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DVD SAVANT
Savant Guest Review:

Clint the Nevada's Loner
&
There's a Noose Waiting for You Trinity!
Double Feature
and

Cjamango

Separate releases reviewed by Lee Broughton

The better-known Spaghetti Western anti-heroes tend to be nihilistic and existentialist loners. Their high-risk, winner-takes-all money-making schemes, their dangerous pursuits of vengeful vendettas and the ultra-violent nature of the twilight world in which they operate kind of rules out the possibility of maintaining family ties or establishing meaningful personal relationships. However, some genre features were produced that sought to pay direct homage to the models of character, narrative and stylistic convention associated with traditional Hollywood Westerns. As such the uninitiated might be surprised by both the look and content of Alfonso Balcazar's Clint the Nevada's Loner (AKA Clint the Stranger) and its sequel, George Martin's There's a Noose Waiting for You Trinity! (AKA The Return of Clint the Stranger). Featuring a reluctant gunman who has done roaming and simply wants to be reunited with his frontier family, both films are essentially affectionate tributes to George Stevens's Shane.

By contrast, the lead character in Edoardo Mulargia's Cjamango is, initially at least, a more traditional Spaghetti Western anti-hero. But when he crosses paths with a young boy who has been abandoned by his mother and sorely abused by a gang of cut-throat Mexican bandits, he experiences feelings of empathy and paternalism that might change his life forever. It all amounts to a curious fusion of themes and scenarios lifted from A Fistful of Dollars and Shane that are presented in an unmistakably Spaghetti Western-like manner.

Imagining the kind of sentimental and emotion-stirring scenarios that can undoubtedly be found in your favourite Italian art house films being remoulded to fit within a Western narrative will give you some insight into the content of these three titles.


Clint the Nevada's Loner
Wild East
1967 / Colour / 1.85:1 flat / Clint il solitario, Clint the Stranger / 80 m.
Starring George Martin, Marianne Koch, Walter Barnes, Fernando Sancho, Gerhard Riedmann, Pinkas Braun, Francisco Jose Huetos, Paolo Gozlino, Renato Baldini, Xan das Bolas
Cinematography Victor Monreal
Production Designer John A. Soler
Film Editor Otello Colangeli
Original Music Nora Orlandi
Written by Jose Antonio de la Loma, Alfonso Balcazar and Helmut Harun
Produced by Valentin Sallent
Directed by Alfonso Balcazar

Synopsis:

Fast shooting Clint Harrison (George Martin) decides that the time is right for him to be reunited with his estranged wife Julie (Marianne Koch) and small son Tom (Francisco Jose Huetos). He tracks them to their new farm near Saddle Rock, Wyoming and discovers that they and their fellow farmers are caught up in an escalating range war that has been instigated by a local cattle baron, Walter Shannon (Walter Barnes). Shannon's two sons, Don (Pinkas Braun) and Dave (Paolo Gozlino), and the family's head foreman Ross (Fernando Sancho) are becoming increasingly brutal in their attempts to intimidate the farmers into selling up and leaving. Julie reluctantly allows Clint to stay on but only as an incognito hired hand: if he wants a full reconciliation with her and to be properly reintroduced to Tom, Clint must first prove that he has renounced violence.

Clint has a reputation for being a gunman but we learn that he's not a bad man. When rustlers targeted his old farm, Clint chose to retaliate rather than put his trust in the law. Unfortunately, his actions led to a series of revenge attacks and challenges from name-seeking gunfighters. Putting Julie and Tom's safety first, he took off alone but he can no longer bear to be separated from his family. When Clint returns to the family fold, the resultant scenes of familial dysfunction and hurt that unfold aren't really that far removed from the kind of emotion-stirring scenarios found in Italian neorealist films. Clint wants to be intimate with Julie but she banishes him to the barn. At the same time, Julie realises that she wants Clint back but cannot bring herself to forgive him for both putting the family in danger and then leaving them on their own. There are some effectively acted and staged scenes here where both characters are on the edge of declaring their need for a proper reconciliation but cannot or dare not risk voicing their feelings in case the other party doesn't feel that the time is right. Clint also wants to be a proper father to Tom but he has to let the child continue to believe that his mother is a widow. These are exactly the kind of strained familial relationships out West that Peter Fonda would later expand upon in his subdued but interesting Western, The Hired Hand.

