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Long Ride From Hell, A

Code Red // R // January 11, 2011
List Price: $17.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Bill Gibron | posted July 30, 2011 | E-mail the Author
The Product:

When you think of the late Steve Reeves - that is, if you do at all - what's the first thing that pops into your mind? His many trophies and accolades as a celebrated pre-Arnold bodybuilder? His choice cheesy turns as a mythic hero in a long string of silly Italian peplum? The noted reference as part of Frankenfurter's lament in The Rocky Horror Picture Show? Maybe you know nothing of Reeves or his various guises. Still, film fans will recognize his bearded machismo from such classics as Hercules, Hercules Unchained, The Giant of Marathon, and The Last Days of Pompeii. Thanks to a nagging shoulder injury, Reeves would eventually leave the movies in 1968, his send-off being the spaghetti western rip-off A Long Ride from Hell. Based on the book Judas Gun and featuring a script co-written by the famed actor, it would be an unusual swansong. Not only did it fail to capitalize on Reeves inherent appeal but it saddled the actor with a subpar project that couldn't hold a candle to what Leone and Corbucci were bringing to the genre. Still, it's a decent enough journey through the end of an interesting onscreen career.

The Plot:

After his horses are stolen by a band of outlaws, rancher Mike Sturges (Reeves) and his younger brother Roy (Ivan Scratuglia) head out to reclaim what is rightfully theirs. Along the way, they run into railroad security agent Marlin Mayner (Wayde Preston) who warns them to stay away from Dragon's Pass. Turns out, a gang of robbers is out to strip the oncoming train of its gold and the official wants to keep Mike out of harm's way. Unfortunately, Mike doesn't listen, is shot, his brother goes missing, and an evil sheriff (Domenico Palmara) shows up to accuse our hero of the crime. With his sibling in tow, he is sent to the horrific Yuma State Penitentiary. There, a cruel guard tortures Roy to death, leaving Mike no other option than to escape, or die trying. When he does break free, he decides to get back and Mayner and the lawman who set him up - and as with all Wild West revenge, it is a dish best served with lashings of hot lead.

The DVD:

If gunshots were glorification, A Long Ride From Hell would be the greatest movie of all time! This is a movie that is addicted to ammunition. Every ten minutes or so the characters must engage in a prolonged fire fight less the director and his crew start going through gunpowder withdrawal. Even in situations were simple fists would do, the six shooter has to make an appearance. It just wouldn't be A Long Ride from Hell without it...that, and Steve Reeves' 42 year old muscle man physique. At first, we fear we will never see Mr. Olympia's famed form, his wardrobe seemingly made up of as many layers of clothing as possible (it looks mighty cold on the passing for the old West Spanish set). But then we get to Yuma and its all sinew and sweat. Homoeroticism was never quite as swarthy as this, though it only lasts as long as Reeves is incarcerated. Once he breaks out, it's back to the vests and chaps, dammit! Still, Reeves is all man in this movie, making his way from impossible odds to improbable escapes with all the finesse of a guy given over to one too many hours in his local gym.

As for the rest of the film, it lacks the operatic push of Leone's version of the genre, or the real gratuitous gross out tendencies of the other Mediterranean oaters. Instead, it rests somewhere in the middle, mildly atmospheric and only occasionally gory. Several gunshots show up as nothing but bits of black soot on the victim's shirt. In other instances, a smash of blood is visible. Even in the torture scenes, where whips supposedly flay flesh and hot boxes turn victims into madmen, we get little sleaze. Instead, Reeves and director Camillo Bazzoni don't let things get out of hand. We are only allowed a brief glimpse of clothed bosom, the stereotypical sombrero-d Mexican bandito, and a bit too much local color. The harsh barren backdrops do add atmosphere, but once they've established mood, it makes it hard to stage a shootout. After all, everyone is visible.

Still, A Long Ride from Hell does find a few novel ways to circumvent our expectations. When Reeves' character is cornered in a shack, dozens of lawless lawmen bearing down on him with guns drawn, his eventual getaway is laughably convenient. Also, when busting out of Yuma, our hero has one of the few automatic revolvers in the history of horse operas that never needs reloading. No matter how many shots he fires off, the gun never goes dry...that is, until it's dramatically necessary. As for the acting, it's all stiff jawed and squinty eyed. Even the ladies appear bound up and unable to bust free of their bodices. Indeed, what A Long Ride from Hell desperately needs is an injection of over the top emotion. It mandates feelings and vendettas that are both plausible and filled with passion. We see why Mike demands payback, but the desire never registers beyond the words. While this is a serviceable Western with an interesting cast, the lack of fire (not firepower) ultimately underwhelms.

The Video:

As per this critic's policy, Screener copies of DVDs are not awarded points for video or audio. If Code Red does send a final product version of A Long Ride From Hell to the site, this paragraph will be updated accordingly.

The Audio:

As per this critic's policy, Screener copies of DVDs are not awarded points for video or audio. If Code Red does send a final product version of A Long Ride From Hell to the site, this paragraph will be updated accordingly.

The Extras:

As part of the screener disc's added content, we get an unusual fan interview with Reeves (some Italian tourists show up at his California home and discuss his career with him - very weird) as well as an hour long overview with actor Domenico Palmara (who played the turncoat sheriff). There is also a trailer for A Long Ride From Hell as well as a collection of previews for other Code Red product. Finally, there is a stills gallery for the film. All very nice. Not very informative on the film itself.

Final Thoughts:

Tired of being typecast and still smarting from that recurrent shoulder injury, Reeves left the limelight for a retirement outside the rigors of movie making. He married, raised horses, and occasionally spoke out about his time in competitive bodybuilding and as part of an international Tinseltown. While something like A Long Ride from Hell doesn't really illustrate his power and presence, it does deserve some passing attention. Earning a Recommended rating, it is solid, if ultimately superficial, western entertainment. You may not know Steve Reeves from anything other than the bicep rippling efforts of his sword and sandal past. A Long Ride from Hell will show you another side of his cinematic persona - for better and for worse.

Want more Gibron Goodness? Come to Bill's TINSEL TORN REBORN Blog (Updated Frequently) and Enjoy! Click Here

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