A Bullet for the General (1966)
Starring: Gian Maria Volonte, Klaus Kinski, Lou Castel, Aldo Sambrell
Directed by: Damiano Damiani
An american spy joins a bandit-ring during the mexican revolution.
This really isn’t a western in the same sense as the spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone, it’s a movie about revolution and class struggle. If you are looking for similarities between this film and other italo-westerns then the best you could come up with would be the horses and smoking guns . Nevertheless, it’s a good little film and pleasantly enjoyable.
Volonte will be known by most as the villain in Leone’s For a Few Dollars More (1965), however he plays a far more sympathetic character in this picture – a bandit driven not by greed but by an ideological desire to improve the lot of the mexican poor – and it’s really quite impressive to see the other side of this most versatile of character actors.
I also really liked Kinski’s character in this film (but then again I could watch Klaus Kinski all day; his face is always so etched with raw emotion). He plays a bandit-preacher whose idea of a baptism involves explosives rather than holy water. Although, to be frank, I did think that Kinski was slightly under-used in the movie – he seems to disappear for most of the middle of the film only to re-emerge at the end.
Damiani’s direction is pretty standard with flashes of Leone-type brilliance – the opening scene of the train ambush with a mexican general tied to the track is a good example – but it is really the characters rather than anything else which carry the movie. That said, I think Lou Castel plays the ‘gringo-spy’ in a far too passive manner and we end up not really caring about his eventual fate. Sadly, Ennio Morricone’s score is one of the weaker soundtracks to any spaghetti western I have experienced.
So, in summary, this is an entertaining western with strong characters and some nice touches – but it is some distance from the classics of the genre. Lastly it is probably important to note that this film is a big favourite with the critics and often-cited as one of the flagship italo-westerns. Just didn’t push all the buttons for me, that’s all.
hotdog rating: 6.5/10