Clint and Tom get along great but the child's initial sense of admiration for the hired hand is shattered when a trip to town sees Clint refusing to retaliate when he is cruelly humiliated by the bullying Shannon brothers. Relations on the farm are further strained by the intermittent presence of a helpful neighbour, Bill (Gerhard Riedmann), who is interested in romancing Julie and is already becoming a kind of father figure to Tom. Bill soon becomes jealous and resentful of Clint taking on the jobs that he had previously helped out with. With both Tom and Bill branding him a coward, the Shannon boys doing their best to provoke him and Julie insisting on non-violent and law-abiding solutions to their problems, Clint becomes a tormented soul. With his sense of masculinity and paternal self-worth becoming increasingly held open to question, Clint struggles to repress and control both his rising emotions and his urge to hit back. Bad guy Don Shannon suffers from emotional troubles too. Hampered by a limp, he is tormented by the idea that his ailment prevents his gruff father from truly loving him and the pair feature in some intense scenes where Don's insecurities are confronted and thrashed out. The focus on tangled relationships and their psychological and emotional effects successfully works to add some real depth to this show's already well-defined and interesting characters.

Clint the Nevada's Loner's basic storyline doesn't try to hide the fact that it is essentially a rewrite of Shane but the subtle narrative juggling that recasts the main protagonist as a family man who is under orders not to physically stand up for himself or his family is a novel approach that prompts an emotional involvement from the viewer: no doubt the film's content really put the culturally family-centric Italian cinema audience through the emotional wringer at the time of its original cinema release. The film also carries the influence of Shane and other 1950s US Westerns in terms of its art direction and general ambience. Shot in beautiful locations that feature pine trees, snow capped mountains and even the odd snow shower, the film has a very different look to the genre entries that were shot in Almeria. Director Alfonso Balcazar (Now They Call Him Sacramento) employs an approach to mise-en-scene that is very classical Hollywood-like in its general execution: there's virtually no evidence of Sergio Leone's groundbreaking stylistic influence here. On a narrative level, Clint the Nevada's Loner does offer a typically Leone-esque impression of the law out West though: when Don gets rid of the local sheriff, a naive but ultimately corrupt deputy becomes the deceased lawman's replacement.

Hardcore genre fans will also appreciate the inclusion of some fairly violent and well-choreographed fist fighting, an explosive running gun battle through the blazing streets of Saddle Rock and a final one-against-three duel that is presented in a straightforward but still quite accomplished way. Clint the Nevada's Loner appears to have had the benefit of a reasonably good budget and the production certainly benefits from Alfonso Balcazar's implicit understanding of film language: good pacing and a variety of decent-looking, solidly composed and thoughtfully edited shots keep this show ticking over nicely. The front credits give the impression that the film's aspect ratio should be wider than 1.85:1 but there are very few shots here that look noticeably cramped or cropped. In keeping with the rest of the film, Nora Orlandi's effective and occasionally quite beautiful soundtrack score leans more towards the US school of Western film scoring. Likewise, the film's neat costumes look like they came straight out of a 1950s US Western.

The acting on display here is pretty good. Marianne Koch looks very different to the way she did in A Fistful of Dollars but she does good work as the embittered Julie. George Martin's Clint isn't the most enigmatic protagonist to appear in an Italian Western but he isn't really meant to be enigmatic: he's just a simple family man at heart. Genre fans will enjoy the scenes that burly duo Walter Barnes and Fernando Sancho share. Barnes's character here is very similar to the bruiser businessman that he played in The Big Gundown while the always reliable Sancho (The Man From Nowhere, Django Shoots First, Ten Thousand Dollars For a Massacre and Vengeance is Mine) is effective in a rare role as a gringo bad guy. Pinkas Braun and Paolo Gozlino are perfectly cast as the vicious Shannon brothers. Young Francisco Jose Huetos really looks the part of a frontier child but the English dubbing employed for his character tends to take a little away from his performance. Fans of European cult cinema will spot Jess Franco regular Luis Barboo in a number of scenes. All in all this is a more than solid little Euro Western, albeit one that is successfully cast in a classical Hollywood Western mould.


Previously a hopelessly obscure title as far as English speakers were concerned, Wild East appear to have constructed their version of Clint the Nevada's Loner from a couple of different prints. Picture quality fluctuates between almost very good and just less than good. The disc's sleeve carries a disclaimer that states that the English audio track used here was mastered from the only known English language print in existence, resulting in the reproduction of some unavoidable imperfections. I didn't find the sound quality to be that bad. The first ten minutes or so are a little rough and the final ten minutes feature some audible background buzz but there's nothing about these imperfections that gets in the way of enjoying the film. This presentation features a number of scenes that were previously missing from English language versions of the film. These scenes, which involve a lot of the interesting relationship-based dialogue that makes this film work so well, make use of a German language audio track that is supported by English subtitles.


