Thursday, May 03, 2012

“How many preachers you know carry a six-gun?”

Find A Place To Die AKA Joe…cercati un posto per moriere! is a rather somber Spaghetti Western from 1968. It opens with a man and woman defending a mine from bandits, but the man gets caught in an explosion and trapped under some rubble. He gives his wife a bag of gold and tells her to get help and/or start a new life without him. Her name’s Lisa Martin (Pascale Petit) and she at least has the decency to leave her dying husband a Winchester and some whiskey.

After a travel montage (the movie has several) she arrives at a town that translates to “Eagle’s Nest.” It’s a crummy town full of scum and villainy, and a lady of negotiable affection named Juanita is singing the grim theme song. Lisa enters and finds a drunk American wearing gray named Joe Collins (Jeffrey Hunter, who played Captain Pike on the original Star Trek pilot), a disgraced cavalry officer. She eventually convinces him to help her rescue her husband from the gang of Chato (Mario Dardanelli). After a bar brawl, Joe agrees, but needs help fighting Chato’s men. They assemble a motley gang of shady types that include: Gomez (Gianni Pallavicino as Gordon York) a crook who buys guns from Joe and sells them to Chato; Paco (Reza Fazeli), Juanita’s pistol favoring lover/pimp; Fernando (Nello Pazzafini), a big dumb lug of a goon with a sidekick (that he leaves behind) and along the way they pick up the shady Reverend Riley (Adolfo Lastretti) who’s obviously some kind of lecherous con man. Actually, they’re all pretty lecherous and greedy men interested in Lisa’s body and the 2 thousand in gold she’s promised. The band rides out to the mine and toward a violent showdown over the gold with Chato and lots of betrayals along the way.

Giuliano Carnimeo (as A. Ascot) also directed the (arguably better) Sartana films. Still, he’s got a good eye for scenery and mood here. The mood here being “Bleak.” Visually this is a rather stark film right from the beginning, where the camera focuses in on an iguana, which…I don’t think is actually native to the American Southwest. Ah whatever, these movies were all made in Spain anyway. The brawls and shootouts are all solidly done as well. If there’s anything the movie does wrong, is pad out a lot of the plot and action with long montages of people riding places without particular impetus.

Story by Lamberto Benvenuti and Hugo Fregonese. Screenplay by Lamberto Benvenuti, Giuliano Carnimeo and Hugo Fregonese. I will hand it to this movie, it certainly commits to grimdarkness. The only character who isn’t sullied or bad in some way is Lisa. Chato is a murderous bandit who displays corpses of people he’s killed. Fernando is a brute who doesn’t seem to care about the meaning of the phrase “bad touch.” Gomez is a sneaky, backstabbing bastard. Riley’s skilled in medicine, clearly a false preacher, and apparently very, very good at torturing information out of people. Paco’s loyal to his woman, but he’s still a murderous pimp. Even Joe is tainted because he was court-martialed, is wanted in Texas for killing a man, and in Mexico selling a cache of stolen military guns. From his clothes, he also looks like he was on the losing side of the Civil War too. Like I said, grimdark.

Original music by Gianni Ferrio, the music’s actually quite good. Lots of haunting acoustic guitar and the “theme song” sung in the bar continues the dark mood since its all about finding a place for a gunfighter to die. Thematically consistent.

There’s not a whole lot to Find A Place To Die. It’s a competent movie that is coherently told and committed to telling a dark tale of frontier greed and betrayal with a few rays of hope scattered throughout. It is grim and violent, and rather mirthless, and slightly dragged down by frequent sequences of people riding. Ultimately a decent movie with a few interesting characters (Joe, Paco, and Riley come to mind). Certainly not essential viewing, but if you’ve got a boxed set like I do, it’s a pleasant little surprise.

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