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DVD SAVANT

Savant Guest Review:

Hands Up Dead Man!
You're Under Arrest
and
Revenge of the Resurrected
(double bill)



Reviewed by Lee Broughton

This new addition to Wild East's ongoing Spaghetti Western Collection series serves as a tribute to the German actor Peter Lee Lawrence (Days of Violence). Something of a genre stalwart, Lawrence (AKA Karl Hirenbach) starred in over fifteen Euro Westerns before his untimely death in 1974. Few of Lawrence's films have made it to DVD to date, so this new release will be warmly welcomed by genre fans. Both titles are revenge-driven tales that involve their lead characters operating in an undercover capacity. Leon Klimovsky's Hands Up Dead Man! You're Under Arrest possesses a somewhat spoofy vibe but Rafael Romero Marchent's The Revenge of the Resurrected is played completely straight.


Hands Up Dead Man! You're Under Arrest
Wild East
1971 / Colour / 1.85:1 anamorphic / Su le mani, cadavere! Sei in arresto / 92 m.
Starring Peter Lee Lawrence, Espartaco Santoni, Aldo Sambrel, Helga Line, Franco Agostini, Mary-Zan, Aurora de Alba, Tomas Blanco, Lorenzo Robledo, Giovanni Santoponte
Cinematography Tonino Maccoppi
Production Designer Cruz Barestena
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 Sergio Bergonzelli
Directed by Leon Klimovsky

Synopsis: Towards the end of the Civil War, two Rebs called Kid Johnson (Peter Lee Lawrence) and Brown (Franco Agostini) are lucky to escape with their lives when a victorious Union officer, Grayson (Aldo Sambrel), suddenly starts executing his wounded Confederate prisoners. Years later, Grayson is a ruthless businessman who is using brutal tactics to force a community of settlers off of their land. Kid Johnson is now a Ranger and he teams up with Brown (who is now a padre) and a mysterious fellow Ranger called Dollar (Espartaco Santoni) in an attempt to bring Grayson to justice.

Hands Up Dead Man! You're Under Arrest was directed by Leon Klimovsky (Dr Jekyll Versus the Werewolf, The Vampires' Night Orgy, Vengeance of the Zombies) and the cult horror auteur displays a remarkably steady hand here. But while this obscure genre entry is a stylish and competently assembled show, the tone of its narrative content and action set pieces remains quite uneven. 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 Sambrel (Ben and Charlie, A Minute to Pray, a Second to Die) is on top form as the murderous Grayson and it's a big relief when a hand wound brings an end to his extermination tactics. Unfortunately, when the film's narrative moves into the post-Civil War era, Klimovsky begins to adopt an increasingly tongue in cheek and spoofy approach.

That said, a reasonably interesting subplot has Kid Johnson buying a piece of land that plays a part in Grayson's grand schemes. He then grants joint-ownership of the land to the locals who had previously lost their own land to Grayson. Their cooperative owners' association brings them strength in numbers and Grayson 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. There are some fun gunfights dotted about the film that employ a selection of wild canted shots and comic strip-style editing that brings to mind the action scenes found in the Batman TV series.

However, the film's final gun battle, which sees Kid Johnson, Dollar and Padre Brown taking on Grayson's gang of bad guys, is mostly played for fairly silly laughs: peace-loving Padre Brown pops up and offers farcical quips that distract the villains and then quickly performs blessings over their prone bodies when they bite the dust courtesy of a well-aimed shot from Kid Johnson or Dollar. The whole gun battle sequence is staged and shot in a frenetic manner that brings to mind the kind of comedy/fantasy interludes typically found in episodes of The Monkees TV show.

