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Gentleman Killer
(1967)

Director: "George Finlay" (Giorgio Stegani)   
Cast:
"Anthony Steffen" (Antonio De Teffe), Eduardo Fajardo, Silvia Solar


A while ago, I stated in one of my reviews that I was not only glad to live where I am now, but I am glad to live there now. I would most likely have a short and miserable life if the time and or/place I was living in were different. So if someone came up with a time machine and offered to send me back to any time period in any place in the world, I would almost certainly say no (but I would sorely be tempted to ask that I be taken to New York in the 1970s where I could see many classic exploitation movies on the big screen at cheap prices.) But what if the offer was sweetened? What if, not only could I choose the time and place I could be transported to, but I would get a guarantee that I would not get killed or hurt while in that time and place (as well as the opportunity to come back home at any time I wanted)? Well, I'm pretty sure that things would be different then. New York would probably be my first stop, but there would be other times and places that I'd like to visit. Though I didn't like the one Pirates Of The Caribbean movie that I saw, I wouldn't mind trying the life of a pirate in the Caribbean - warm weather, sailing the seas, and gathering lots of precious treasure. Being part of a war and getting to handle heavy weapons has its appeal, but flying body parts might freak me out - I might settle to being just a spy in a past war. Also, I'd like to travel back to England of the 1500s so I could ask William Shakespeare just why he bothered to include that stuff with the character of Christopher Sly in his play The Taming Of The Shrew.

There's another time and place that I would like to visit, one that regular readers of The Unknown Movies will probably be able to guess. That time and place would be the golden age of the cowboy (the latter half of the 1800s) in the American west. There are many things about being a cowboy in that time and place that appeal to me. There would be the joy of discovery, with the opportunity to find new places in this land that no one had ever seen before (please don't tell me the Native Americans probably saw it all first), and see it before it would be changed forever by so-called progress. I would be able to pack some heat (a gun, for all you foreign readers) on me wherever I went, and no one would make any objection about it. And by judging from all the western movies I have seen, there would be plenty of beans for dinner if I was eating out with my fellow cowboys in the wilderness (I love beans), and if I went to a restaurant they would always have steak available on the menu (I love steak as well, cooked medium, please.) My wanting to visit the old west clearly comes from my love of western movies. There are so many things that I like about western movies. One thing that I enjoy so much about western movies is the typical portrayal of villains. There are usually no villains with a sympathetic streak to them - they are almost always portrayed as being one hundred percent bad - and I enjoy seeing them get the punishment they deserve at the end of the movie.

I also like how the good guys are portrayed in western movies. They are usually portrayed at being one hundred percent good - no flaws, no question about them or what they do. They always seem to make actions that always seem to be the right thing to do; I sometimes get jealous when seeing these western heroes do these things and I think, "Why can't I do that to people who p*ss me off?" There are other things I like about westerns besides the portrayal of good and evil. There is the outside landscape where the bulk of the movies takes place. Typically desert locations, the wilderness in these movies looks both beautiful and hiding menace. It seems anything could happen in these locations, and you see the potential while keeping your guard up. And I can't leave out the music that you typically hear in western movies. I love an American score like Jerome Moross' classic score for The Big Country, but I especially love a spaghetti western score like those done by Ennio Morricone. As a matter of fact, I especially love spaghetti westerns, period. They take all those elements I've described above, and take them to a new plateau. I can't resist the opportunity to review one for this web site, and I'll keep doing so until all of you give in and become fans as well.

