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DVD SAVANT
Savant PAL Region 2 Guest Review:

Halleluja Italo-Western Box:
Ein Halleluja Fur Camposanto,
Man Nennt Mich Halleluja
and
Sando Kid Spricht Das Letzte Halleluja

Reviewed by Lee Broughton

Following on from their impeccably presented Sergio Sollima and Django Italo-Western Box sets, Germany's Koch Media have devoted a box set to Spaghetti Westerns that feature the word Halleluja (be it the name of a protagonist or simply an expression of praise) in their title. Two of the features presented here, Ein Halleluja Fur Camposanto (AKA They Call Him Cemetery) and Man Nennt Mich Halleluja (AKA They Call Me Hallelujah), are directed by fan-favourite Giuliano Carnimeo (AKA Anthony Ascott), the heir apparent to Gianfranco Parolini's pop art approach to the genre. Carnimeo's films here are of a light-hearted and comedic bent but they are both ultra-stylish and a lot of fun to boot. Leon Klimovsky's Sando Kid Spricht Das Letzte Halleluja (AKA Raise Your Hands, Dead Man, You're Under Arrest) is a reasonably good looking film that is let down by a somewhat uneven tone.

As with the Sergio Sollima and Django sets, the three discs presented here feature both Italian and German language audio tracks that are supported by English subtitles - a welcome feature since all three titles have yet to receive an English language release on DVD in either the UK or America. Ever generous, Koch Media have also included a CD that features the splendid soundtrack scores for They Call Me Hallelujah and its sequel The West is Tough, Amigo... Hallelujah's Here, which were composed by genre stalwart Stelvio Cipriani.



Ein Halleluja Fur Camposanto
Koch Media (Germany)
1971 / Colour / 2.35:1 anamorphic 16:9 / Gli fumavano le Colt... lo chiamavano Camposanto, They Call Him Cemetery / 90 m.
Starring John Garko, William Berger, Christopher Chittell, John Fordyce, Ugo Francareggi, Raimondo Penne, Franco Ressel, Aldo Barberito, Ivano Staccioli, Nello Pazzafini
Cinematography Stelvio Massi
Production Designer Carlo Leva
Film Editor Ornella Micheli
Original Music Bruno Nicolai
Written by E. B. Clucher
Produced by Mino Loy
Directed by Anthony Ascott

Synopsis:

Recently arrived in town, the dandified McIntire brothers (Christopher Chittell and John Fordyce) get hopelessly out of their depth when they hot-headedly decide to take on the local villains who are running a protection racket. Luckily, the Stranger (John Garko) comes to their rescue and starts teaching them how to use a gun. However, things get complicated when Duke (William Berger), an expert hired gun and former friend of the Stranger, shows up and accepts a contract to dispose of the meddling McIntires.

Giuliano Carnimeo took over the directorship of the official Sartana series from Gianfranco Parolini and, in doing so, he established a fruitful working relationship with actor John (Gianni) Garko. Here Garko plays an unusually stoic and mature Sartana-like figure who has his own reasons for wanting to help the bumbling McIntire brothers. Genre stalwart William Berger is perfectly cast as the Stranger's equally stoic and mature friend-turned-mercenary enemy, Duke. In the superb Giuliano Carnimeo documentary included here, Garko offers the idea that he and Berger were able to portray these aging gunfighters so well because they literally brought the experience of years spent in the cinematic saddle to their roles and he laments that the demise of the genre prevented him from building on such experience and playing even older characters. The Stranger and Duke seem destined to face each other in a shootout which will finally prove which of the two is the fastest draw and Carnimeo presents numerous beautifully stylized and machismo-fuelled set-pieces that involve the pair indulging in over-the-top trick-shooting stunts that are intended to provoke said gunfight. Duke owns a snazzy telescopic-metal drinking vessel that he malevolently collapses shut with a snap whenever he's about to use his gun and it's a device that is successfully used to set up some tension-soaked moments throughout the film.

