Tell me if this plot sounds familiar. A mysterious poncho clad, cigar smoking stranger worms his way into a band of outlaws on the trail of a fortune in buried Confederate gold. Sergio Leone’s films are not the only ones “borrowed” from in this 1967 spaghetti western. There are seven men on the hunt for the gold. All that said, this was a better than average movie. Lots of action, a high body count, and a plot twist or two along the way. Although the main one I saw coming long before it was revealed.
Edd Byrnes(better known of course as Kookie from 77 Sunset strip) is Stuart, the Eastwood clone. He’s a bit to clean as a hero for this genre film. Clean shaven throughout, after one fist fight, not a hair was out of place on that well known head.
The outlaw leader is Col. Thomas Blake(Guy Madison, old Wild Bill himself), a Confederate officer still fighting the two years past war. He uses it as an excuse to loot, burn, kill, and take women. Most of it done to Southerners. At times he comes off like a gentleman, drinking wine hauled around with him, polite, nice to all. Other times, he seems fanatical about his Southern roots.
The film has restored footage cut from the English speaking release, therefor not dubbed from the original Italian, sprinkled throughout the film. it doesn’t hinder one’s understanding of what’s happening. One is a comical bit where a roly poly companion of Stuart’s who gets bumped into a tub of water, fully clothed, and is immediately fawned over by the hotel proprietress, her intentions obvious.
Another group is at the beginning when Col. Blake’s men, at least the seven that comprise the group going for the gold, are introduced, scenes of looting and killing by each, followed by a reward poster. Six men, five thousand for Blake and one thousand for each of the others. There would be a few men talking in Italian around each of the posters. Not really necessary to advance the plot.
Stuart saves one of Blake’s men from a firing squad by a bit of a con job. Chamaco Gonzales(Ennio Giralomi, billed as Thomas Moore) is the fellow and, at first glance, he resembles a mid-twenties Lee Van Cleef. I think it’s the cheesy mustache.
That’s his in to the gang. They use a bit of subterfuge to slip across the border into Mexico where the gang headquarters id located.
The story had been floating around since the war had ended. A General Beauregard of the Confederate army had buried a strong box with two hundred thousand in gold coins. No one knew where it was buried. To keep from getting killed, Stuart reveals he was Beauregard’s chief of staff and had made the arrangements to hide the box. The men who’d did the actual burying, along with Beauregard, had been killed in a battle before the war ended. He wore an engraved medallion around his neck given to him by the dead General. He simply needed help to get at the gold and distribute it Southerners who’d lost everything in the war.
He appealed to Blake’s vanity about the South, but all along we see that he might not be the outlaw he seems. A few facial gestures in some of the killing and he stops the “tickle” torture of a captured Union soldier, getting him into a fist fight with one of the seven.
We are kept wondering what his real motivation is all through the picture, especially when the woman, Manuela(Luisa Baratto. billed as Louise Barrett), shows up, shooting at them when she sees the Union uniform on the prisoner. A good Southern belle, she takes them to her ranch near Durango where Stuart has finally revealed that much about the buried gold. Somewhere near Durango, he won’t narrow it any further for the moment.
The big finale, in the middle of a series of caves where the Comanche buries their fallen(not sure how accurate that ideas might be) is well staged and we get the real reason for Stuart getting them there.
Enjoyable western. PAYMENT IN BLOOD also received releases under the titles Blake’s Marauders and Renegade Riders. It was directed by Enzo G. Castellari(billed as E. G. Rowland), his first official director credit. There was a previous co-direction in which he received none. He went on to a distinguished career directing all sorts of Italian films, The one I’ve seen, KEOMA starred Franco Nero, and is a favorite spaghetti western of mine.