Enzo G. Castellari is probably best known for his war films like The Inglorious Bastards, his crazy post-nuke action films like The New Barbarians or his cop thrillers like The Big Racket but he made a few forays into spaghetti western territory when the genre was booming through the Italian film industry in the second half of the sixties. Any Gun Can Play and the divisive Franco Nero vehicle Keoma are probably his best known entries in the genre, but 1968's Kill Them All And Come Back Alone, if not his best film, is one well-worth checking out for fans of both the director and the genre, and of leading man Chuck Connors.
Connors plays a man named Clyde McKay, a mercenary man operating in the era of the American Civil War who is as tough as they come. When the movie begins, he and a motley crew of hired guns are in the midst of taking over a town watched over by Confederate General Hood and his men. McKay's team make their way into Hood's headquarters, take him hostage and bring his right-hand man, Captain Lynch (Frank Wolff), to his knees. It turns out that this is all a stunt, a test setup by Hood to see if McKay's men are as good as he hopes they are. When they pass with flying colors, McKay and his team are hired by the Confederate top brass to make their way into a well-armed and highly guarded Union fortress and to make their way out with a fortune in gold. There's a trick though: the gold has been made to look like dynamite and his hidden amongst actual dynamite.
What McKay's team doesn't realize is that he's been paid in advance and told by Lynch that, should he so choose, instead of paying his men at the end of the mission he should kill them all and come back alone (which, obviously, is where the film gets its title from). As you'd imagine in a situation like this, once the mission is under way, tensions arise from McKay's men: Hoagy (Franco Citti), Deker (Leo Anchoriz), Bogard (Hercules Cortes), Kid (Alberto Dell'Acqua) and Blade (Giovanni Cianfriglia), each a dangerous man with his own unique specialty. This isn't likely to end well for anyone…
Kill Them All And Come Back Alone may borrow elements from more original films like The Dirty Dozen and The Good The Bad And The Ugly but if you don't mind that, and the fact that it absolutely sacrifices character development and storytelling for over the top action set pieces, it turns out to be a pretty damn entertaining picture. Castellari's specialty has always been in staging action set pieces. It's his knack for doing that, and typically on a modest budget, that's made him a cult movie favorite for decades now. In this picture, he shows off those skills in a pretty big way, opening with a strong action set piece, closing with another one, and throwing in plenty of brawls, shootouts and fight scenes of varying scale and scope along the way. It isn't a deep film, it's hardly a thinking person's picture at all, but it is a lot of fun.
Front and center in all of this is the steely-eye, square-jawed Chuck Connors, an American actor doing time in Italy at this point, likely hoping to strike gold the way that Clint Eastwood had done in For A Fistful Of Dollars a few years earlier. He's not always the actor with the best range but he's a blast to watch here, scowling and grimacing his way through the picture, barking orders at his men and chewing up the scenery with the best of them. The supporting players are pretty decent here as well, Frank Wolff in particular, but Connors makes this most macho of pictures his own and you can't help but love him for it.
Production values are solid, if never amazing. Francesco De Masi contributes a good score that is catchy at the time it's being used but out of your head shortly thereafter. Alejandro Ulloa does a nice job with the cinematography, capturing all of the action quite effectively. Castellari, being Castellari, keeps the film going at a nice clip from start to finish.
Kino Lorber brings both the English and Italian versions Kill Them All And Come Back Alone to Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 2.35.1 widescreen on a 50GB disc. Taken from a brand new 4k restoration, both transfers look very similar. Detail here is excellent and the image quality is very strong throughout both versions of the picture. There's a lot of depth and texture to the transfers, especially in the brighter outdoor scenes, and color reproduction looks excellent. There are, thankfully, no problems with noticeable compression even with separate transfers provided for both versions. No noticeable noise reduction or edge enhancement here to complain about, and while some natural film grain is noticeable there's almost no print damage here at all. Kino has done a very nice job bringing this title to Blu-ray.
English and Italian language audio tracks are provided in DTS-HD 2.0 format for their respective versions with optional subtitles provided in English only. The audio is clean and nicely balanced and the dialogue is always easy enough to understand. No problems with any hiss or distortion to report.
The main extra on the disc is an audio commentary track from filmmaker and spaghetti western expert Alex Cox, the author of 10,000 Ways to Die: A Director's Take On The Spaghetti Western. Like all of Cox's spaghetti western commentaries, this one is packed full of information and delivered with loads of enthusiasm and knowledge. He does a great job of talking up Castellari's career inside and outside the genre and discussing his style and what sets his films apart from others in the field. He also covers Chuck Connors' career as well as his rathe unique acting style, how the film dabbles in different subgenres while still remaining very much a true spaghetti western, the sets and locations used in the film, the score, the supporting cast and lots more.
Additionally, the disc includes a theatrical trailer, bonus trailers for other Kino Lorber properties, menus and chapter selection.
Kill Them All And Come Back Alone isn't going to rank with the best of the vintage spaghetti westerns but it's good enough that fans of the genre will want to seek it out, particularly if you've got a soft spot for Chuck Connors! Kino's Blu-ray sounds good and looks even better and the inclusion of another commentary from Alex Cox is the icing on the cake. Recommended!