A BULLET FOR A STRANGER seemed to have several names in U.S. releases. Also included were just Bullet For A Stranger, His Pistols Smoked…They Call Him Cemetery, and They Call Him Cemetery. Screenwriter Enzo Barboni passed on the directorial offer for this one because he thought it was to serious. He’d just had success with the Trinity pictures and didn’t think audiences would buy him as a serious director. Funny in itself as this movie was about half comedy, half serious spaghetti western action.
John and George McIntire(British actors Chris Chittell and John Fordyce respectively) are two brothers returning from the East to visit their father at their ranch. When the boys were very young, their mother had died and they were sent east to live with family and get an education. Father was expecting two strapping young men ready to take over the reins of the ranch. he had to use crutches to get around these days. he didn’t quite get what he expected.
On the stage ride, the two boys are appalled by all the guns they see on men, a baby using a bullet for a pacifier, and a little old lady that demonstrates her own prowess with a six shooter by blasting one branch off a cactus, then shooting each node off it while in the air. They both seem prissy and definitely naive. They are picked up in town by two of their father’s men, Sancho(Ugo Fangareggi) and Chico(Raimondo Penne), who would prove to be the comic foils laid against the boys’ naivete.
At the ranch, the boys learn quickly that ranchers in the area are being extorted by a gang called The Collectors, who offer the old protection racket for cash. Here the boys prove they have some training as they use their fists to kick the particular collector out and dare him to return.
They have a guardian angel that seems to be watching over them. The ever striking Gianni Garko brings his style from the Sartana pictures, cool and unflappable even when bullets strike menacingly around his feet. He’s fast with a gun, has a four shot derringer up one sleeve. The only thing I didn’t like was they gave away his motive for watching over the boys early in the picture when their father was telling the a story about some of the plots in the family cemetery. Oh, they didn’t say “Here’s why he’s doing it,” but it was obvious. He’s addressed as the Ace of Hearts throughout the picture, though the IMDb credits list him as The Stranger(Camposanto).
William Berger, another spaghetti veteran, is Duke, a professional gunman and a friend of Ace. He’s been hired by the Collectors to take out the boys when they start making trouble for them. They are trying to organize the ranchers to work against the extortion racket. Only one rancher had ever stood up to them, burying the collector that tried to shake them down, and he wanted nothing to do with any other rancher. He hadn’t been bothered while the other ranchers kept paying up. Until the boys started agitating.
As I said earlier, Enzo Barboni thought the script to serious. It has the requisite barroom brawl(two of them actually(, with the acrobatics and slapstick comedy one usually sees in them. When the boys and their two comic foils get into a stream to bathe, the two Mexicans keep their sombreros on.
The Ace of Hearts eventually starts tutoring the four in the use of guns, the brothers learning fast. The pair of Mexicans aren’t very good with firearms, but quite adept with knives, throwing and using them.
The leader of the Collectors was a surprise. Twice I thought I had him and was wrong on both counts.
The music score by Bruno Nicolai was quite good. The clip below has the haunting theme song, effective in several scenes of different moods.
The trailer is not in English, but shows the action quite nicely. Spaghettis were always short on dialogue anyway.