Blindman AKA Il Cieco (1971)
R0 - Germany - Koch Media
Review written by and copyright: Jari Kovalainen (13th December 2005).
The Film

When it comes to the Italian “Spaghetti Westerns”, most people know Sergio Leone and his westerns with Clint Eastwood. They might also know the original “Django (1966)” and some others. Often it´s overlooked though, that in the 1960s and 1970s the Italian movie industry produced over 500 Spaghetti Westerns, before the genre basically died after the mid-1970s. From these 500+ movies Leone directed under 10, and although he was the undisputed master of the genre, it´s also fair to give some credits to the others also from time to time.

One of these less known filmmakers is the director/writer Ferdinando Baldi, who made Italian Peplums (“Sword & Sandal movies”) in the 1960s, and then did a few good Spaghetti Westerns after that, mainly “Texas, Adios AKA Texas, addio (1966)” (with Franco Nero), “Forgotten Pistolero AKA Il Pistolero dell'Ave Maria (1970)”, and “Blindman AKA Il Cieco (1971)”.

“Blindman” tells about the blind gunfighter of the same name (Tony Anthony), who has made a deal about bringing the shipment of “50 women” to the miners in Texas, as brides for them. So it has happened, the bandit Domingo (Lloyd Battista) has gotten a hold of these women, and his plan is to sell them to the Mexican general (Raf Baldassarre), or rather, at least to get his money. Domingo´s brother Candy (Ringo Starr) is obsessed with a woman called Pilar (Agneta Eckemyr) and he steals her away from Pilar´s father. Now Blindman is after Domingo and his gang, and when Domingo double-crosses the Mexican general, there are three sides which don´t have a lot of love between each other.

“Blindman” (probably with some inspiration from the Japanese “Zatoichi”-movies) is an interesting western in several ways. The main character is blind, but he is deadly if necessary. There is no pure good and evil in the film in my opinion, since in the end all sides are just after money (also Blindman, after he hands over those “50 women”). Sure, “Blindman” can be considered as that “silent hero” that is the main character of any Spaghetti Western, while “Domingo” being his nemesis with a mean “right hand” partner (this time his brother), but somehow this didn´t feel like any ordinary Spaghetti Western after all. Blindman is not so heroic when you observe his character closely, and Domingo´s burden is his unstable brother.

If you want to go more deeply into the film, women are portrayed pretty much as “merchandise” and when there are two stronger female characters in the film, the other is a bit psychotic (Domingo´s sister) and the other is just a poor victim. The film has also a fair share of violence and maybe the most ruthless scene is when Domingo´s gang finds the women at some point during the film. There is also some black humor included, mainly in the form of the Mexican general, after Blindman and him are joining forces for a brief while. But as we can see in the end, the general´s sense of humor is truly a dark one.

Actors are very good, and Lloyd Battista is simply great in his role as Domingo. His brother is played by none other than Ringo Starr, who probably wanted some time off after “The Beatles” broke up in the 1970s, and took the role in a strange Italian western. Tony Anthony also does a fine job, although his moves are always not that convincing (he´s blind in the film after all). Anthony is also a co-writer/producer of the movie. Other supporting actors are also solid.

Visual images are fine, and while the screenplay in this film probably doesn´t win any Oscars (“What kind of a son of a bitch puts a snake in a man's salad?”), the film delivers something different, at least for the fans of Spaghetti Westerns.

Video

German-based “Koch Media” has released several very nice Spaghetti Western-releases without any big fanfares, and also with English audio or subtitles (not all of them though). As far as I know, they haven´t been really marketing them to the English speaking viewers, so if you don´t know their releases, please visit their web site. “Blindman” is presented in Anamorphic 2.35:1, which is a rather good transfer. There is some film grain and a few imperfections in the transfer (which is a bit faded in some scenes and the colours could be stronger), but I was quite happy with this presentation. Sometimes during the film I had a feeling, that maybe some “contrast boosting” has been done to the transfer, but this is merely speculation and one of those things that you might see if you start looking hard enough.

