Sergio Corbucci directed this 1967 spaghetti western starring Joseph Cotten as Colonel Jonas, an obsessive ex-Confederate officer who doesn’t recognize Lee’s surrender. He, along with his three sons and a couple of others, hijack a wagon load of worn currency headed for burning, slaughtering the entire thirty man Federal escort from ambush.
The plot concerns their efforts to get the money through the territory to their home in order to begin organizing a new Confederate army. Their problem is, because of their killing of the convoy, troops are scouring the area for them, posses are out, and a $10,000 bounty is out on their heads.
Jonas had planned ahead. The money is hidden in a coffin that ostensibly holds the body of his son-in-law, a Confederate officer killed in battle, that he, his three sons, and the widow(a drunken prostitute Jonas had hired) are returning to bury at home.
When the prostitute is killed trying to steal the money, they have a new problem. The pass Jonas has for the body is made out to the widow. he sends one son, Ben(Julian Mateos), to the nearest town to recruit a new woman. There he finds Claire(Norma Bengeli), a gambler, and through a bit of manipulation, causes a fight to break out and has to rescue her.
Having no choice, she agrees to help when she learns the real story. A relationship starts to build between the two, Ben being all that stands between her and his brothers. He’s more sensitive, a different mother, and the other two, Nat(Angel Aranda) and Jeff(Gino Pernice: he’s the one who had his ear sliced off in the earlier Django) are sadistic and lustful.
As they make their way across the territory, they run the gauntlet of Federal troops, posses, Mexican bandits, and Indians. Nat and Jeff don’t seem to be true believers and want to split the money. Ben stands between them and their father, remaining loyal despite his father’s bloodthirstiness in dealing with anyone who gets in his way.
I enjoyed this one. Though I guessed one point of the ending, part of it surprised me.
The score is by the always good Ennio Morricone. Definitely worth a look if you like Corbucci. He’s made some good westerns: Django, The Great Silence, The Mercenary, and Companeros.
Here’s Morricone’s theme song for the movie: