I was surprised as I watched A HOLE IN THE HEAD. Expecting a routine western, the plot wasn’t even new back then, I got a film played out well. That old plot is a fortune in hidden gold, 100,000 gold pesos, hidden during Santa Ana’s reign over Mexico. Three men, Murietta, Monguja, and Garrincha, had deserted from the Mexican army and taken the gold with them, hiding it. Each had a playing card, a King, with part of the directions to find it. It was an annoying plot hole in an otherwise good film. Why would the three need all the cards if they had hidden the gold themselves. I get the feeling the English dubbed version departed from the original Italian wildly. Perhaps in the origianl, the three weren’t the original thieves, but had acquired the cards in some other manner.
Our hero Bill Blood(Anthony Ghidra) arrives at the monastery to meet with Murietta. While dining with the priests, his meeting arrived, wounded and dying. Blood finds a clue, one of the playing cards on the body, and dispatches four men sent to finish Murietta off and get the card.
One thing I noticed in the film was the director’s lack of long shots of people riding horses. They are there, but short clips highlighting the countryside mostly. Wat to many spaghettis spend endless amounts of screen time showing people getting from one spot to another, filler to expand film length.
Blood seeks out a meeting with the self-styled General Monguja(Robert Hundar), a bandit really, who has one third of the directions. Blood allows himself to be captured, escapes after stealing the second card, gets captured again, where Monguja has acquired the third card, escapes with the help of two women he helped earlier, though his hat with the two thirds of directions is left behind.
It sets up the finale, back at the monastery, though how Blood knows to go there is not explained, and a showdown between Blood, Monguja, and the third card holder, Garrincher shows up just as he’d planned. letting Monguja “find” his card.
Scripts writing was never a long suit for spaghetti westerns. Routine here, what saves it is the direction of Giuseppe Vari, the music of Roberto Pregadio, and the acting style of star Ghidra. Vari stages his scenes very well, never long or boring.
Spaghetti westerns were noted for the music as much as anything(think Morricone, the best, but there were other good ones as well). Pregadio uses strong acoustic classical guitar work by Mario Gangi which dominates the score, accompanied occasionally by orchestral work, which set a laid back tone for most of the film.
Ghidra’s pained facial expressions, and little dialogue, keep us wondering about his motivations. He helps three women early in the film and two of them help him escape(the third had already been drowned in a large bowl of wine to the amusement of Monguja and his band). Wandering away from the camp on foot with no water or provisions, they encounter two men on a wagon, one riding alongside on horseback, and Blood braces them, killing both and taking the horse, giving the women the wagon. Seems pretty cold on the surface for a hero to kill two innocent men to get the wagon and horses. Again I wonder if the English dubbing is the culprit here.
Blood has one characteristic they go to great lengths to showcase. Early in the film, one priest asks him if his right arm is hurt as he is devouring his meal with his left while the right arm hangs limply by his side. He says he saves it for only one thing. Even riding a horse, the right arm hangs stiffly by his gun, actually looking awkward at times. The title comes from his ability, no matter how frantic the battle, to put a bullet in the forehead of all his shooting victims. Really impossible, but that’s part of the charm of the spaghetti western.
All in all, I liked this one a lot. The clip below is the German one I believe. Sounds like it anyway.