Surprisingly enough, this 1955 western was directed by none other than William Castle, the man better known for his fantastic gimmicky horror pictures like The Tingler, 13 Ghosts and The House On Haunted Hill to name just a few. On top of that, it stars Glenn Ford and Cesar Romero and, unlike most westerns, it's set in South America (Brazil to be specific). You'd think all of this would make for a fascinating picture, and there are moments where it approaches that, but unfortunately it never quite comes together the way that you might hope it would.
The movie follows a small time Texas rancher named Sam Dent (Glenn Ford) who, along with his brother Barney (Dan White), wants nothing more than to expand his cattle operation and make it to the big time. To come up with some cash they sell a trio of prize winning bulls to a Brazilian rancher, but the deal is C.O.D. so that means someone is going to have to get the bulls to the buyer. Sam loads the cattle up onto a boat and heads south of the border and upon his arrival in Bao Vista, he meets Manuel (Cesar Romero). This guy seems friendly enough but then hits Sam with some bad news: the buyer was murdered.
Manuel assures Sam that all is not lost, however. He knows a man named Bento Hermanny (Frank Lovejoy) who will buy the bulls from him. All they need to do is deliver them, but this trip will require a trek through some savage jungle terrain ripe with deadly snakes and hungry alligators. Manuel offers to serve as Sam's guide. When Hermanny's neighbor, Marianna Figuerido (Ursula Thiess), catches them trespassing on her property, she orders them to hand over the cattle as compensation. Complicating matters worse is the fact that Hermanny is not the good natured rancher Manuel made him out to be, but in fact a greedy crook who has no qualms about killing anyone who gets in the way of his plans to snatch up all the land in the area…
The Americano does a good job of differentiating itself from other westerns by exploiting its South American setting rather well. As such, the movie looks good, and we get some nice footage of the leads traipsing through the jungle which is at least different than seeing the leads traipse through a forest or a desert as is more typical of the genre. The cinematography is pretty solid here as well, and we wind up with a movie that is quite attractive and that features some interesting, bold color schemes.
The film also benefits from two decent performances. Glenn Ford is good as the lead, he's charming and rugged and handsome but never too pretty and able to retain an earthiness about him that makes him a wise choice for the part. In short, he looks the part of a tough cattle rancher and he's got the right sort of personality to put that across in the work he does here. Cesar Romero is quite likeable as well, he's got a good screen presence and plays mischievous quirky types well. He and Ford have some interesting screen time together here where their two styles clash in some amusing ways. Ursula Thiess is underused and while she looks great, the subplot in which her romantic intentions towards Ford's character come to light is an obvious cliché and through no fault of her own, she winds up a fairly bland character. Lovejoy, as the film's chief bad guy, is fine but unremarkable in his role.
The movie is paced reasonably well but fails to do much outside of its location shift to make it a particularly interesting watch. For some, the jungle setting and two good performances will be enough to warrant a watch and on that level the movie doesn't disappoint. It's a fine time killer and it has a bit of technical polish. Those looking for something a little more original or engrossing may be mildly disappointed, however.
The Americano debuts on Blu-ray from Olive Films in a 1.78.1 widescreen transfer presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. Overall the image quality is okay, but it never approaches mind blowing levels of quality. Let's assume that the softness inherent in a few different scenes is inherent in the source material, it does look that way. Colors are a little flat looking and slightly faded and black levels are sometimes closer to a dark grey. Contrast looks good and detail in the outdoor scenes more so than the indoor scenes can occasionally look pretty good. There aren't any compression artifacts or signs of edge enhancement or noise reduction to note. Some minor print damage and the anticipated amount of film grain are present here. Not an amazing transfer but one that is likely pretty true to the elements that were used to create it and definitely above what you'd get out of a DVD.
The English language DTS-HD Mono Audio track on the disc is perfectly fine. The score sounds big, almost epic in spots, and the dialogue is always perfectly easy to understand. Levels are properly balanced and there's an okay amount of depth here even if it's never going to approach reference quality. For an older mono mix, this is a decent track that suits the movie just fine and which doesn't suffer from any serious problems.
Outside of a static menu and chapter selection, there are no extra features on this disc.
The Americano benefits from some nice locations and a decent cast, particularly Glenn Ford and Cesar Romero, but never really manages to grab you and pull you in. By no means is it a horrible film but it isn't as tense or exciting as a good western should be. Olive Films' Blu-ray looks okay and sounds okay but won't floor you, nor does it contain any extras. Interesting enough as a cinematic curiosity, you're probably better off renting this one before going for the blind buy.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.