This 1967 spaghetti didn’t get an American release until 1971 as THE DIRTY OUTLAWS(alt. title THE BIG RIPOFF). It starred Andrea Giordano(billed as Chip Gorman) as Steve, an outlaw pure and simple. As the film opens, he’s being beaten around and about to be hung as a horse thief. He’s rescued by an old friend who’s posing as a preacher and has a small gun in the carved out pages of his bible.
The pair part when a Confederate troop stops them and asks the reverend to give comfort to some of their dying men. We soon see Steve at a creek splashing water on his face. Steve is the typical spaghetti hero, scraggly beard, lean build, dark hair. He’s accosted by a dying Confederate officer wanting his horse. When he collapses, he babbles, begging Steve to take his gun back to his father, a blind gunsmith who made it. The dying man’s name is Bill and Steve really has no interest until money is mentioned. He’d salted away as much of his pay as he could with his father to buy a ranch. He gives Steve directions to the town, some seenty-five miles away.
Steve gets the idea to go get the money.
He arrives to find a ghost town. We learn it was abandoned recently amid a cholera epidemic. All that’s left is the old man, Sam(Piero Lulli) and his helper Katy(Rosemary Dexter), a beautiful young woman. She’s never met Bill, but has heard many stories about him from Sam. It’s been years since Sam saw his son and Steve slips quite easily into the role, putting changes in himself off to the war. After all, he has the gun Sam made, quite recognizable to the old man by feel.
For a ghost town, it’s about to get a lot of traffic. A pair of Confederate soldiers arrive amid a heavy thunderstorm. They are there to rendezvous with a wagon carrying the payroll for their troop and swap their horses for the wagon. There’s also a band of outlaws coming that had gotten wind of the payroll wagon and wanted it. it’s led by a couple, Lucy(Dana Ghia) and Asher(Franco Giornelli). They grab the two soldiers and soon spot Steve. When they grab him, believing him with the soldiers, Lucy laughs. She knows him, having partnered with him before, and knows he’s not military.
things work out nicely for the hand-off of the payroll and one of the deliverers whispers to Steve, the officer, that plans were changed and the payroll was in the horses’ feed sack instead of the two coffins with bodies in the wagon. After the coffins are unloaded, Steve “volunteers” to get rid of the wagon and is off with the bags of cartwheels before they can get the coffins open.
Unfortunately for Steve, Asher knows the country better than him and the gang soon cuts him off, Asher shooting down his horse. They take great delight in beating him around a bit before the kill and when old Sam tries to help, the inevitable happens. Against his will, whatever decent feelings still lay in Steve comes to the fore, and he tries to help the old man. Doesn’t work. Hidden feelings aren’t just in Steve. Lucy begs Asher to let her kill her former partner and she works a con that makes them ride off after she appears to shoot Steve.
The film then becomes a revenge piece with Steve hunting down the killers, ably aided by his mysterious friend now posing as a judge. The gang is got out of the way and Asher maneuvered on a stage back to the ghost town for the final showdown.
The ending also quite surprised me.
Worth looking up. It was directed by Franco Rossetti, who also co-wrote the script. Andrea Giordano was a better actor than a lot that appeared in this genre and the supporting cast was decent as well. Quentin Tarantino, who has his own homage to the spaghetti genre out now, DJANGO UNCHAINED, rates it in his top twenty favorite spaghettis.