Shoot, Gringo... Shoot! AKA Spara, Gringo, spara (1968)
R2 - Germany - Koch Media
Review written by and copyright: Jari Kovalainen (14th January 2008).
The Film

Italian filmmaker Bruno Corbucci is probably a familiar name for the genre-fans, but not to be confused with his director brother Sergio (e.g. “Django (1966)”). Bruno was a known screenwriter (in here co-writer, billed as “Dean Whitcomb”), but he could do a decent job as a director also (here billed as “Frank B. Corlish”). While Bruno is best known for his comedy-action (e.g. “The Cop in Blue Jeans AKA Squadra antiscippo (1976)”) and “Miami Supercops (1985)”), he did a few Spaghetti westerns in the late 1960s. The comedy is also present in “Shoot, Gringo... Shoot! AKA Spara, Gringo, spara (1968)” (also known as “The Longest Hunt”), and mostly in good way.

The superior wit of the gunslinger Stark (Brian Kelly - e.g. “Flipper (1964-1966)” TV-series) is again put to a good use, when he´s busting out of the Yuma prison at the start of the film. After 8 months rotting in jail, the first thing for a man to do is of course the obvious one. Get a good meal? Meet the nice lady? Drink some whiskey? Nope. To seek revenge on a man who put you in prison, of course. Since the aftermath of this act doesn´t go as smooth as planned (there´s a shoot-out and plenty of job for the gravedigger, thanks to fast hand of Stark), the wealthy Mexican Don Gutierrez (Folco Lulli) plans to deliver his own justice and hang Stark. At the last minute Don changes his mind, since he has one serious offer to make. If Stark will find and bring his son Fidel (Fabrizio Moroni, as Fred Munroe - e.g. “Four Flies on Grey Velvet AKA 4 mosche di velluto grigio (1971)”) back to home, he´ll get $5000. And keep his life, as a bonus. Fidel has joined the renegade posse of one Major Charlie Doneghan (Keenan Wynn - e.g. “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)”), and Don wants to save him before it´s too late.

Stark will accept the challenge and lures himself at the close of the posse, since him and the Major go way back. Stark develops a fake plan of a daring train robbery and takes Fidel with him to “scout the location”. Once these two men reach their destination, the real purpose is revealed to Fidel; he´s the actual target and Stark is planning to take him back to his father, even if it means force. What Stark doesn´t fully realize is that although Fidel is young and inexperienced, he´s quick and smart. Fidel won´t budge an inch, so soon the “cat” and the “mouse” (not necessarily in that order) have to travel together through the rough mountains, dangerous bridges and the hot desert to reach the Don´s ranch in Mexico. While Stark and Fidel keep outsmarting each other, there´s also a search party from Major Doneghan in full effect and the bitter bank owner York (Rik Battaglia, as Rick Austin) searching for Fidel close by. Add the group of shameless ex-Confederate soldiers and the beautiful traveler woman Jocelyn (Erika Blanc) and the adventure won´t lack surprises.

At first glance, “Shoot, Gringo... Shoot!” doesn´t seem to really differ from the other Italian westerns. The action feels too familiar (protagonist is shooting a group of men alone and soon there´s a saloon brawl) and characters quite stereotyped. The leading man Brian Kelly also lacks some charisma and actually this was his only western (let alone Italian one). Later on he ended up being one of the executive producers of “Blade Runner (1982)”. In addition to a gun, Stark is also using a whip, which is one attempt to make the character more interesting and different from the others. The film starts to get interesting when the “journey” and rivalry between Stark and Fidel begins. Like some reviewer pointed out, there are some (vague perhaps, but still) similarities to the Bogey classic “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)”, since both have to watch each other from the morning to night and restlessness increases. The characterizations of the two men also work together better than alone, since although Fidel surprises his opponent many times, Stark usually re-gains the lost ground with his experience. He has “been there and done that”. It´s also inevitable that they have to join forces to overcome some of the threats, since that benefits both of them (Stark can´t lose Fidel, if he wants that reward money and Fidel obviously doesn´t want to get caught to York). The two men learn to respect each other.

Humour is an essential part of the film, but fortunately it doesn´t go too “slapstick” that often (Major Doneghan & pet duck, and his “funny side-kick” partner are still close). Stark and Fidel have some clever dialogue exchange, which usually works quite well for the themes of the film. A few more dramatic scenes (e.g. the ending) are still included, so the film is not a pure “comedy”. While “Shoot, Gringo... Shoot!” is a perfectly acceptable Italian western - and can also be an entertaining one, it generally leaves something to be desired after the end credits have rolled. The first part of the film is a bit dull and forgettable, and eventually also the scenes with Stark and Fidel heading back to Mexico lacks a true imagination (some scenes also don´t feel very believable). Granted, there´s humour, action and nicely executed scenes, but the filmmakers could´ve really stretched the envelope and gone further with the good idea. After all, it´s the relationship with Stark and Fidel that keeps the film floating. “Shoot, Gringo... Shoot!” is a good appetizer and is made during the great year from the genre (see the “Western, Italian Style”-documentary in the extra-section), but it´s not the classic one by any means.