Perhaps prompted by the same crisis of masculinity that appeared to inform the content of Alfonso Balcazar's Now They Call Him Sacramento, a number of Italian Westerns in the early 1970s appeared to take their lead from Buster Keaton's Steamboat Bill, Jr. Invariably a father figure out West is waiting for the arrival of his son who has been attending school back East for a number of years and the father is ultimately shocked and upset to discover that, rather than being a masculine tough guy suited to life in the wild Spaghetti West, his son is a demure and gentle-natured dandy. Ultimately it's up to the son to prove that he can rise to the occasion when the going gets tough and that's the story here with the two McIntire brothers. With their father being menaced by protection racketeers, the duo decide to try and intimidate the villains with a hot-headed show of bravado but they only wind up landing themselves in big trouble. A couple of Mexicans who work for old man McIntire are supposed to be keeping an eye on the brothers but the pair are just as hopeless as the McIntire boys when it comes to shooting and pulling tough guy poses.

This really is a great example of an early 1970s, mildly comedic Spaghetti Western. Written by the writer/director of the Trinity series, E. B. Clucher (AKA Enzo Barboni), the elements of humour that are included here are very gentle and non-intrusive. What's more, they do actually raise a smile or two. We realize early on that the McIntire brothers are heading for a real rough and tumble town when it's revealed that everybody who is travelling on their gigantic stagecoach is packing a gun: a young mother gives her crying child a bullet to use as a pacifier while an innocent looking old dear produces a revolver, sticks it out of the carriage window and trick-shoots a cactus to pieces before declaring that she's not as good a shot as she used to be. After one machismo-driven face-off, the Stranger deals with a local bully by giving him a Trinity-style double ear clap but this is really the only instance of Trinity-esque slapstick in evidence here. Either Barboni was restrained and self-disciplined when he wrote this script or Carnimeo deleted anything that was over the top in comedic terms at the shooting stage. Surprisingly, even a crazy bar room brawl is handled with restraint and panache.

The film's costumes and sets are first rate and future director Stelvio Massi's stylish cinematography captures the action perfectly. The show's acting is of a high quality too and genre stalwart Nello Pazzafini shows up in a great guest spot as an aggressive bounty killer, Cobra Ramirez, who the Stranger dupes into entering into a showdown with Duke. Cobra collects a lock of hair from every gunfighter that he defeats and duly attaches said lock to the brim of his sombrero. The ever-reliable Bruno Nicolai provides yet another superbly rousing and emotive soundtrack score. Carnimeo was a master of all of the visual nuances and generic conventions associated with the Spaghetti Western genre and he serves up some superbly executed action sequences here. That said, after being used to overseeing the adventures of genre supermen like Sartana, Carnimeo seems to relish the change of approach offered by the set pieces which detail the predicaments that the McIntire brothers' vulnerability and inexperience lands them in. A relatively obscure title in English speaking countries, They Call Him Cemetery is a genre entry that fully deserves to reach a wider audience.

Note to UK soap opera fans: yes the Christopher Chittell who appears here is the same Christopher Chittell who plays Eric Pollard in ITV's Emmerdale.


Picture quality here is excellent, really sharp and colourful with very little in the way of print damage. I made use of the film's Italian language soundtrack and that was excellent too. The disc's English language subtitles played fine. The Giuliano Carnimeo documentary presented here includes contributions from Carnimeo, Gianni Garko and George Hilton.



Man Nennt Mich Halleluja
Koch Media (Germany)
1971 / Colour / 2.35:1 anamorphic 16:9 / Testa t'ammazzo, croce... sei morto... Mi chiamano Alleluja, They Call Me Hallelujah / 92 m.
Starring George Hilton, Charles Southwood, Agata Flori, Robert Camardiel, Rick Boyd, Paolo Gozlino, Andrea Bosic, Aldo Barberito, Franco Pesce, Linda Sini
Cinematography Stelvio Massi
Production Designer Enzo Bulgarelli
Film Editor Ornella Micheli
Original Music Stelvio Cipriani
Written by Tito Carpi
Produced by Dario Sabatello
Directed by Anthony Ascott

Synopsis:

A bandit-General, Ramirez (Roberto Camardiel), employs a gun for hire, Halleluja (George Hilton), to track down and steal the valuable jewels of the Usurpator Maximilian so that they can be used to finance the Mexican Revolution. In the course of finding the jewels, Halleluja has to compete with and outsmart a chapter of fake monks, Krantz (Andrea Bosic) the villainous arms dealer, the Mexican army, Sister Anna Lee (Agata Flori) the duplicitous nun and Alexij (Charles Southwood) the crazy balalaika playing Cossack Colonel.