There's a Noose Waiting for You Trinity!
Wild East
1972 / Colour / 1.66:1 flat / Il Ritorno di Clint il solitario, The Return of Clint the Stranger / 87 m.
Starring George Martin, Marina Malfatti, Klaus Kinski, Daniel Martin, Augusto Pesarini, Francisco Jose Huetos, Susanna Atkinson, Indio Gonzales, Willi Colombini, Luis Ponciado
Cinematography Jaime Deu Casas
Production Designer Gisella Longo
Film Editor Teresa Alcocer
Original Music Ennio Morricone
Written by Alfonso Balcazar, Ezio Passadore and Giovanni Simonelli
Produced by Alfonso Balcazar, Enzo Doria and P. Sagliocco
Directed by George Martin

Synopsis:

Jailed for avenging his brother's death, Trinity (George Martin) mounts an escape and seeks to be reunited with his wife Norma (Marina Malfatti) and the couple's two children, Jimmy (Francisco Jose Huetos) and Betty (Susanna Atkinson). He tracks the family to their new farm near Dalton and discovers that they and their fellow farmers are being intimidated by a trio of bad guys who are working for a corrupt banker. Norma allows Trinity to work as an incognito hired hand and he takes up a room at a saloon in Dalton. Also staying at the saloon is Scott (Klaus Kinski), a feared bounty killer who is determined to pick up the $5,000 reward being offered for Trinity's capture. Both the bad guys and Scott cause problems for Trinity but Norma insists that he must prove that he has renounced violence if he wants a proper reconciliation with her and the children.

Depending upon which version/dub you come across, this film can be interpreted as both a sequel to and a loose remake of Clint the Nevada's Loner. The version presented here, There's a Noose Waiting for You Trinity!, is the English language dub that changes Clint's name to Trinity (no doubt a cash-in move by English distributors who had noticed how well Terence Hill and Bud Spencer's Trinity films were doing), Julie's name to Norma, etc, and thus prompts us to perceive that the show is simply a loose remake. That said, consciously viewing the film as a sequel was the approach that worked best for me. In this show a series of For a Few Dollars More-like flashbacks reveal that Trinity's brother and his bride were attacked on their wedding night and Trinity took it upon himself to exact revenge. Six years on from these events, Trinity is on the run having broken out of prison in a desperate attempt to be reunited with his family. What follows are a number of set pieces that are clearly modelled on specific scenarios that were previously encountered in Clint the Nevada's Loner and the ghost of that film's larger narrative arc can also be detected here to some extent too. However, There's a Noose Waiting for You Trinity! does feature a variety of thematic differences that serve to distinguish it from the earlier film.

While the conflict that Trinity is drawn into here is dressed up as a cattle men versus farmers range war, it has actually been instigated by a corrupt banker who wants the farmers' land so that he can sell it to the government's railroad executives. Norma has a mortgage with the duplicitous banker and he replaces Bill from the earlier film in as much as he's angling to form a romantic relationship with her. In this show, Trinity's now-teenage son can remember his father and he is just as angry with him as his mother is. In a rather effective move, director George Martin uses footage from the earlier film to construct a flashback that is experienced by Trinity when he sees Jimmy for the first time in six years. Rejected flat out by his son, this time out Trinity establishes a bonding-at-a-distance relationship with his young daughter Betty instead. While Betty's young age means that there's never any possibility of her developing what would amount to an incestuous crush on Trinity in his guise as an incognito hired hand, the film's novel idea of placing a young female protagonist within a Shane-like narrative clearly predates and predicts some of the scenarios that were later explored in Clint Eastwood's Pale Rider. Having Trinity stay at the saloon instead of at Norma's farm and throwing Klaus Kinski's patient but predatory bounty killer into the mix also results in new and distinctive micro-narratives being introduced here.

Interestingly, Kinski's bounty killer and the corrupt banker are the only characters here who provoke anything like a Spaghetti Western-ish vibe. The film's action is underscored by some good Ennio Morricone cues that have been lifted from earlier genre entries and the flashbacks featured here bear the influence of Sergio Leone but the show as a whole actually plays more like a 1970s US Western. The film's sets and costumes in particular work to evoke the look and feel of contemporaneous Hollywood Westerns. And while the trio of bad guys that cause most of the trouble here are a pretty vicious bunch, they remain just the kind of non-descript frontier trash that would rub the likes of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood up the wrong way in their 1970s Western outings. Actor George Martin is credited as being the show's director though some suspect that Alfonso Balcazar was the film's real director. Like the other Balcazar genre entries that I've come across, There's a Noose Waiting for You Trinity! is a technically decent looking show but there are enough strangely idiosyncratic (but still interesting and good) cinematic techniques employed here for me to suspect that Martin did direct some - if not all - of the film. Westerns All'Italiana!'s editor Tom Betts has suggested that if Martin did direct the film, chances are that Balcazar, in his capacity as one of the film's producers, was probably on hand to advise and guide the actor.

