Steve Reeves became a star appearing in a string of low budget sword and sandal movies in the fifties and, though he only played him twice, is best known as Hercules. He did his own stunts and a shoulder injury that incurred in one, that he kept aggravating in subsequent pictures, eventually caused his retirement from acting. One serious career blunder happened when he turned down a western role by a little known Italian director because “Italians couldn’t make westerns.” That director was Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood got the role. The rest, as the old saying goes, is history. He later maintained he passed on another role because they only offered him a hundred grand when he was making a quarter of a million doing the sword and sandal movies. That was Bond in Doctor No.
When he saw how well these “spaghetti westerns” were doing, he financed A LONG RIDE FROM HELL(alt title, I LIVE FOR YOUR DEATH) and co-wrote the script. It was based on a Gordon D. Shirreffs novel, Judas Gun. Camillo Bazzoni directed and some really nice music by Carlo Savini highlighted the film. It was some of the best parts of this movie. The movie didn’t do well, though, and Reeves retired from acting the same year.
It’s a tale of revenge. Mike Sturges(Reeves) and his younger brother, Roy, are sent to Yuma on a trumped up robbery/murder charge.They were caught up in it when a gang ambushed some of their hands bringing in a herd of horses, killing them all and driving the horses off. One man doesn’t die, managing to get back to the ranch. While their mother tends the dying man, Mike and Roy, along with their foreman, Bobcat, go looking for their horses.
It should have been a dead giveaway when they mention the trail was awfully easy to follow. The rustlers kept the herd in soft dirt making the trail easy to find. It lead into a valley near a pond, the only water in twenty miles. The three make camp and are approached by a rider who turns out to be an old friend of Mike’s, Marlin Mayner(Wayde Preston), a man he’d rode with five years before. Mayner shows them a railroad detective badge and tells them to be careful about camping so near the railroad right of way as the trains had been hit by a gang several times and the railroads were nervous. They might act first, especially since the foreman was an ex-con.
After he leaves, Mike goes out to look around, only to be shot in the leg and left alive. “He’s more valuable alive!” Crawling, staggering along wounded, he hears gunfire and explosions ahead, and soon finds a train that had stopped for water, everyone slaughtered, the freight car blown to shreds. He also finds the dead body of his foreman, Bobcat. He starts looking for Roy.
They are subsequently taken by the sheriff(spaghetti western veteran Guido Lollobrigida, billed as Lee Burton). He doesn’t believe them when Mike tells them when they tell him to check with Mayner, especially when the railroad says they have no detective named Mayner. The sheriff proceeds to beat Roy mercilessly, trying to learn where the rest of the gang, and the $80,000 in gold coin they stole, are hiding.
The two end up sent to Yuma Penitentiary for life. The guards are brutal, most especially the head guard(Nello Pazzafini). He takes great delight in tormenting the young Roy, beating him and throwing him in the hole. Mike remains stoic whatever is done to him and the head guard vows to break him, making him scream like his little brother. he gets nothing, even when he pretends sympathy in reporting to Mike that Roy had passed away in the hole one night.
Mike has no interest in joining the planned prison break some of his friends are planning until the guards begin making cruel jokes about his brother’s death. He snaps and jumps the latest offender offender, which sets off a spontaneous riot in the rock yard. In the ensuing melee, Mike and one other get away. A lot of violence, a hallmark of the genre, happens as they get to safety.
Mike sets out to find Mayner and clear his brother’s and his name.
A pretty good western, but a lot of coincidences to get where and what he wants. A comment suggests he’s been in prison six years. He stops off at the room of a prostitute he knew years ago. It’s Saturday night, which just happens to be The night his brutal jailer visits for a little lovemaking, never mind he still has two escaped prisoners to find. That gives him a chance to beat the man to death in a fist fight.
He escapes, pursued by other guards, finally doing a Butch Cassidy when he plunges off a cliff into a river. Believing him dead, the hunt stops.
Mike returns home, where he runs into man old girlfriend, she telling him that his mother died of a heartbreak after Roy and he were sent to prison and the ranch had remained empty, run down now. So it was he finds when they arrive. Dust and filth everywhere. So it was a surprise in the next scene, the next morning when she brings him supplies(food and ammunition) when we seeing him watching her approach through clean white lace curtains and dressed in clean black clothes that have a new look.
The finale with Mayner was a bit different as well. Fists instead of guns.
Reeves gets a chance to show off that impressive physique a few times in the film. Early on, he wrestles a bull to the ground for branding and in the rock yard at Yuma, he busts rocks without benefit of a shirt a couple of times.
There was an attempt at humor also. In a barroom brawl, with goofy music playing we got a few slapstick moments and Reeves gets knocked on his ass, falling backwards, feet up in the air, only to pull off that reliable kip up to renew the fight.
Enjoyable and he might have extended his career in this genre, but for the shoulder injury. he had the right demeanor for the silent, stoic hero.
Oddly enough, the movie and trailers are on Youtube, but provide no links to embed them in the post. I get this movie not available at this time. The movie I watched was dubbed in English, but all credits, and the title, were in Italian.