SILVER SADDLE(or THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON in some quarters) is notable for a couple of things. By 1978, the spaghetti genre was dead and the film is acknowledged by most as the last true spaghetti western. Star Giuliano Gemma was one of the giants in this genre ever since his first film in 1965, A PISTOL FOR RINGO. Though he continued to act for another twenty years, this was his last western.
I thought I knew what direction this film would take in the opening segment when a ten year old boy and his father, farmers, arrived to get their money back from a man named Barrett. He fleeced the father out of his last money, a hundred dollars, with a fake deed to a piece of property. The father is berating one of Barrett’s gunmen when the man draws a gun and shoots him, then walks toward his horse wearing a saddle decorated heavily with silver. I was quickly disabused of my thooughts when the boy picks up his father’s shotgun and cuts down the man, then takes the horse and leaves.
As the years roll by, the man with the silver saddle(another title used for the film) builds up quite a reputation, growing up to be Roy Blood(Gemma), a feared gunfighter.
As an adult, Roy picks up a sidekick he finds robbing the dead at a stage coach slaughter. Two Strike Snake(played by veteran actor Geoffrey Lewis, though not quite so veteran here), a God fearing shiftless sort who latches on to Roy, recognizing him, and his reputation, by the fancy saddle. The stage had been hit by a Mexican gang led by Garrincha(Aldo Sanbrell), who plays a large role later in the film. Snake follows Roy around, picking over the dead he leaves in his trail.
Roy is offered a contract to kill someone by a man named Turner(Gianni De Luigi) and refuses until he learns the name is Barrett. He hides out at a cemetery where his target is supposed to arrive and is surprised when he sees a small towheaded boy emerge from the fancy coach with a vase of flowers. His surprise is cut short when a group od maksed men pop up and start shooting at both him and the boy. He reacts and gets all four, taking the boy and leaving at a run on his horse.
Roy tries to get mad when he learns the boy’s name is Thomas Barrett, Jr(Sven Valsecchi), son of the man who’d fleeced his father all those years ago and now dead, and rides away, leaving the boy a knife and a canteen of water. He returns quickly when he hears the boy yell, finding the boy had killed a snake with the knife. “”Why did you yell? he asks when the boy says he wasn’t afraid. His trainers had told him to yell to concentrate was the answer. Roy still wants to leave the boy, but Two Strike has no such compunctions and sneaks off to leave a not demanding five thousand dollars for the return of the boy. Signed with Roy’s name of course.
We’re learning that answer ourselves. Turner is the executor of the estate, the money left to the boy and his older sister, Margaret(Cinzia Monreale), and manages the fortune. He has designs on the beautiful Margaret, or maybe her fortune. There’s also an uncle on sight who’s went through his own money and is virtually broke. Maybe it was a mistake in the English dubbing, but his name is Thomas Barrett. It’s unlikely his nephew would be a junior even with the name Thomas.
A lot of action in the film, the Mexican gang, the showdown with Turner, Roy getting arrested for being in league with the bandits when they grab the boy from the monastery where he’d stashed the boy, necessitating an escape with Margaret’s help so that Roy and Two Strike could rescue the boy, unveil the last treachery, and make for a happy ending.
Directed by Lucio Fulci, it featured a cheesy theme song and very little of the normal spaghetti tropes except for the extreme violence(always loved that pistol shot sound in the spaghettis). Some sparse sets and a lot of green instead of the desert scenes in so many of the early films. Not a great western, but not bad either.
Here’s clip with Gemma’s body count set to that cheesy theme song.