On an acting level, Martin successfully recreates the character that he portrayed in Clint the Nevada's Loner and Marina Malfatti slips effortlessly into Marianne Koch's shoes as his embittered pacifist wife. The crooked banker character here (sorry, I don't know who plays him but he does a great job) is a creepy and slightly bizarre, mortgage-wielding caricature who brings to mind Henry Kleinbach's Silas Barnaby character from Laurel and Hardy's March of the Wooden Soldiers and Sean Penn's Kleinfeld character from Carlito's Way. His chances of romancing Norma without the leverage of the mortgage are no better than Silas's chances of romancing Little Bo-Peep. Klaus Kinski puts in an okay and really quite restrained performance as a reasonably complex bounty killer. He's a fair way from his best genre performance or his best genre character here but he's as welcome as ever for the special bits of business that only he can supply. This time out, it's little Susanna Atkinson who has her performance adversely affected by poor dubbing. Evidently put together on a smaller budget than its predecessor, There's a Noose Waiting for You Trinity! remains a decent little companion piece.


This is a pretty good presentation. There are a few odd outbreaks of scratches and flecks present here but the picture quality remains very good for the most part. The disc's sound quality is very good too.


Cjamango
Wild East
1967 / Colour / 2.35:1 flat / 83 m.
Starring Sean Todd, Helene Chanel, Mickey Hargitay, Piero Lulli, Livio Lorenzon, Pedro Sanchez, Bill Jackson, Gilda Fioravanti, Rick Boyd, Ivan Scratuglia
Cinematography Vitaliano Natalucci
Production Designer Alfredo Montori
Film Editor Enzo Alabiso
Original Music Felice Di Stefano
Written by Vincenzo Musolino and Fabio Piccioni
Produced by Vincenzo Musolino
Directed by Edoardo Mulargia

Synopsis:

Cjamango (Sean Todd) is playing in a high stakes card game when Tiger (Piero Lulli) and Don Pablo's (Livio Lorenzon) men burst in, cut everybody down in a hail of gunfire and make off with the card-players' gold stakes. Cjamango survives and tracks down Tiger and Don Pablo with the intention of getting the gold back. Unfortunately, the pair have fallen out and each villain claims that the other has the gold. Caught up in the ensuing gang war are three generations of the Hernandez family. Old man Hernandez (Bill Jackson) is the sneak who initially tipped the villains off about Cjamango's card game. His daughter Pearl (Helene Chanel) is romantically involved with Tiger and lusted after by Don Pablo and she has callously abandoned her young son Manuel (Gilda Fioravanti). Cjamango attempts to play one gang off against the other but he soon finds himself becoming concerned with young Manuel's welfare. Cjamango's plans are further complicated by the appearance of Clinton (Mickey Hargitay), a mysterious man in black who claims to be a whiskey trader.

Heavily influenced by the lone gunman caught between two rival gangs schematic popularized by A Fistful of Dollars, Cjamango's scriptwriters did at least try to add some novel twists to this by now familiar plot blueprint. This film's lead female character is the complete opposite to Marisol from Fistful. Pearl is really a kind of bad girl femme fatale in the making and nobody is forcing her to romance her bad guy lover here. Effectively left alone in the world when Don Pablo launched a jealous attack on his father and Pearl abandoned him in favour of her relationship with Tiger, young Manuel makes for a pitiful figure. Scarred by Don Pablo to make it look as though he has the plague, the boy is employed to frighten the inhabitants of a small Mexican town into leaving their homes, allowing Don Pablo and his men to take over their properties. When his mother runs an errand for Tiger and sees her son begging the fleeing Mexicans to take him with them, her response is to pay an untrustworthy family to drop him at the nearest convent. Director Edoardo Mulargia uses all of the sentiment and sympathy inducing tricks in the book to make tearful Manuel's desperate attempts to get a ticket out of town an emotional affair. Sadly for Manuel, these aren't the last tears that circumstances will force him to shed.

