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Kill Them All and Come Back Alone
Savant Guest Review

Kill Them All and Come Back Alone
Wild East
1968 / Colour / 2.35:1 enhanced widescreen / Ammazzali tutti e torna solo / 96 m. / Street Date March 4, 2008 / 19.95
Starring Chuck Connors, Frank Wolff, Franco Citti, Leo Anchoriz, Ken Wood, Alberto Dell'Acqua, Hercules Cortes, Antonio Molino Rojo
Cinematography Alejandro Ulloa
Art Director Enzo Bulgarelli
Film Editor Tatiana Morigi Casini
Original Music Francesco De Masi
Written by Tito Carpi, Francesco Scardamaglia, Joaquin Romero Hernandez and Enzo G. Castellari
Produced by Edmondo Amati
Directed by Enzo G. Castellari

Reviewed by Lee Broughton

Kill Them All and Come Back Alone is a key title in action film specialist Enzo G. Castellari's filmography (see also Johnny Hamlet and Inglorious Bastards). It's a Spaghetti Western set during the Civil War and its loosely Dirty Dozen-inspired narrative and sizeable budget allowed Castellari to put together a real extravaganza of an action flick. Set in a war torn landscape that is bereft of women (I don't think I spotted a single female character in the entire film) and civilians, the film's largely uncomplicated but satisfying narrative is woven around a string of expensive-looking, violent and expertly staged action scenes.


A Confederate agent, MacKay (Chuck Connors), assembles a crack team of mercenaries -- Deker (Leo Anchoriz), Bogard (Hercules Cortes), Hoagy (Franco Citti), Blade (Ken Wood) and Kid (Alberto Dell'Acqua) -- and leads them on a mission to steal one million dollars in gold from a heavily guarded Union fortress. A corrupt Confederate captain, Lynch (Frank Wolff), elects to accompany the team and he soon makes a point of causing all kinds of problems for MacKay and his men.

Pre-figuring later genre entries like Don Taylor's Five Man Army and Tonino Valerii's A Reason to Live, A Reason to Die, Kill Them All and Come Back Alone features a motley selection of cutthroats who have been brought together in order to steal a fortune in gold. MacKay's squad features a variety of bandits, killers and convicts and each one of them possesses a special talent that should effectively contribute to the success of their mission: Deker is an explosives expert who sports a proto-bazooka-like device, Bogard is a muscle-bound strongman who can brawl with the best of them, Hoagy is handy with novel silent-but-deadly weapons (heavy iron balls on long lengths of thin rope that are expertly swung or propelled in the direction of his enemies), Blade is a half Indian/half Mexican knife thrower and Kid is an innocent-looking but highly dangerous acrobat. However, the most ruthless and callous character here has to be Lynch: at the start of the show Lynch secretly orders MacKay to execute his squad members as soon as the mission is completed.

The show sets up its action flick tone right from the start, kicking off with a big and intricately assembled action scene: a lengthy (fourteen minutes long!) prologue shows MacKay's team stealthily infiltrating a shattered town that has been taken over by the Confederate army. Once they're inside the town, all hell breaks loose as they successfully fight their way to the central command post, thus proving that they're the right men to undertake the million-dollar raid. The Confederates want the Yankee gold to prop up their fading war effort but the gold is stored alongside a ton of dynamite in a Union Army weapons compound that is situated in a well-guarded fortress that sits at the top of a mountainous hill. MacKay knows that the Yankees will blow the gold up rather than let it be stolen from them and this prompts his team to employ some interesting and suspense-generating tactics when they come to attack the fortress. In a rather novel move, Castellari doesn't save the attack on the fortress for the show's big finale: the gold is secured fairly early on but -- this being a Spaghetti Western -- MacKay and company ultimately have difficulty keeping hold of their prize.

Kill Them All and Come Back Alone is a smart looking film that will appeal to Spaghetti Western and action cinema fans alike. Evidently put together on a fairly big budget, the show features some excellent, large scale sets (the shattered period town, the hill-top fortress, a Union prisoner of war camp, etc) and seemingly hundreds of faceless extras, who all act as the necessary cannon fodder whenever MacKay's team of specialists launch one of their numerous violent assaults. Castellari expertly choreographs the action in these scenes and the ever-dependable cinematographer Alejandro Ulloa (Companeros, A Reason to Live, A Reason to Die) ensures that it's all captured in a suitably stylish manner. The work of ace production designer Enzo Bulgarelli (Pistoleros, Django Kill, They Call Me Hallelujah) adds much to the show's sense of visual style while acclaimed composer Francesco De Masi provides the show's good but sometimes slightly un-generic sounding soundtrack score. A number of cues featured here sport a military theme that brings to mind Ennio Morricone's work from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

Chuck Connors is clearly having a ball here and, given how well he fits the bill for this kind of show, it's a shame that he didn't appear in more Euro Westerns (beyond this film, his only other genre entries are Burt Kennedy's The Deserter and Eugenio Martin's Pancho Villa). Connors provides a measured but exuberant performance here: his physical agility and his toothy grin and knowing laugh result in MacKay coming on like one of Burt Lancaster's jovial swashbucklers. Frank Wolff is fine -- if a little subdued -- as the duplicitous Lynch. Lynch is a suitably nasty character but Wolff has better genre villains on his extensive CV. Franco Citti, Leo Anchoriz, Ken Wood, Alberto Dell'Acqua and Hercules Cortes are all perfectly cast as MacKay's violent mercenaries. Their gimmicky weapons and acrobatic approach to combat loosely links the show to Gianfranco Parolini's Sabata films. Citti played the villain with the Wild West Barbie doll fetish in Carlo Lizzani's Kill and Pray and genre fans will know Anchoriz, Wood and Dell'Acqua from the several dozen genre entries that they racked up between them. It's great to have these Spaghetti Western stalwarts appearing together in an accomplished, big budget genre entry like Kill Them All and Come Back Alone.

This is a good presentation overall. There are odd scratches and flecks present from time to time and the colour in a couple of sections looks ever so slightly faded but there's really not much to complain about here. The disc's sound quality is generally very good too. The extra features boast a really in-depth interview with Ken Wood (AKA Giovanni Cianfriglia) that runs to 44 minutes. Wood covers most aspects of his long career in Italian cinema and there's plenty of discussion about his many Spaghetti Westerns. The image gallery provided here is really extensive too.

On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Kill Them All and Come Back Alone rates:
Movie: Good ++ / Very Good -
Video: Very Good -
Sound: Very Good +
Supplements: an interview with Ken Wood, US trailer and an image gallery
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: November 2, 2010

Text © Copyright 2010 Lee Broughton
DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2010 Glenn Erickson

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