Roy Colt and Winchester Jack [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Kino Lorber
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (14th October 2017).
The Film

Bosom buddies Roy Colt (The Devil's Honey's Brett Halsey) and Winchester Jack (I am Sartana, Trade Your Guns for a Coffin's Charles Southwood) frequently trade leadership of their outlaw gang by brawling; but this time winner Roy decides to give up outlaw life for something more respectable. As Jack and company plot a stagecoach robbery, Roy rides into Karton City just in time to come to the aid of crippled banker Samuel (Day of Anger's Giorgio Gargiullo) when his vengeful former partner appears demanding a treasure map. Samuel rewards Roy by hiring him to see the stagecoach safely back to Karton with the deposits for his bank. Meanwhile, a wistful Jack just happens to be a romantic mood when he rescues Indian woman Manila (My Dear Killer's Marilù Tolo) from a pair of bounty hunters eager to collect a reward on her head for murdering her husband. When Roy foils his robbery of the stagecoach, Jack is only too overjoyed to see him – particularly as Roy reveals that he has bigger plans for his association with banker Samuel – despite his thinning out the numbers of their own gang. Roy returns to Karton in time to discover that dynamite-dealing outlaw The Reverend (5 Dolls for a August Moon's Teodoro Corrà) and his gang have blasted the treasure map from Samuel's possession. Samuel reveals, however, that he gave The Reverend a fake map and gives Roy the real one in order to get to the treasure before they do. Meanwhile, The Reverend teams up with Jack and his gang and they tear the map in half to prevent one from betraying the other. Roy trails both gangs through the unforgiving desert, but is he playing them off one another, helping Jack for their mutual benefits, or has he really gone straight? Whatever the case, there is always Manilla – who insists on either being married or charging to be bedded – to come between old friends.

Gothic horror and giallo auteur Mario Bava has had a very spotty track record with comedy from the amusing Rashomon-esque Four Times That Night (also featuring Halsey) to the execrable Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs (which was not even funny in its Italian original Spie vengono dal semifreddo before American International's alterations), while his few Westerns Ringo of Nebraska and The Road to Fort Alamo are well-made but minor efforts with little of Bava's visual flair and even less in the mold of Sergio Leone. Given a bum Mario Di Nardo (Ricco The Mean Machine) script by producers P.A.C. for whom he had previously taken on the abandoned Five Dolls for an August Moon, Bava tossed it out the window and decided to play it for laughs. Halsey, Southwood, Tolo, and Corra are all game, but Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid this is not. Corra mugs at the camera, various extras have their mannerisms exaggerated by the camera framerate, and the score of Piero Umiliani (Baba Yaga) – apart from the rather folksy theme song by "Free Love" – gooses the soundscape for comic effect. When the film actually does build up some momentum with the trek through the desert in search of the gold, Bava cuts away to an extended vignette in the brothel of Madame Violet (A Bay of Blood's Isa Miranda) in which Roy and Jack tussle under the sheets with a pair of fiery Irish redheads and The Reverend and his chief henchman Boida (Planet of the Vampires's Federico Boido). Apart from some in-camera optical effects by Bava, the photography of Antonio Rinaldi (Baron Blood) is rather reckless in zoom-happy coverage and colorless by design (or at least due to the natural exteriors and interior sets that may come from other productions). For Bava completists only.


Given the scantest of releases in the United States five years after its production by the short-lived Libert Films International, Roy Colt & Winchester Jack would probably have been as forgotten as Bava's other westerns had it not been among the Bava properties for which Baron Blood/Lisa and the Devil Alfredo Leone purchased the rights in English-speaking territories early in the DVD age, with the film's first home video release coming courtesy of Image Entertainment in 2003 sporting an anamorphic transfer of the Italian version with English subtitles. A slightly improved transfer followed in 2007 as part of the second volume of the Mario Bava Collection. Derived from a new 2K scan of the original 35mm camera negative, Kino Lorber's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 widescreen transfer looks very different from the earlier transfers with paler skintones and a slight greenish cast. Although the opening P.A.C. logo is severely faded, it may not be the case that the rest is so faded as the earlier DVD images are a tad boosted. The wintry setting and the outdoor shooting seem more influential on the color since the more saturated colors of the interiors do not look faded. The zoom-happy photography is to blame for the softness of many scenes as close-ups and the interior scenes sport the sort of detail one expects of a high definition presentation of even a low-budget production. This is just not an attractive film.


Audio options include the original Italian in LPCM 2.0 mono and what remains of the English dub track as recently discovered in the form of a few surviving reels encompassing chapters five through nine. The English track – also in LPCM 2.0 – is silent for the first four chapters and goes silent again in the last chapter, and there is only one subtitle track for the Italian version (fitting as presumably no dubbing script survives for which the disc producers might have been able to provide another track to transcribe what is being said on the English dub). In any case, the English dub is just as bad as the one created for Four Times That Night with The Reverend dubbed with a grating caricatured Russian/Yiddish or something voice spouting unfunny jokes (even when there is no equivalent on the Italian track in a couple instances).


Besides the intermission cards (0:35) for the Italian version – presumably excised from the master itself – the disc's only other extra is a new audio commentary by Bava biographer Tim Lucas who starts off by providing some information on the theme song group "I Free Love" headlined by two American musicians, an Italian vocalist and keyboardist, and a Canadian violinist, likening their effort to the folksy soundtrack to Keoma. He discusses the circumstances that lead to Bava being handed the assignment after Five Dolls for an August Moon, remarks from his interviews with Halsey about the original script, Bava's feelings about the western genre in general and they ways in which he may have been ribbing Sergio Leone, Southwood's life and career(s), the very un-Bava-like photography and humor, and also points out some of the few glass matte paintings Bava created to lend some scope to the desert scenes. Even if one is not a fan of the film, the commentary track is at least worth a listen.


For Bava completists only.


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