When Cjamango finally gets his gold back, a number of scenarios are presented in which both Don Pablo and Tiger target Cjamango with a view to relieving him of the gold again. And an element of mystery is introduced to the film when Mickey Hargitay's character appears. Coming on like a Douglas Mortimer man in black-type, he claims to be a whisky salesman but he's fast with a gun. He too appears to be trying to play each gang off against the other and he has a hand in providing the information that results in Tiger capturing Cjamango. When Don Pablo calls up an auxiliary gang of Mexican bandits to act as reinforcements in the film's climactic gun battle, genre stalwart Remo Capitani (Ben and Charlie) appears in a neat guest spot as their leader Paco. Also featured in an equally entertaining guest spot is fan favourite Pedro Sanchez (Sabata, Return of Sabata and Adios Sabata). He appears in the film's prologue as a Mexican bandit with a severe gambling problem. There are a couple of Shane references present here and the film is quite distinct in the way that it sets up a developing relationship between a lone gunman and a vulnerable child. Cjamango's increasing sense of concern for Manuel is so apparent that Tiger is eventually able to use a threat to the child's safety as leverage that results in him getting his hands on the stolen gold.

This well intentioned A Fistful of Dollars knock-off really makes the most of its presumably relatively small budget. The film's producers tried very hard to ensure that all of the boxes required for such a show to be judged a minor genre classic were ticked and they almost succeeded. Poncho-clad and bearded, 'Sean Todd'/Ivan Rassimov's Cjamango character certainly looks and dresses like a typical genre anti-hero. And Piero Lulli (The Dirty Outlaws, Django Kill and Vengeance is Mine) and Livio Lorenzon (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Ace High and The Last Gun) are both highly regarded for their work as genre villains. The appearances by Mickey Hargitay, Pedro Sanchez and Remo Capitani are plus factors too. Felice Di Stefano supplies a really lively and enjoyable soundtrack score that bears the influence of Ennio Morricone. Interestingly, the appearance of characters playing on jaw harps and church organs provides some atmospheric diegetic music too. And, on a visual level, director Edoardo Mulargia and cinematographer Vitaliano Natalucci gamely try to take Sergio Leone on at his own game. Their efforts are rewarded by the presence of some really quite good shots and decently assembled sequences that make use of some striking camera angles, etc. There's absolutely no doubt at all that the pair had a solid understanding of the visual nuances and stylistic conventions associated with the best Spaghetti Westerns. Their efforts to recreate and deploy such nuances and conventions aren't always fully realized in a wholly successful or consistent manner but they get full marks for trying. The film's costumes and sets are good too and the show's action scenes are entertaining and well staged for the most part.

All in all, there's not a whole lot to complain about here but the film does fall down in a couple of core areas. For one, it is perhaps just a little too derivative for its own good. Set pieces lifted from Sergio Leone's first two Westerns are easy to spot and, beyond the admittedly interesting 'lone gunman bonds with child in need' subtext, the film doesn't really bring anything significantly new to the genre that it can subsequently call its own. Secondly, the script writers' attempts to disguise plot devices or markedly shuffle the content of some of the scenarios lifted from the Leone films tends to result in odd instances of faltering or slightly contrived plotting which adversely affect the flow of the film and open parts of the narrative up to questions concerning plausibility. That said, this DVD will be warmly welcomed by long-term genre fans and will also be of interest to any newer fans that might be seeking to sample a more obscure and relatively minor example of the genre.


Picture quality here is generally very good but the disc would undoubtedly have benefited from an anamorphic 16:9 mastering job. There are odd outbreaks of flecks and the like present here but these don't pose a problem. The disc's sound quality is very good too. There's the odd minor crackle present on the soundtrack during quieter moments but it's nothing too intrusive or distracting when it's there.


On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Clint the Nevada's Loner rates:
Movie: Very Good
Video: Fair ++ / Good ++
Sound: Good -
Supplements: trailer and image gallery

There's a Noose Waiting for You Trinity! rates:
Movie: Good -
Video: Very Good
Sound: Very Good
Supplements: trailer

Cjamango rates:
Movie: Good +
Video: Very Good -
Sound: Very Good -
Supplements: trailer and image gallery


Packaging: separate releases in keep cases
Reviewed: August 22, 2007

Note from Lee Broughton, 9.01.07:
Spaghetti Western filming locations expert Yoshi Yasuda has written to Savant to point out that Clint the Nevada's Loner's striking exterior scenes were actually filmed in and around Catalonia's picturesque Aiguestortes National Park. Yoshi found a reference to the location in the credits of a Spanish language version of the film.



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