The talents of director Giuliano Carnimeo, cinematographer Stelvio Massi and film editor Ornella Micheli are once again united to produce yet another fantastically stylish feature. As with Ein Halleluja Fur Camposanto this show is packed with all of the generic conventions and visual nuances associated with the best Spaghetti Westerns. But whereas the comedy elements in Ein Halleluja Fur Camposanto were subtle and diluted, here they're ramped up into maximum overdrive and beyond. Some of the set-pieces present here are probably as cartoon-like as the genre gets but the broad humour employed to move the action along somehow manages to stay just the right side of farcical and slapstick overkill. Likewise, whenever the humour threatens to become too crude (Halleluja evens his odds against one set of bad guys by adding a strong laxative solution to their communal stew pot, etc), Carnimeo manages to pull back from the brink just in time.

All of the cast enter into the spirit of things with gusto and even genre hard men George Hilton and Charles Southwood appear right at home amidst the film's crazy comedic scenarios. Unbelievably, George Hilton, Giuliano Carnimeo, Stelvio Massi and scriptwriter Tito Carpi would take the genre to even crazier and sillier excesses with 1973's completely over the top Once Upon a Time in the West... There Was a Man Called Invincible. George Hilton's Halleluja character actually looks a lot like Franco Nero's Django with his dark clothing and long scarf. And, just like Django, Halleluja has a trusty machine-gun of sorts that gets him out of tight spots. However, since Carnimeo is channelling Gianfranco Parolini's crazy pop art take on the genre here, Halleluja has a machine gun with a difference: it's actually a specially converted period "Singer" sewing machine that spits bullets and mortar fire instead of stitches when its motor wheel is cranked.

Other Parolini-inspired bits of business found within the film include Alexij's balalaika-cum-bazooka, Alexij's mesmerizing but deadly Cossack dance of death, Halleluja using special goggles to navigate a monastery that he has attacked with smoke bombs, Halleluja using a corkscrew to extract a bullet from General Ramirez's leg, a sewing set that features fuse wire-like thread and explosive buttons, etc, etc. Fan-favourite Luciano Rossi pops up for a guest spot in one of his patented psychopathic bad guy out West roles and genre stalwart Stelvio Cipriani turns in a pretty good soundtrack score that balances serious Spaghetti Western-style music cues with more comedic tracks. On a narrative level, this Mexican Revolution-set feature is a little like Sergio Sollima's mad chase of a movie, Run Man Run, but it doesn't really attempt to pack the kind of political punch that Sollima's semi-comedy did. Parolini's Addios Sabata probably remains the film's closest point of reference. This is a good effort that fans of Carnimeo and Hilton will appreciate.


This is another excellent presentation, boasting strong colours, sharp picture quality and very little in the way of print damage. I watched the film using the disc's Italian language soundtrack and that was near enough excellent too. And the disc's English subtitles played just fine.



Sando Kid Spricht Das Letzte Halleluja
Koch Media (Germany)
1971 / Colour / 1.85:1 anamorphic 16:9 / Su le mani, cadavere! Sei in arresto, Raise Your Hands, Dead Man, You're Under Arrest / 89 m.
Starring Peter Lee Lawrence, Espartaco Santoni, Aldo Sambrel, Helga Line, Franco Agostini, Aurora de Alba, Tomas Blanco, Lorenzo Robledo, Maria Zanandrea, Giovanni Santoponte
Cinematography Tonino Maccoppi
Production Designer Giacomo Calo Carducci
Film Editors Juan Pison and Jose Antonino Rojo
Original Music Alessandro Alessandroni
Written by Sergio Bergonzelli, Jesus Maria Elorrieta, Jose Luis Navarro and Enrico Zuccarini
Produced by Espartaco Santoni
Directed by Leon Klimovsky

Synopsis:

Towards the end of the Civil War, two Rebs called the Sando Kid (Peter Lee Lawrence) and Bamba (Franco Agostini) are lucky to escape with their lives when a victorious Union officer, Grayton (Aldo Sambrel), suddenly starts executing wounded Confederates. Years later, Grayton is a ruthless businessman who is using brutal tactics to force a community of settlers off their land. The Sando Kid is now a Ranger and he teams up with Bamba, who is now a monk, and a bounty hunter called Dollar (Espartaco Santoni) in an attempt to bring Grayton to justice.

