We get our first look at him riding through a canyon. A man lays in ambush for him. At the shot, he rolls off his horse and plays dead. In a departure from how too many of these things go, the man doesn’t take the bait and rides off. Ryan gets up, grins, and dusts off.
Next we see men saluting gold. Sort of. The new mayor of the small town is named Gold(Daniele Vargas). Everyone is saluting his honesty, integrity, and fawning over him such that the viewer knows instantly the man has to be a crook. They are about to appoint a new sheriff, tired of waiting for Judge Giudice Anderson(Carlo Hinterman) to do so. Thirty days had gone by. The man proposed is Frank Lloyd(French actor Serge Marquand), one of the men touting Mayor Gold. Only one man protests, Billy Baker(Benito Stefanelli), claiming Lloyd was a criminal. He’s beat up and tossed out of the door.
Only to land at the feet of Gary Ryan, who’d just arrived in town. Ryan is the new sheriff appointed by the Judge and takes his job. Unknow to everybody, he’s not just the Sheriff of the town. The judge and he are investigating a rustling gang working the area.
His first assignment is to accompany a shipment of gold being transferred to another town. He has a driver, a young bank executive, and three guards to go with him. We see Lloyd telling some gunman to hijack the gold, the band will get a third, and be sure and kill Ryan.
They arrive safely at the halfway point, a small weigh station, and learn it’s just been held up by three Mexican bandits, part of a large gang, killing one of the patrons. About the same time, a man rushes in to tell of a large band of Mexicans and they happened to be on the trail Ryan is supposed to head. His three guards bow out, not what they’d signed up for. An offer of a hundred dollars gets only one taker: a gambler named Martin Heywood(Germain Cobos), now broke since the bandits had robbed him.
We get a long, running battle where they mow down a lot of the bandits, taking out others with bundles of dynamite, then throw out a drag to stir up more dust, finally when they hit a canyon, pull a pin that drops he back of the wagon off, with a large quantity of dynamite that takes out the rest of the gang.
Naturally he’s a hero now, which grinds the villains, and sets Ryan up for the frame-up. They get a drunk to go into the hotel and pick a fight. He’s unarmed of course. Lloyd is hiding outside a window around back and kills the man as Ryan spins and takes a shot at him. The hotel owner, Cheryl(Gia Sandri), is primed to swear she saw Ryan kill and unarmed man and he’s arrested, saved from lynching by the Judge, who knows he’s innocent, but the evidence is stacked against his man.
He gets broken out of jail by Billy Baker, who pretends to be drunk, and smuggles a gun into the jail. He’s shot in the escape, though he gives Ryan his first clue to begin unraveling the plot against him and also the rustling he’s checking into.
We now get to the meat of the film as he begins his long trek, taking up months(snow is in a lot of the later scenes). He’s looking for a man named Jeremiah Prescott(Furio Meniconi), a man with some information that might be useful. The trail leads him to Baker’s sister-in-law, Evelyn(Teresa Gimpera), who’s husband had been murdered by the rustlers. She sends him to Padre Carmelo(spaghetti vet Nellio Pazzafini playing against type: mostly he played thugs). Even here, he’s not quite the squeaky clean holy man. He wears a gun belt under his robes and passes Ryan a hand gun, not to mention a horse. He tells how to find Prescott.
Along the way, he runs into his gambler friend Heywood again, who’s seen the wanted posters out on him. $5,000. He signs on to help Ryan and heads into the little town where he begins a courtship of the witness against Ryan.
Prescott, it turns out, had designed a branding iron for Gold’s stock, utilizing all the brands of the neighbor ranches, and making such for each that laying the partials over the stolen cattle’s brands, it looked like Gold’s. Now all he had to do was find them, get them to Anderson, all without getting captured or killed. Not an easy task.
I liked this one, a spaghetti slightly different from most of them, more of a traditional western. There’s violence and shooting, though far less than usual, more of a detective story as Ryan traces down each clue, puts them all together, and clears his name.
In preparing this post, I learned one sad thing. Gemma passed away on October 1st. He was seventy-five.
Another oddity with this picture. It was the only spaghetti western that had an English title in Italy.