Video

German “Koch Media” keeps the steady flow of quality Spaghetti western-releases. “Shoot, Gringo... Shoot!” is presented in Anamorphic 2.35.1 and it looks quite excellent. With deep black and mostly bold colours, the film looks probably better than ever before, and the print is very clean throughout (some odd film artifacts here-and-there, though). Some (e.g. darker scenes) can look a bit inferior and there might be glimpse of edge enhancement, but generally this is a top-notch, sharp presentation of the film.

Compared to the R2 Japanese-release (by “SPO/Imagica”) of the film that I also have, the German-transfer looks more stable, vivid and sharp. It also has less film artifacts. The Japanese-release is not a bad one (it´s also Anamorphic 2.35.1), but “Koch Media” still takes “the best DVD transfer of the film”-prize. Do note that the German-release runs 91:26 minutes (PAL) and uses a “dual layer”-disc, while the Japanese-releases runs 91:25 minutes (NTSC). This means that the Japanese-release is not a proper “PAL-to-NTSC”-conversion. German-release is using also German-credits (and title), which ends to the simple “Ende”-screen and then includes approx. 23 seconds of black screen with music. Interestingly, the Japanese-release is using Italian credits (and title), which also includes an additional quote from President Abraham Lincoln (in Italian) and the quick main “musical theme”-text card before the “Fine”-screen. German-release is coded for “R2” and there are 16 chapters.

Audio

The disc includes two Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono -tracks: Italian and German. Although the Menu and the back cover have only German subtitles listed, also optional English subtitles are again included. Some scenes in the German-track are in Italian, so optional German subtitles are included with those scenes (therefore, you can choose from the two German subtitles). The Italian-track is also very good, with minimum background hiss and clear dialogue. There´s plenty of music from composer Sante Maria Romitelli (as Richard Ira Silver), all sounding quite natural. No complaints about the quality.

On the audio front, the R2 Japanese-release has one advantage; it includes also an English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono-track, along with the Italian one (optional Japanese-subtitles are included, but not English). While the Italian dub is pretty good in the German-disc, the English dub is still the preferred choice for the film. At least the American actors Brian Kelly and Keenan Wynn speak English in the film, and perhaps also Fabrizio Moroni (in the end, they share the majority of the dialogue). English track sounds more suitable for the film and it even could be that Kelly and Wynn have dubbed their own voices (not sure). At least they sounded quite natural. While both the English and Italian tracks would´ve been the ideal way to go with the German-release, the Italian-track is not a bad choice.

Extras

-“Western, Italian Style (1968)”-vintage documentary runs 36:28 minutes and was also released on the R0 US-release of “Run, Man, Run AKA Corri uomo corri (1968)” by “Blue Underground”. It´s mainly spoken in English (at least via voice-overs), but there are optional English subtitles for the non-English parts (full, optional German subtitles are also included). Originally produced for the American TV (conceived and directed by Patrick Morin), the documentary visit the sets of selected Spaghetti western productions in Italy, interviewing their directors and a few actors. Some of the interviews are done in a slightly humorous tone and the “stunt man and the door”-joke is actually quite funny. Narrated by Frank Wolff, the documentary first gives a brief introduction to the “genre” that Sergio Leone in most parts started with actor Clint Eastwood. We then learn about the famous “Cinecittà Studios” in Rome and visit the city of Almeria in southern Spain (where the countless of Italian westerns were shot, and where some fake western “towns” were built). We hear about the typical western characters and even visit the local “western club”, where the “John and Wayne” duo is playing. Even the footage from the western wedding is included (and some odd footage of skiing!).

The most interesting sections are still the interviews from the genre directors Enzo G. Castellari (including some “behind-the-scenes”-footage from his films “One Dollar Too Many AKA I Tre che sconvolsero il West - vado, vedo e sparo (1968)” and “Kill Them All and Come Back Alone AKA Ammazzali tutti e torna solo (1968)”), Sergio Corbucci (footage from “The Great Silence AKA Il Grande silenzio (1968)”) and Sergio Sollima (footage from “Run, Man, Run AKA Corri uomo corri (1968)”). Add the Leone-production “Once Upon a Time in the West AKA C'era una volta il West (1968)” (part of the real railway is being built for the film in the documentary) to realize what golden days the Italian westerns were having at time. The documentary also talks about the international casting and French actor Jean-Louis Trintignant, as well as the American Chuck Connors are being interviewed (note, that the documentary includes a heavy spoiler for “The Great Silence”, so watch out if you haven´t seen the film before). Slightly too vintage a piece for my taste, but still an excellent addtion.

-German theatrical trailers runs 2:05 minutes (no subtitles) and photo gallery includes 22 photos (posters/LP-cover, German lobby cards and B&W stills). DVD credits are also included.

DVD comes in a digi-pack in a cardboard slipcover. Package also houses a 4-page booklet including liner notes (in German) from Wolfgang Luley. Disc can be found under its German title: “Im Staub der Sonne”.

Overall

“Shoot, Gringo... Shoot!” doesn´t really include any “genre-stars” and the director Bruno Corbucci is often better as a screenwriter, but the film manages to be pretty entertaining and fun, at least once it reaches to the heart of the story and the interaction of the two lead characters. The DVD-presentation by “Koch Media” is once again very good A/V wise, and a decent documentary is the icing to the cake. Must buy for the fans.

For more info, please visit the homepage of Koch Media.

The Film: Video: Audio: Extras: Overall:

 


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