By 1971, the spaghetti western genre was starting a slow fade. Directors were beginning to turn a comedic slant to their films. LONG LIVE YOUR DEATH isn’t up to such as the Trinity films or Sergio Leone’s Duck, You Sucker, but it had a light-hearted approach to it’s acting. It’s set in early twentieth century Mexico as revolution was in the air. Based on the Louis B. Patten novel, The Killer from Yuma, it was directed by Duccio Tessari. Originally, Sergio Corbucci had been scheduled to direct, a follow-up to Companeros, but Nero refused to work with him, feeling he’d been slighted toward his co-star, Tomas Milan, another big name in the genre.
Nero play a Russian prince turned conman, Dmitri Vassolovitch Vladek Orlowsky. He’s posing as a man of the cloth traveling in Mexico when three men shoot up his motor car. They claim to want him to give last rites to their dying father. he protests he’s a Protestant minister, not Catholic, but they say the old man is blind and won’t know the difference. Alone with the old man, Dmitri hears a different story. They’d beat him trying to find where a fortune in gold and bills was buried. A Mexican general had hid the money and figured the old man, being blind, wouldn’t be able to find it. The peasant was smarter than that and told Dmitri the name of the village where it was hidden. But there was also a map with exact directions that had been divided between two men. A Mexican bandit named Max Lozoya(Eli Wallach) knew where to get a hold of them. The only problem was he was locked up in Yuma prison.
So off to Yuma he went.
At the same time, an Irish journalist named Mary O’Donnell(Redgrave) was paying to get a Mexican revolutionary named El Salvador out of Yuma. The warden and Sheriff Randall(Horst Janson) of the nearby town had a deal going. They split the fee and allowed the man to escape, then Randall and his posse hunted them down, killing them. There was a problem though. El Salvador had died six months before. Fortunately only a handful of people knew what he looked like and Max was to be substituted.
Here’s where something was left out. The American release had fifteen minutes cut out and that may have been the problem. Dmitri and Randall had some sort of history not gone into very much in the cut I saw. Randall kept calling him cousin and wore metal plates formed to fit his body back and front and bolted together. A back problem Dmitri was responsible for apparently and cousin wanted him dead. There was nothing Russian about Randall either.
Dmitri arrives at the prison and is seeing Max as Randall and the warden find him. he’s subjected to a bit of torture via electrical ends touched to his chest before Randall pauses to get ready to kill the escaping prisoner, promising to return and kill him. But Max turns the tables on the men releasing him, helps Dmitri escape, and amid a flurry of gunshots, explosions, Dmitri, Max, and Mary, still believing him to be El Salvador, flee on a motorcycle with a sidecar.
Then begins a series of double crosses, Mary gets dumped, lies, and misdirection, as the hunt for the gold starts. Everybody wants to find it. Dmitri and Max can’t really get rid of each other because neither knows the complete location of the gold. They also have Randall and a posse hunting them, at the agreement of the General, who’s also got a troop out looking for them.
An uneven film at best, it was funny in places I’m sure it wasn’t meant to be. A lot of slapstick seemed thrown in at odd places. Three men killed with one bullet. The site of Mary fist-fighting two guards at the same time with one taking a punch from the other as she ducks was a bit much. There were serious moments as Max finds out he led them to his mute sister, her tongue cut out when she wouldn’t tell then where her husband was hiding, and his young nephew and they were killed. he vows then to kill a Federale for every hair on her head. It’s the beginning of his turn to a real revolutionary. At least for a while.
Interesting film nonetheless. Eli Wallach didn’t like the title LONG LIVE YOUR DEATH and thought up DON”T TURN THE OTHER CHEEK, which was used in some markets in the U.S. The music wasn’t like any other spaghetti western either. Lynn Redgrave sang the theme song.
For more overlooked movies, check out Todd Mason over at Sweet Freedom.