Tuesday, September 10, 2013

In short: Raise Your Hands, Dead Man, You're Under Arrest! (1971)

Original title: Su le mani, cadavere! Sei in arresto

After the end of the US Civil War, former confederate nurse Sando Kid (Peter Lee Lawrence), learns the manly arts of violence and joins "the Rangers", a law enforcement organization that may or may not supposed to be the Texas Rangers. Be that as it may, Kid is rather good at his job and shoots down evildoers wherever he goes, ritually handcuffing the bodies of his victims, mumbling nonsense about the letter of the law. Is he a future serial killer? A closet necrophiliac? We don't know.

As an interesting holiday project, Kid travels to Springfield, his old hometown, where he pretends to be a dandyesque perfume salesman, and begins to put his nose and his gun into the business of local bad guy Lee Grayton (Aldo Sambrell), a man whom Kid once met when he was a Union officer with a love for killing wounded enemies. Grayton is trying to acquire a lot of land in the area to get control over a planned railroad line, and if the owners don't want to sell, his men have rather convincing arguments made of lead. Until Kid's arrival, Grayton's life of terrorizing the town, dominating the local sheriff and banker, and bedding saloon owner Maybelle (Helga Liné) has gone swimmingly.

Kid, however, is pretty good at making Grayton's life deservedly difficult, and Grayton's men rather dead, particularly when he partners up with crazy bounty hunter Dollar (Espartaco Santoni). In the end, it's really never in question who will win the final showdown.

And there lies the greatest weakness of León Klimovsky's Spaghetti (paella?) Western, a film the puts the "generic" in genre, with never a moment on screen one hasn't seen in tenser, more complex, or just more interesting form in a different movie, preferably with slightly more charismatic actors. This is the sort of film where the only surprise is how easy it will be for someone even only slightly knowledgeable about Spaghetti Westerns will be able to predict the how, why, and when of every single thing that's going to happen.

The only actual surprise in Raise Your Hands is how harmless many of the usually cynical and grim basic elements of the Spaghetti Western feel here. Somehow, Klimovsky manages to even stage a scene like Maybelle's death, that is, one where a woman is beaten to death, so that it feels harmless instead of bitter, or shocking, or just misogynistic. Not that I'd be really keen on this last mood, rather the opposite, but at least it would be a sign someone involved was trying to give the film a bit of personality, instead of the nothing that seems to be at its core.

Having said this, I also have to say that I found Klimovsky's movie not painful to watch at all. The frequent Paul Naschy partner is a perfectly competent Western director, keeping things empty but pacy. It's just too bad I'll remember nothing but a feeling of dissatisfaction about Raise Your Hands in a week or two.

No comments: