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The American Civil War is over, and the Union has won, but the
patriarchal Confederate general Jonas (Joseph Cotten) just can't admit
defeat, so he and his sons - Nat (Ángel Aranda), soft hearted Ben
(Julián Mateos) and psychopath Jeff (Gino Pernice) - plus Kitty (María
Martín) hold up a money transport and kill all the guards and even their
horses, then they hide the loot in a coffin they are carrying with them,
with Kitty playing the mourning widow - whom they need because they have a
certificate in the widow's name. However, at one point Kitty gets too
cloever for her own good and tries to take off with the loot, which causes
Jeff to crack up and kill her.
To fill in the gap, Jonas sends Ben to the next city to find a new
widow, and he soon causes professional gambler Claire (Norma Bengell) to
be accused of cheating but helps her make a getaway ... but in return he
expects her to play the widow ... Claire is clever enough to immediately
realize she has been set up, but she has little choice but to accept her
fate, and she proves to be a natural at playing the widow, and along the
way has even friends of the (alleged) dead man and the army fooled. Plus,
by and by she starts to fall in love with Ben (and he, who never believed
in his father's cause, with her). But she still wants to get even with
despotic Jonas, so at an army post where her alleged dead husband once
served, she demands him to be buried - which means the whole loot ends up
on a Yankee graveyard.
Jonas is not one to give up though, so in the night, he has his sons
unearth the coffin again, while he forces Claire to sit out in the pouring
rain for hours on end to give her a terrible cold so she won't have any
more wise ideas.
Eventually, the boys return with the coffin, and everything seems to be
A-ok again, but the next night, a beggar (Al Mulock) demands to sleep at
their fireplace, but inthe moring Jonas and his boys notice their horses
have been killed and the beggar tries to rob them of everything - but when
he also wants the coffin (though he's ignornt of its content) - Jonas and
the boys strike back. After having taken care of the beggar though, Jeff
and Nat get into a fight over the loot, and drawing their guns, they not
only kill each other but Ben too, who just happens to be in the way.
Wounded from the shootout with the beggar, Jonas still tries to drag the
coffin through the countryside, even if it means crawling all the way -
but going over some cliffs, he loses hold of the coffin, which crashes
down and reveals the corpse of a Mexican outlaw ... seems the boys have
retrieved the wrong coffin at their graveyard excursion.
Not in the same league as Sergio Corbucci's Django and
Il Grande Silenzio, and a rather a-typical spaghetti Western as such,
not without interest nevertheless, inasnch as it doesn't so much follow
the usual spaghetti Western formula but is closer to epic American
Westerns by John Ford or Raoul Walsh - with the distinct difference that
in Hellbenders, the protagonists are also the baddies, ruthless
killers who would do anything to get their hands on some money (even if anything
includes a massacre), and the fact that they (or at least one of them) are
driven by idealism doesn't make their actions any better. Director Sergio
Corbucci might not have invested an awful lot of imagination into this
film (as opposed to his masterpieces), but the film is beautifully carried
by the always dependable Joseph Cotten, with Brazilian actress Norma
Bengell proving to be a more than worthy opponent.
No masterpiece maybe, still a totally enjoyable and entertaining