Lee Van Cleef and John Phillip Law star in this 1968 film that is, at heart, a revenge plot, though it rises above that to become one of the better spaghetti westerns of the era.
The opening section sets the tone as an outlaw band attacks a ranch where a shipment of money, $200,000, is being guarded during a thunderstorm. Some sort of layover I suspect. Everyone is killed, including the family, the women raped before being murdered.
It’s particularly effective around the thunderstorm, with Morricone’s score playing, the gunfire, the house set on fire as the gang finishes off any witnesses.
They miss one though, a six year old boy, who sees everything as the carnage follows. A man with four aces tattooed on his chest, an oddly shaped earring, a man with a scar running from his hairline by one eye to his jaw. As the gang leaves, the boy is pulled by the fire from someone. All he sees is a silver skull dangling from a necklace. hr
The last we see of the boy he’s picking up a spur, a specially designed one, lost by one of the gang members as they race away.
Next we see an earnest faced young man named Bill Meceita practicing with guns. The entire sequence has him working with various pistols, sharpening both his aim and draw, rifles, and working on moves to avoid returned fired, diving and rolling while keeping up gun play of his own. We just know it’s that small boy grown up.
At the same time, Lee Van Cleef’s character, Ryan, is getting out of prison after fifteen years. As he leaves, two men are following him. After he ditches them, he turns up at Bill’s ranch looking at the three graves. The two meet and converse a bit.
The two men soon learn they are after the same men after the two he’d lost try to murder Ryan and the sheriff finds one dead man wearing unusual-styled spurs and shows them to Bill.
The main men have become important people in the fifteen years Ryan was in prison and Bill was growing up with a festering hate in him. A banker and a saloon owner in their towns.
A bond grows between the pair in their pursuit, Ryan becoming almost a father figure to Bill, dispensing badly needed advice to the young man. Although now good with any weapon, he’s sadly naive about the ways of those he pursues. Ryan wants money from each because of some betrayal in the past and Bill just wants them dead.
It’s almost amusing as each takes turns leaving the other afoot to get a leg up. it never works as Bill has to rescue Ryan from an arrest for a robbery and murder charge, then Ryan finds Bill buried up to his neck in the hot sun.
The final showdown between the gang and the two is well done down to the final surprise revealed at the end about both men’s motivations.