It also should be noted, that the German-release includes the “longer version” of the film, which runs 101:32 min (PAL). R2 Japanese-release includes both the “shorter version” and the same “longer version” as presented here (Japanese NTSC-release is probably taken from the PAL-source or vice versa, since it runs almost the same as this German-release), but they both are Non-Anamorphic.

Satisfactory transfer in the German-release uses Dual Layer disc, and it´s R0. It has 20 chapters.

Audio

Disc has 3 audio options, all Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono: Italian, English, and German. There are 2 different optional German subtitles, since some scenes in the German-track are in Italian, so those scenes are subtitled in German (there are also full German subtitles with the movie).

Audio is where the disappointment comes when it comes to the English speaking people. English-track is very mediocre, and it has plenty of “hiss” in the background and the audio is also a bit muffled. Because the audio is not very good, you have to turn the volume up that you could hear the dialogue better, but then the “hiss” also comes stronger. Italian-track on the DVD is much better and clearer, but unfortunately there are only German subtitles for that track. With a few scenes with no dialogue, I switched to the Italian-track, since it gives more justice to the music (which is very nice btw). Those few times when I sampled the German-track, it was better than the English one, but it was also inferior compared to the Italian-track, and maybe a bit too “loud”. English-track is fortunately almost complete, but there is a one scene at the 78:20 minute mark in the movie (where Blindman speaks to his horse) which is in Italian, and with German subtitles only. This is a very minor issue in the end.

R2 Japanese-release has only Italian audio with the “longer version” and no English subtitles. The English audio on the “shorter version” sounded somewhat better than in the German-release, but it´s not perfect by any means in the Japanese-release either.

Extras

“Koch Media” has released this DVD in a nice 1-disc Digi-pack in a cardboard Slip cover. Package also houses a 4-page booklet, which includes some photos and Liner notes by Wolfgang Luley in German (about the cast & crew and themes of the film).

When it comes to the actual extras in the disc, first there are 3 Theatrical trailers, all in Non-anamorphic 2.35:1: German (2:45 min), US (2:46 min), and Italian (3:27 min). The German and US –trailers are basically identical (only voice-overs are different), but the Italian-trailer differs from the rest.

Then there´s the main extra on this disc, and it´s “The Western World Of Ferdinando Baldi” –Documentary, which runs 41:49 min. This looks to be a great extra, but unfortunately it´s only in Italian, and with “burnt-in” German subtitles, so I couldn´t fully enjoy it. It´s basically a lengthy interview with Baldi, where he talks about his films but also Spaghetti westerns generally. There are some nice photos and posters included, and also a few “Behind-The-Scenes”-segments of some films (at least “I Came, I Saw, I Shot AKA I Tre che sconvolsero il West - vado, vedo e sparo (1968)” and “The Great Silence AKA Il Grande Silenzio (1968)”). The documentary is directed by Mike Siegel.

Photo gallery is included next, and it runs 6:10 min. There are B&W and color lobby cards, posters and some pressbook-material. All can be viewed with soundtrack of the film in the background, so you can enjoy the nice score at the same time, by composer Stelvio Cipriani.

After DVD credits there are also 2 very minor Easter Eggs included:
1) When you go to the “Main menu”, highlight the “Extras”, and press “Left”. The slogan “I want my fifty women!” is highlighted. Press it, and you´ll get a 2-second scene in German, where Blindman says the same slogan in German.
2) Go to the “Extras” menu, highlight the “Slideshow”, and press “Left” or “Right”. The “foot” is highlighted. Press it, and you´ll get a 1:19 minute “making of the DVD”-featurette, which is just a very inside joke by the producers of this DVD.

Overall

“Blindman” is a recommended Spaghetti Western, but a bit different one if you´re used to the Leone movies. German-disc has a good transfer, mediocre English audio and some good extras (no English subtitles). Note, that since this DVD is rated “FSK 18”, you can´t find it in the regular online-stores in German like Amazon.de.

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

The Film: Video: Audio: Extras: Overall:

 


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