Four Bullets for Joe [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - MVD Visual
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (23rd December 2023).
The Film

Moments after Henry (Women On the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown's José Marco) walks out on wealthy rancher widow Helen (Panic Button's Angela Cavo) with whom he once had an affair, someone guns him down as he riding through the canyon. Helen's ranch hand (Human Cobras' Miguel del Castillo) claims that the shooter was Katy Dalton (Monster of the Opera's Liz Poitel) who was jealous of Helen who claimed that Henry was going to marry her. Despite Kay's claims that Henry was actually going to take her away and marry her, the ranch hand's testimony and her brother being notorious outlaw Frank Dalton swerves the jury towards a majority guilty verdict of four to two. A hysterical Katy runs out into the road and is hit by a stagecoach. She dies swearing her innocence to Sheriff Paul (Creature of the Walking Dead's Fernando Casanova). Frank (Shades of Zorro's Paul Piaget) rides into town and discovers too late that his sister is dead and swears revenge despite Paul's promise that he will find out discover the identity of the real killer and give them a fair trial.

When someone strangles Helen, Paul at first thinks that money is the motive and suspects the ranch hand but only realizes too late that Helen must have paid him off for false testimony against Katy when the man is drowned in a stream while in the process of fleeing town. While Paul's deputy and juror in Katy's trial John (The Blancheville Monster's Frank Moran) is eager to point the finger at Frank avenging his sister, Paul starts to suspect that whoever killed Henry and is avenging Katy may be one in the same as the next victims are the judge and one of the jurors. Paul's discovery of incriminating evidence of local doctor Albert's (The Diabolical Dr. Z's Fernando Montes) unrequited romantic interest with Katy causes tension Albert's sister and his fiancee Margaret (Lady Morgan's Vengeance's Barbara Nelli). With Frank giving Paul just twenty-four hours before he metes out justice himself. While another murder might exonerate his fiancee's brother, Paul endeavors to discover which of the two jurors anonymously voted not guilty before his own deputy becomes the killer's next target.

A pre-Sergio Leone example of the spaghetti western, the Spanish/Italian Four Bullets for Joe is not particularly stylish visually or aurally, looking very much like a conventional low-budget American western of the time with the only minor distinction being that the plot is more of a whodunit than your standard mission of vengeance wherein the killer's motive is gleaned to be vengeance while outlaw Dalton merely threatens it but is mainly just used as a red herring and convenient scapegoat by the increasingly obvious killer; indeed, the film could be defined as something of a proto-giallo/western hybrid with a gloved killer as well as a couple POV scenes closing in on victims who recognize them but realize only too late their intentions. Possibly because of the production being heavier on the Spanish side than the Italian, the film's moral code leaves no room for ambiguity by allowing Frank instead of Paul to blow away the killer – and only the killer while Frank only otherwise wounds in self-defense – and Katy's reputation rehabilitated from the unveiled secret romantic interests of different male characters.

Jobbing director Agustín Navarro was primarily a director of light comedies but he would also try his hand at the spaghetti western-concurrent Eurospy genre with The Mysterious Mr. Van Eyck. The significance of the film's title is never explained, at least in the English version, since a song forbidden to be sung in Dalton's presence "Cuatro balazos" remains in Spanish without translation in the English version (as does a threatening note for which Eurociné also neglected to create a French-language insert for their domestic edition) – as peformed by Mexian singer José Ángel Espinosa 'Ferrusquilla' – and that may be the film's bigger mystery, which was further compounded when the film was acquired for English- and French-speaking territories by French distributor Eurociné who later distributed the Piaget film Zorro the Avenger and the Casanova-starrer The Sign of the Coyote and a decade later would integrate footage from these films with new expository and explicit sex scenes to create the respective composites The Mark of Zorro and The Girls of the Golden Saloon.


Released in Italy in 1964 as "Il vendicatore di Kansas City" months before the first film of Leone's "Dollars Trilogy" would overhaul the genre, Four Bullets for Joe was acquired for world sales by French distributor Eurociné who released it in French as "4 balles pour Joë" and prepared an English version with the title "4 Bullets for Joë". Henry as he is called in English, Italian, and Italian versions was renamed Joë in the French dub, and apparently Eurociné did not audit the supplied English dub prepared in Italy when they had an English title sequence prepared. We do not have any release information, but IMDb claims that the film was released in Canada as "Quatre balles pour Joë" (which makes sense since Eurociné films were more widely distributed theatrically north of the border) while a U.S. title is listed as "Shots Ring Out!" (presumably changed because the distributors noticed both the lack of a character named Joe and that American audiences might not know how to pronounce "Joë"). The English version's running time of 79:39 seems to be the 24fps equivalent of the French, Italian, and Spanish versions (Spanish posters use the title "Cuatro balazos" while the onscreen title is actually "Sonaron cuatro balazos").

Licensed from Eurociné, MVD Visual's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.66:1 widescreen Blu-ray features the English title sequence with the "4 Bullets for Joë" export title card during the jittery title sequence which is only the beginning of a problematic presentation. Presumably transferred from a print rather than an internegative, contrasts are a bit high and the overly bright exacerbates this in the sunny daylight exteriors while night scenes and darker interiors range from noisy to impenetrable with overall middling detail. DNR may be responsible for some of this but the source already had its limitations. The transfer is only just watchable, especially since the film is otherwise currently elsewhere on home video (my sources for comparison of the aforementioned foreign versions were television recordings).


The sole audio track is an uncompressed English LPCM 2.0 mono track that gets the job done even though it does bear some of the same archival damage as the picture element when scratches and fading stray into the optical track area. Optional English SDH subtitles are also provided.


The only extras are trailers for the Eurociné-distributed western Hudson River Massacre (1:31) and the Eurociné footage composites Convoy of Women (1:03) and Jailhouse Wardress (0:51).


The pre-Sergio Leone Spanish/Italian western Four Bullets for Joe's atypical whodunit plot might be something of a proto-giallo/western hybrid, but lingering question of "who's Joe" will not be answered by merely watching the film.


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