Odd stuff written for the Italian showing of the series.
LIFE IS TOUGH, EH, PROVIDENCE? is a decidedly odd film in the spaghetti western genre. Genre star Tomas Milian goes against type in this western comedy. He usually plays the dark, brooding, extremely violent at times anti-hero in most films. Here he’s bounty hunter Providence, a well-known figure who works hard at his craft. He has facts and figures at his fingertips about those he pursues. He’s dressed like a dandy and looks for all the world like a cut-rate Charlie Chaplin: skinny, a bowler(which has a detachable brim made of metal and is used as a weapon), little mustache, an umbrella.
Providence travels around in a converted Wells Fargo stage pulled by four horses that are trained to respond to a dog whistle. In the course of the film we learn it has steel shutters that can be cranked up over all the windows and doors, can spew black smoke at pursuers, has an ejection seat, and can drop cans at the feet of horsemen chasing him. Not to mention trap doors on the roof and floor.
In a plot line borrowed from Sergio Leone, he turns an outlaw named Hurricane Smith(Gregg Palmer) in for the five thousand dollar reward, helps him escape, then captures him again for the reward in another state. That Hurricane Smith is an unwilling partner, at least at first, in this venture matters not to Providence. The second time he’s helped escape and tracks down Providence, we learn it wasn’t the bounty hunter that helped him get away that time and sets us to wondering who’s the third party in this little game.
The pair get involved with a remnant of the Confederate army still trying to fight the war(we learn also that grant is President at the time of the film), a beautiful saloon girl who knows Providence and is not above ripping him off, and counterfeiters.
The film is full of slapstick fights and, although at times a lot of bullets fly, no one is ever shot, another stark difference from most spaghetti westerns.
Whoever did the English dubbing slipped a lot of jokes that probably weren’t in the original Italian. A couple of examples: when Hurricane Smith catches up to Providence in one sequence, the bounty hunter is doing yoga. Smith wants to fight and Providence responds, “Peace, not violence say the yogi- Berra!” Another time when Smith is chasing Providence, who has the bag of money under an arm, tackling him, he yells, “You’re washed up, Joe Namath!”
If one likes a flat out comedy, you can’t go wrong with this one. Couldn’t find a trailer, but here is the theme song by the great Ennio Morricone:
A PISTOL FOR RINGO is a 1965 spaghetti western that starred Giuliano Gemma(billed as Montgomery Wood) in the title role. Early on, he seems a fearsome sort as people talk about him being found not guilty of murder in a trial. “Self defense!” “With Ringo, it’s always self defense!”
His nickname is Angel Face and when the four Monroe brothers, siblings of the “self defense” victim, go after him, the sheriff rushes along to stop it. Not worried about Ringo, but the four brothers.
As I said, a fearsome reputation.
When we first see Ringo, though, he’s playing hopscotch with children, a fresh faced, handsome young man. When the Monroes find him, he shoos the children away before revealing that he’s Angel Face. Of course, he gets them all just as the sheriff rides up and is arrested, held for trial. Formalities, you know.
It’s a couple of days before Christmas when a bandit gang led by Sancho and Dolores ride into town to hit the bank. Dolores’ job is to keep the sheriff distracted with a tale of murder in her family.
In the ensuing shooting as they get away, Sancho is wounded by the sheriff which slows their border run from the large posse after them. The gang grabs the first ranch they come to, a heavily fortified fortress occupied by the sheriff’s fiance, her father, and a bunch of servants, all held hostage.
Ringo strikes a deal to go in, unarmed, to rescue the hostages and the money, thirty percent. After all, Dolores has seen him locked up. Chased by the sheriff, under fire, Ringo worms his way into their confidence. He has to come up with a plan to save everyone before the army arrives in a couple of days to storm the ranch. The bank president cares for nothing but the money.
There’s a lot of maneuvering, smooth talking from Ringo, cross and double cross, with dynamite involved, to separate the hostages from the bandits. The title comes from Ringo’s desire to find a weapon to defend himself and the others. Unknown to the bandits, there is a pistol hidden in the house(all other weapons had been confiscated by Sancho) and even Ringo doesn’t know of it at first because the fiance and father aren’t sure whose side he’s really on.
A nice satisfying western with a good score by Ennio Morricone. Gemma appeared in a lot of these westerns and managed to survive their demise, still working in Italian television today at age seventy.
I’d never seen this movie before today. I first became aware of it, though, when I bought the novelization back in 1971, chiefly because of the weird title. Directed and co-written by Sergio Leone, the working title had been Once Upon A Time In The Revolution. It was intended to be the middle segment of the Once Upon A Time loose trilogy(In The West and In America the first and third).
The title came from Leone’s belief that it was a popular American catch phrase and he remained convinced of that despite the protestations of the stars James Coburn and Rod Steiger to the contrary. It’s a phrase Coburn’s character shouts whenever he’s about to blow up someone or something with dynamite.
The film has a checkered history. Released in Italy as Giu la testa(loose translation: down your head) in 1971, it was supposed to be 164 minutes. In the United States as Duck, You Sucker a 121. Various lengths have appeared and a few years ago a fully restored version under the original title was prepared from several different releases.
It bombed at the box office back then because of the title(it looked like a comedy) and bad reviews. In 1972, an edited version was re-released under the name A Fistful of Dynamite presumably to take advantage of Eastwood’s “Dollar” pictures in the States.
Set in 1910 Mexico, Rod Steiger plays Juan Miranda, an outlaw whose band is made up of family members( father, a blood thirsty ten year old, and several teens. James Coburn plays John Mallory, an ex-Irish Republican Army member(here’s an anachronism; the IRA wasn’t formed until 1913) on the lam from British authorities.
The two meet when Miranda’s band holds up a stage full of rich people who make pointed barbs about the poor thinking Miranda doesn’t understand them and Mallory happens along on his motorcycle. They end up teaming together to realize Miranda’s dream from childhood, to rob the bank of Mesa Verde.
As usual, things don’t work out as planned. Miranda becomes a reluctant hero of the revolution when all he liberates from the bank is a 150 political prisoners, the gold having long since been moved to Mexico City(I caught an error here. Mallory gives Miranda a bundle of four sticks of dynamite with a thirty second fuse to blow the safe. When they get down to the job, though, it turns into two single sticks with fuses).
As the movie moves along, the two men develop a bond during discussions. Miranda expounds on revolutions: who starts them(the intellectuals), who carries them out and dies in them(the poor), and who profits from them(the rich). Then it all starts over. Mallory, the true revolutionary, is amused by Miranda. Brief flashbacks are interspersed throughout that show the reason Mallory is on the run from the British.
It’s a violent film. War is seldom polite and Leone doesn’t shy from showing it.
I thought it was a good film and would recommend it. Ennio Morricone does the score and it’s a winner.
Here’s the trailer: