Friday, 9 September 2011

Payment In Blood (1967)

Payment In Blood (Sette winchester per un massacro) may not be one of the great spaghetti westerns but fans of the genre will still find plenty to enjoy.

In the aftermath of the American Civil War former Confederate officer Colonel Blake leads a gang of brigands in Texas just north of the Mexican border. They operate on both sides of the border and both the US and Mexican governments have put a price on their heads. Blake and his men like to give the impression they’re Confederate loyalists continuing the good fight against the damned Yankees but in reality they’re murdering cut-throats.

It seems as if time has run out for one of these bandits. Chamaco is about to be executed by a firing squad. Just in time a Mysterious Stranger appears and Chamaco is rescued. The Mysterious Stranger is named Stuart and he says he wants to join Blake’s gang. To take a stranger to Blake’s secret headquarters is against all the rules but then Stuart mentions that he just happens to know where the treasure of General P. G. T. Beauregard is buried. This much-rumoured fortune in gold disappeared in the closing days of the Clvil War and Blake has long cherished a desire to find it.

So Stuart gets to join Blake’s bandit gang. Blake doesn’t entirely trust him but he wants that gold. A plan is hatched. It will require the gang to get through a pass heavily guarded by US soldiers and then through the nearby town to reach the Indian cemetery where the treasure is hidden.

Of course there has to be a double-cross in there somewhere, and along the way there are ample opportunities for mayhem. There’s also a touch of romance, not something you necessarily expect in a spaghetti western. The beautiful Manuela claims to be as loyal to the Confederate cause as Blake but she causes considerable dissension. The other bandits believe that women and loot should be equally shared while Colonel Blake has decided that Manuela should be exclusively his. Manuela has ideas of her own as will soon become apparent.

As you expect from a spaghetti western there’s a great deal of violence. Everyone has unlimited ammunition which they expend lavishly, no-one ever has to stop to reload and the body count mounts steadily culminating in a huge gunfight which turns into a massacre.

Guy Madison walks off with the acting honours as Blake, giving a wonderfully cynical and vicious performance. Luisa Baratto is fiery and memorable as Manuela. Edd Byrnes as Stuart is the weak link - he just doesn’t seem mean enough or grungy enough.

Enzo G. Castellari’s energetic direction isn’t brilliant but it gets the job done. The climactic set-piece in the Indian tomb is certainly impressive.

This is another of the spaghetti western mystery DVDs I picked up recently in a bargain bin recently. There’s nothing on the discs or the cases to identify the company that released them but they’re NTSC discs so they’re obviously American imports. I assume they’re from Wild East productions since that company seems to be the only possibility. In any case they’re all, including this one, quite reasonable widescreen transfers. No extras, but appealingly cheap.

Don’t set your expectations too high for this one. Castellari is no Sergio Leone. If you approach it with that caveat in mind and you’re in the mood for a spaghetti western then you could do a lot worse.


Kev D. said...

"Castellari is no Sergio Leone" ... No kidding!

This one seems to have the real feel of a sloppy spaghetti western, like Fulci would make.

Great review.

venoms5 said...

I agree about this one, D. I slightly prefer Castellari's similar KILL THEM ALL AND COME BACK ALONE with Chuck Connors.