The original title, the Italian, of this 1967 spaghetti western is Ehi…Gentleman Joe…frega il morto e…spara al vivo. Anthony Steffen is the title character, Jo Reeves, and definitely plays against type in this one. He arrives in the dusty border town of Douglas in a buggy, dressed to the nines in a white suit, a combination white overcoat/cape, topped with a white hat. After checking into the hotel, he appears in another sharp suit and black hat. He has courtly manners and a soft voice that quickly makes him a target of ridicule. Interestingly, he wears his gun in a shoulder holster with a small five shot derringer in the head of his cane.
The town of Douglas is a small border Texas town whose sovereignty is in dispute. Both Mexico and the U. S. claim it and politicians are working to resolve the issue. Most of the citizens aren’t Mexican though. A troop of U. S. Cavalry is in charge of order until the decision is made. They were supposed to be be already relieved, but unknown to them, a band of Mexican bandits led by a ‘Colonel’ Ferreres(Eduardo Fajardo), thirty strong, had ambushed and wiped them out. The Colonel in charge gets impatient and leaves, saying they will be here shortly, leaving Captain Clay Reeves(Vidal Molina) i charge until they arrive.
Yes, we learn in short order the two men are brothers, the sons of a cavalry general. Both had been in West Point together, but Jo had washed out for gambling. Clay disapproves of his brother’s life style and asks him to leave after an incident in the saloon. Jo had flashed a big roll of bills and was asked to join a poker game, saying it would insult the Colonel if he refused. He wins a big hand right away with four kings and an ace kicker, only to be accused of cheating and having a gun put in his face. The bandits won’t allow the bullying to stop until the Captain walks in and Jo proves the other players were cheating, taking the money from the player who claimed to have been cheated and the Captain arresting the man.
He wants his brother to leave town and Jo agrees until the bandits take the jail, heavily beating the Captain and planning to hang the officer. Jo is warned and gets there in time to stop the hanging, taking his brother out and hiding him in a cellar of the hotel. But he passes soon from the beating and the film becomes a revenge take as Jo impersonates the Captain, beginning a guerrilla campaign against the gang.
The townspeople are worried with the Captain missing. Led by the banker, they try to slip the money on hand out of town in the early morning hours to El Paso. Betrayed by one man, the Colonel and his men plan to hit them and take the money. Saloon girl Vicki(Silvia Solar) has already taken a liking to Jo and wants to warn someone. She finds Jo burying his brother and tells him, he heading out to the banker’s home to find out where they are headed, finally arriving to late to stop the massacre. In the Captain’s uniform jacket and hat, he starts picking them off, dodging back and forth, losing is horse, one he’d borrowed from the banker’s wife. It leads the bandits back to her place and they kidnap her young daughter to lure the captain in, still not knowing that he’s dead and Jo is the real killer.
They borrow a plot line from A Fistful of Dollars as Jo plays the bandits against each other. One named Bruce had had several confrontations with the Colonel over everything from killing at will to splitting the money, backing down every time so far. A perfect target as Jo steals the money and tosses it into his window, telling Vicki to blame the small crook.
It has nicely choreographed gun battles in several spots and a very nice sound track done, in a reversal of jobs, by Bruno Niccolai writing it and Ennio Morricone directing the orchestra. Giorgio Stegani directs, doing three pictures all together in the spaghetti genre, each with a different big star. In addition to Geffen, he worked with Giuliano Gemma and Lee Van Cleef.
A middle of the road movie. Not the worst or the best I’ve seen. Enjoyable none the less.
Doesn’t seem to be a trailer online, but the full movie is on Youtube: