Tuesday, December 8, 2009

In short: God Forgives: His Life Is Mine (1968)

aka God Made Them...I Kill Them

A muddy frontier town is shaken by the robbery of the local bank. The perpetrators have left no trace behind the town's rather timely absent Sheriff Lancaster (Piero Lulli) might be able to follow. The local notabilities are nonplussed and decide to bring outside talent into town to help solve the problem.

They decide on hiring Slim(y) Corbett (Dean Reed), womanizer, dandy and gun for hire. For a guy looking like Dean Reed and driving a coach with an on-board bar, Corbett is rather clever and soon realizes that neither the Sheriff nor the stinking rich pillar of the community Don Luis (Pietro Martellanza) are as law-abiding as they'd like to appear.

Before Corbett can find time between bedding every woman in town, dancing, and drinking to do much about his suspicions, the bad guys attack a gold transport. An attack on our hero's life fails, so Don Luis decides to blame the gold theft on Corbett.

God Forgives is on the lighter side of the Spaghetti Western spectrum, I'd even call its first hour fluffy, or at least as fluffy as films with a high body count and Dean Reed's face can get. There's something deeply silly, even chirpy about the beginning of the film that connects it - although more in feeling than through anything more concrete - with the Eurospy film. The film oozes the same "what the heck - let's just have some fun" attitude as the Eurospy film. Unless you're Alex Cox and need your Spaghetti Western to be deeply earnest, this is far from a bad thing - I'm certainly not going to complain about a film trying to be fun.

What took me a little by surprise here was the nimble way in which God Forgives changes mood for its last third, the lightness suddenly turning into tension, the before solid but unremarkable direction of Paolo Bianchini getting a little more adventurous.

We can probably thank the film's traditionally great writer Fernando Di Leo for the expertly done shift in tone, something he always excelled at.

My problems with the film mostly lie with the acting department. While the supporting cast (consisting of some of the usual character actors of Italian genre cinema) does a good job, I never really warmed to Reed, or rather, I could never help but feel slightly disgusted by him.

He might have the look of the foppish yet competent dandy, but he also projects the charm of a nasty and very very slimy creature that's trying to hide under someone's boot. It might just be me, of course.

In the case of Pietro Martellanzo's performance as Don Luis I'm pretty sure that it is not just me hating on an actor, but someone doing an atrocious job at playing an evil mastermind (not even the mandatory midget henchman helps). Outside of the torture scene where Martellanzo still isn't all that great to watch, he reminded me of nothing so much as of a five year old playing at being a Bond villain.

Fortunately, God Forgives isn't really a film that needs strong acting to work. As long as Bianchini just keeps the film moving (as he does) and enough people are shot (as they are), there's just no time to be too disgusted with Dean Reed.



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