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Quella Sporca Storia nel West

Johnny Hamlet
Django - Die Totengräber warten schon

Italy 1968
produced by
Ugo Guerra, Elio Scardamaglia for Daiano Film, Leone Film
directed by Enzo G. Castellari
starring Andrea Giordana, Gilbert Roland, Horst Frank, Ennio Girolami, Ignazio Spalla (as Pedro Sanchez), Francoise Prévost, Stefania Careddu, Manuel Serrano, Franco Latini, Giorgio Sammartino, Gabriella Grimaldi, John Bartha, Franco Leo, Fabio Patella
screenplay by Tito Carpi, Francesco Scardamaglia, Enzo G. Castellari, idea by Sergio Corbucci, based on the play Hamlet by William Shakespeare, music by Francesco De Masi

Hamlet

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Johnny (Andrea Giordana) returns home from the war (the American Civil War) that is, to find his father had been killed (just like in his nightmares) and his mother (Francoise Prévost) is now married to his father's brother Claude (Horst Frank) - who claims he has avenged the death of Johnny's father by killing his murderer Santana (Manuel Serrano), but the more Johnny investigates, the more he becomes convinced that Santana is still alive somewhere and actually in league with Claude. His investigations however are repeatedly undermined by two bullies, Ross (Ennio Girolami) and Guild (Ignazio Spalla), and more than once, he has to relie on the help of Horaz (Gilbert Roland), a sort of guardian angel, to get him out of a tough spot.

Eventually, Johnny manages to find Santana's hideout, only to there find not only Santana but also his uncle Claude, who has robbed a gold transport with Santana two years ago, in the course of which the two had to kill Johnny's father. The gold however mysteriously disappeared ...

Santana and Claude decide to kill Johnny, but Johnny decides to play the two men against each other by claiming that Claude cheated Santana out of his share in the loot - and soon enough the situation culminates in a shoot-out between Claude and his men and Santana and his men, in which both Johnny and Claude manage to escape ... however, Johnny runs into the hands of Ross and Guild, who promptly crucify him out in the desert and leave him to die.

Claude returns to his ranch - or rather Johnny's mother's ranch - to turn it into a trap for Santana and his men, who are sure to turn up before long. Howwever, Johnny's mother suddenly sees through her husband's lies and threatens him with a gun ... only to be gunned down by Guild from behind - but even dieing, she manages to get away and ride out into the desert to save her son from the cross.

At the ranch meanwhile, Claude and company have their hands full defending the place against Santana and gang, and ultimately Claude manages to dispose of Santana ...

Later, back in town, Johnny picks out Guild, Ross and then Claude one by one, and finally he has his revenge and rides off into the sunset with Horaz, the only one who remained by his side throughout.

 

Based on an idea by Sergio Corbucci, this film is essentially Shakespeare's Hamlet done as a spaghetti Western - and while the film might not be as great as the play and an insult for all Shakespeare-purists, the blend of Shakespeare- and Western-elements actually works pretty well in the film, thanks to the fact that it doesn't follow its source too slavishly and that there are a few nice and macabre touches added (like the cavernous cemetary in which quite a bit of the plot is taking place and of course the crucifixion in the desert). Plus, Enzo G.Castellari once more proves himself to be a master director, not only in the action scenes (always Castellari's forte) but also in the many interesting camera setups and angles that don't only look good but also help to get the story along. Add to that a great Francesco De Masi-score and you've simply got one fine film, one that deserves rediscovery on a bigger scale.

Recommended.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Tales to Chill
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