The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

This Man Can't Die

A B-movie star in the 1950s and most well known for playing Wild Bill Hickok for seven seasons on The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok, Guy Madison's star had faded some by the 1960s. He went the route so many actors went in that decade, heading to Europe for a variety of westerns, epics and war movies, including a 1968 spaghetti western called This Man Can't Die

Working as an undercover agent for the cavalry, Martin Benson (Madison) has been assigned a mission where he must break up a gang of gunrunners who are selling and trading repeating rifles and whiskey with the Indian tribes. He somewhat unwillingly takes the job, but the gunrunners are on to him. The gang attacks the Benson ranch, killing Martin's parents, but his brother Daniel (Alberto Dell'Acqua), sisters Susan (Lucienne Bridou) and Jenny (Anna Liotti) and youngest brother Arias all survive the attack. Tracking the gang, Martin finds out about the attack. Hoping that with his help the now-hiding family can hold off the gang, Martin races home.

This is pretty typical of many of the spaghetti westerns made in Italy in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  It is neither classic nor awful, just entertaining in a mindless sort of way. Because it is in that middle ground, it has little to no following with very little information even available on it wherever you look. The cast listing is especially bad with some main characters/villains not even listed by the names they're addressed as. Dell'Acqua is listed as 'Rooney' but is clearly called Daniel. The person listed as his younger brother -- Steve Merrick -- would have been 46 years old at the time. Now something ain't right there. Those "criticisms" aside, I did enjoy it for all its dumb qualities, some in a 'so bad it's good' fashion.

Looking like he aged quite a bit since his TV days in the 1950s, Madison looks somewhat out of place in this western. If he was getting paid by the line, the studios got off cheap. His Martin has maybe 12 lines of dialogue the whole movie, and on top of that, he's dubbed by someone else. It just sounds a little off. He also looks like he got lifted off the set of an American western and dropped into this Italian western, but I'll give credit when it's due. He handles most of his own stunts -- and there's a lot of them -- and does bring a cool, laid back appeal to the hero part. I wish they could have paired Madison and Dell'Acqua's Daniel earlier because the revenge-seeking gunslinging brothers could have been a cool addition.

Introducing someone to spaghetti westerns, I never claim the acting is anything special. Making it better or worse is that dubbing can ruin an already wooden or over the top performance. The villains here are pretty weak starting with Graham (Rik Battaglia), the leading businessman in town who's secretly running this gang of gunrunners. The gang leader isn't credited by the name I heard so I can't list him, but he's a creepy enough dude. When he rapes Jenny in the attack, you know it won't end well for him. Dell'Acqua is a solid, cool second banana, French beauty Bridou looks pretty, and Rosalba Neri makes the most of a smaller part as Martin's girl, Melina, a saloon girl. 

Like any spaghetti western, there are some odd to really odd moments. For one, the score liberally borrows from Sergio Leone's A Fistful of Dollars. It's weird because the rest of the score is good if not great, and then all the sudden BAM! You're thinking 'I recognize that score," and you should. The violence is ratcheted up with the appearance of blood after some shootings, and 'Can't Die' features more nudity than I've seen in other spaghetti westerns. Those bad guys, they're always trying to rape somebody. It is a fun movie though, especially the last half hour with gunplay around every corner. There's better and there is worse, but not bad as far as spaghettis go. You can watch the full movie HERE at Youtube.

This Man Can't Die (1968): ** 1/2 /****

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