The spaghetti western I'm reviewing this time is Gentleman Killer, starring a spaghetti western actor that I covered in the past, Anthony Steffen (with my review of The Stranger's Gundown). He was not the only thing I found familiar with this movie. Just take a look at the plot: The setting is a small border town whose territory is under dispute by the United States and Mexico. With no firm hand over the town, lawlessness has taken over the town in the form of armed bandits, headed by Mexican bandit Ferreres (Eduardo Fajardo, Django). Not long after the opening of the movie, a stranger (Steffen) known only as "Joe" comes into town, and soon has an agenda in mind. Sound familiar? It should - this plot is really that of A Fistful Of Dollars with a few minor twists. Not just in its setup, but there are other incidents along the way that are clearly inspired by Dollars. For example, in the last third of the movie, Joe is captured by the bad guys and tortured. Then a brave member of the town helps him to escape. Later, this townsperson is tied up by the bad guys and presented as bait in order to drive Joe out. All of this (and some other stuff) is right out of Dollars. The movie gets some points off for originality, but in fairness I must add that the movie gets points for originality as well. Take the climax, for example. You are probably expecting that there is a man-to-man final fight between Joe and Ferreres. I won't reveal what happens, except to say that there is a conclusion to the struggle that is both unexpected yet satisfying - I didn't see it coming.

Before that climax, there are several scenes where there are original touches to scenes, often with scenes that would normally be hopelessly clichéd. There's a scene where two of the villains are holed up in a room, and Joe is trying to knock them off. Joe manages to both distract them and get inside and kill them almost immediately afterwards in a way I haven't seen before (though I had to wonder: Just how did he get the gun to swing on that rope?) Early in the movie, Joe enters a saloon and is pushed into a card game with the villains. The bad guys cheat - that's expected, of course. And as you probably expected, our hero wins the card game anyway. And, of course, the villains get angry and start to threaten our hero. But Joe's subsequent reaction to this is not what you usually get in a spaghetti western with this scenario. Touches like these make Joe an interesting protagonist, one that viewers won't get bored with and will keep watching with interest. He rides into town on a horse-drawn wagon instead of just a horse, and he enters town clean-shaven and well-dressed. (For a refreshing change, he doesn't keep up this appearance of his as the film progresses; as time passes and the bullets start to fly, his clean-cut appearance starts to get a little sloppy, which is more realistic.) Most importantly, Joe is a hero that viewers will root for. He may have come to town for different circumstances (circumstances that are never explained, I must point out), but when he is personally affected by the bad things the antagonists do, he steps in and does what can be considered the right thing to do.

Part of what makes a good protagonist in a movie is with what he is made to get up against. In the case of Gentleman Killer, Joe is not only up against a significant bunch of killer bandits, but up against their sadistic leader Ferreres. As Ferreres, actor Farjardo makes a perfectly good villain. With his raggedy clothing, dusty beard, and his pearly whites that he keeps showing off whenever his character breaks into laughter (which is pretty often), Farjardo is what moviegoers should expect a villain to be like in a spaghetti western such as this. Perhaps he could have leaned a little closer to being over-the-top in his presentation and his actions (like some classic villains in other spaghetti westerns), but overall the character of Ferreres is a perfectly acceptable villain. There are other things about Gentleman Killer that I thought were well done enough as well, such as the musical score composed by Bruno Nicolai (conducted by the great Ennio Morricone.) Now, it isn't a score as memorable as what Morricone did with the westerns he scored, but it has its own charms, such as the gentle "toot toot toot" cue that occasionally punctuates scenes. The only thing about the movie that I was disappointed with was with its action scenes. In fairness, I must point out that in the movie there is one scene concerning a fistfight that's among the best of its kind that I have seen for a long time. But the rest of the action (the expected shootings, etc.), while not bad, are kind of flat. Maybe I have been spoiled by the superior action in spaghetti westerns such as the Sartana movies. While this may not make Gentleman Killer the choice to introduce people to the charms of spaghetti westerns, it's a solid diversion for those who are fans. I had fun with it.

Note: A warning to those thinking of buying a copy of the movie. The North American DVD of the movie (put out by Wild East Production) is flawed. A manufacturing error has reportedly resulted in the movie only able to display properly for those with widescreen television sets. If you have an older boxy TV set, the image will look squished. Buyer beware.

Check for availability on Amazon (DVD)

See also: Have A Good..., If You Meet Sartana..., The Stranger's...

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