Just as they did with their Django Italo-Western Box, Koch media round out this Halleluja set with a film plucked from a lower quality band when compared to the first two features. Cult horror director Leon Klimovsky (Dr Jekyll Versus the Werewolf, The Vampires' Night Orgy, Vengeance of the Zombies) keeps a steady hand here and Sando Kid Spricht Das Letzte Halleluja isn't a bad looking film. Unfortunately, it is really quite uneven in its tone and approach. Things start out gritty, brutal and deadly serious with the Civil War-set intro, which probably ranks as one of the most disturbing sequences ever to appear in a Spaghetti Western: Sergio Leone regular Aldo Sambrell (Ben and Charlie, A Minute to Pray, a Second to Die) is on top form as the murderous Grayton and it's a big relief when a hand wound puts his extermination tactics to an end. Unfortunately, as soon as the film moves to its main, post-Civil War narrative thread, it begins to adopt an increasingly tongue in cheek and spoofy approach.

That said, a reasonably interesting subplot has the Sando Kid buying a piece of land that plays a part in Grayton's schemes. He then grants joint-ownership of the land to the locals who had previously lost their own land to Grayton. Their cooperative owners' association brings them strength in numbers and Grayton is forced to organize a stagecoach robbery in order to secure a genuine bid stake for the land. The film also features a quite interesting corrupt sheriff character who causes a number of complications throughout the show. The film's final gun battle, which sees the Sando Kid, Dollar and Bamba taking on Grayton's gang of bad guys, is ultimately played for very silly laughs, with peace-loving Bamba popping up and offering farcical quips that distract the villains, etc. The whole gun battle sequence is staged and shot in a manner that brings to mind the kind of comedy/fantasy interludes found in episodes of The Monkees TV show.

The acting here is decent enough though and Sambrell manages to successfully project the thoroughly nasty aspects of Grayton for the show's full running time: he makes for a really convincing greedy land-grabber. Peter Lee Lawrence (Days of Violence) turns in a decent enough performance too but when the Sando Kid goes undercover as a perfume salesman (!), his previously angry desire for revenge and justice is replaced with a cocksure smarminess and smugness that makes his character less appealing. It's at this point that the show starts losing its way and it never really recovers, ultimately failing to live up to its earlier promise. Espartaco Santoni's Dollar character is quite interesting. Santoni is a dead-ringer for Oded Fehr and the man-in-black Dollar, in his capacity as the Sando Kid's ever-watchful guardian, comes on just like Fehr's Ardeth Bay character from Stephen Sommers' Mummy films. Euro cult fans will get a kick out of cult favourite Helga Line's turn as Grayton's game squeeze Maybelle. Alessandro Alessandroni, famed for his whistling work on Ennio Morricone's genre soundtrack scores, turns in a reasonably interesting selection of cues that veer largely towards comedic take-offs of generic musical themes.


Sando Kid Spricht Das Letzte Halleluja is no classic but Koch Media have done the right thing and gone straight ahead with an excellent presentation anyway. Picture quality is near enough excellent and the show's colours are particularly vibrant. I made use of the film's Italian language soundtrack and that was excellent too. As ever, the disc's English subtitles played just fine.


On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Ein Halleluja Fur Camposanto rates:
Movie: Excellent -
Video: Excellent
Sound: Excellent
Supplements: Giuliano Carnimeo documentary, trailer and an image gallery

Man Nennt Mich Halleluja rates:
Movie: Very Good -
Video: Excellent
Sound: Excellent
Supplements: Super 8mm version, two trailers and an image gallery

Sando Kid Spricht Das Letzte Halleluja rates:
Movie: Fair +
Video: Excellent
Sound: Excellent
Supplements: trailer and an image gallery


Packaging: Three DVDs, a CD and a booklet (German language only) housed in a fold-out digipack which is in turn housed in a card box.
Reviewed: January 28, 2008


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