to develop, as he mostly stays on the fringes of the action. The lead bad guy El Bedoja is played by Alfio Caltabiano who was also the director and the screenwriter on this film. Caltabiano is best known as the director of two Trinity-insiped Luc Merenda comedic spaghetti westerns, Man Called Amen (1972) and They Still Call Me Amen (1973).
Pistoleros is a suitably macho western, good looking on the surface but upon closer inspection it’s just another film copying the oft-used Leone spaghetti western formula. Ultimately, it is an empty viewing experience. The film certainly boasts rather beautiful presentation, but, as the old adage goes, beauty is only skin deep. So true in this instance. A six out of ten, therefore, is the highest I can rate it.
(Thanks to Tom Betts for his invaluable support in helping me source information, and answering any questions I may have had, whilst preparing and writing this review).
MoM Rating: 6/10