The acting here is decent enough though and Sambrel in particular excels as the despicable land-grabber Grayson. Some genre fans feel that Peter Lee Lawrence was something of a wooden performer but I've never got that impression from the few Lawrence films that I've come across. He turns in a good performance here but when Kid Johnson goes undercover as a perfume salesman (!), his previously angry desire for revenge and justice is replaced with a cocksure smugness that makes his character a little less appealing. It's at this point that the show starts introducing the spoofy elements that are at odds with the tense mood set by the content of the film's brutal prologue. Fans of Euro cult cinema will enjoy spotting Luis Barboo as a villain who is apprehended by Kid Johnson on one of his first outings as a Ranger.

Equally, Euro cult cinema fans will get a kick out of cult favourite Helga Line's (Churchill's Leopards, Mission Bloody Mary, Special Mission Lady Chaplin, The Vampires' Night Orgy) turn as Grayson's game squeeze Maybelle. Espartaco Santoni's mysterious Dollar character is one of the show's most interesting aspects. Santoni is a dead-ringer for Oded Fehr and the man-in-black Dollar, in his capacity as Kid Johnson's ever-watchful guardian, comes on just like Fehr's Ardeth Bay character from Stephen Sommers' Mummy films. Alessandro Alessandroni, famed for his whistling work on Ennio Morricone's genre soundtrack scores, turns in a fairly likeable selection of cues that mostly veer towards breezy and comedic take-offs of typically generic musical themes. Hands Up Dead Man! You're Under Arrest is no classic but it remains an inoffensive little show that will undoubtedly delight Aldo Sambrel's quite considerable fan base.


Hands Up Dead Man! You're Under Arrest is a fairly obscure genre entry that has until now only been available on DVD in Europe. That release (reviewed here) sported German and Italian dub tracks that were supported by English language subtitles. Wild East's new release features an English language dub track and I found that the film actually worked much better in its English-dubbed form: the noticeable contrast between the show's gritty aspects and its more spoofy elements didn't seem to jar as much in this English-dubbed version, so there may well have been some subtle changes to the film's dialogue (and the tone in which it is delivered) at the dubbing stage that served to give the English language version of the film a slightly more balanced feel.

Picture quality here is near enough excellent: the image is sharp and the show's colours are particularly vibrant. The presentation's sound quality is very good too.


Revenge of the Resurrected
Wild East
1972 / Colour / 1.85:1 anamorphic / Un dolar de recompensa / 90 m.
Starring Peter Lee Lawrence, Orchidea De Santis, Alfredo Mayo, Carlos Romero Marchent, Andres Mejuto, Eduardo Calvo, Dada Gallotti, Raf Baldassarre, Luis Induni, Emilio Rodriguez
Cinematography Mario Capriotti
Art Director Riccardo Domenici
Film Editor Antonio Gimeno
Original Music Nora Orlandi
Written by Rafael Romero Marchent, Jose Luis Navarro and Fernando Popoli
Produced by Gregorio Manzanos
Directed by Rafael Romero Marchent

Synopsis:

Synopsis: Sharp-shooting Danny O'Hara (Peter Lee Lawrence) is also a talented artist and his father (Luis Induni) convinces him to try his luck professionally in St. Louis. Alas, bandits attack the stagecoach that the pair are travelling on and old man O'Hara is needlessly slaughtered along with the rest of the passengers. Having only seen the villains from behind (and from a distance), Danny can only identify them via their distinctive fashion and firearm accessories. Seeking help in the next town he comes to, Danny is alarmed to discover that sheriff Sullivan (Andres Mejuto) is one of the bandits. After making friends with the sheriff's daughter Janet (Orchidea De Santis) and taking a job with the local blacksmith, Porter (Raf Baldassarre), Danny devises an ingenious plan to flush the bad guys out.

Revenge of the Resurrected is a really obscure genre entry that takes much of its initial inspiration from Giulio Petroni's classic Death Rides a Horse. In a fairly well executed early scene, Danny is thrown from the stagecoach that he is trying to defend from bandits. When he finally catches up with the stagecoach -- minus his gun -- he's just in time to see the passengers being brutally executed. He can't see the villains' faces but he does spot distinctive elements of personal clothing, etc, (spurs, hatband, gun holster, gun handle and boots) that he can use to identify them at a later time. Being an artist, he sketches representations of these items just as soon as he can.

It's revealed early on that the sheriff is one of the gang when Danny spots a distinctive set of spurs hanging on his office wall. However, by employing inventive camera angles, imaginative blocking and commanding point-of-view shots, director Rafael Romero Marchent and cinematographer Mario Capriotti manage to detail the nefarious activities of the remaining villains without revealing their identities. This allows Marchent to generate a suitably paranoid and enigma-laden atmosphere -- Just who are these cutthroats? Can Danny really trust those townsfolk who appear to be the most trustworthy? Will Janet inadvertently let something slip to her father? Will the drunken Doc Dempsey (Eduardo Calvo) become a liability? Why is the creepy local big shot Lou Stafford (Carlos Romero Marchent) so interested in Danny's welfare? Etc. -- which gives the show an impressively disorientating and almost giallo thriller-like feel.

Needless to say, there are red herrings aplenty here. And with all of this confusion hampering Danny's covert investigations, the gang is free to attempt further violent robberies at a nearby town and a nearby fort as well as actively pursuing a number of other murderous endeavors. Whenever a crime is committed, Danny tries to stir things up by secretly placing "wanted" posters around town that accuse prominent local citizens of being gang members. He signs these posters as being from "the Resurrected" but it doesn't take the gang members long to deduce that Danny is responsible for them and he is soon fighting off a number of assassination attempts.

The show does actually bring to mind some of David Lynch's thematic obsessions at times: Marchent provides well-observed studies of seemingly normal slices of small town life out West but the viewer remains aware that -- behind the happy gloss -- wicked deeds are being committed by a select group of outwardly respectable citizens. Revenge of the Resurrected is a fairly low budget affair but Marchent makes the best of his limited resources. Furthermore, the film's narrative content is just different enough to allow the show to stand out from the crowd and this, along with the spirited performances of the featured cast, make this a worthwhile release.

Peter Lee Lawrence is fine here as Danny O'Hara: much like Kid Johnson in Hands Up Dead Man! You're Under Arrest, O'Hara dresses like a dandy (initially, at least) but he's able to match the roughest and dirtiest of villains when it comes to gunplay. The rest of the cast perform well enough too and there are some interesting turns from Sergio Leone regulars Frank Brana and Lorenzo Robledo (Don't Turn the Other Cheek) and genre stalwarts Raf Baldassarre (Arizona Colt Hired Gun) and Carlos Romero Marchent. Genre stalwart Nora Orlandi's rousing music underscores the show's many action scenes -- which tend to be distinguished by the inclusion of noticeably good stunt work -- to good effect.


Revenge of the Resurrected's status as a genre obscurity evidently meant that pristine source materials could not be secured for this release. The picture quality here is perfectly serviceable but there are odd outbreaks of small scratches and flecks present throughout the show and the quality of the film's colour fluctuates a tad. The show's sound quality is pretty good for the most part. All in all this remains a decent presentation of a very rare and little-seen film.


On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Hands Up Dead Man! You're Under Arrest rates:
Movie: Good -
Video: Excellent -
Sound: Excellent -
Supplements: Italian trailer, Spanish front credits sequence and an image gallery

Revenge of the Resurrected rates:
Movie: Good ++
Video: Good
Sound: Very Good -
Supplements: trailers for four Peter Lee Lawrence Spaghetti Westerns and an image gallery


Packaging: keep case
Reviewed: March 22, 2012



Text © Copyright 2012 Lee Broughton
DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2012 Glenn Erickson

See more exclusive reviews on the Savant Main Page.
Reviews on the Savant main site have additional credits information and are often updated and annotated with reader input and graphics.
Also, don't forget the 2011 Savant Wish List.
T'was Ever Thus.

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