7 Dollari Sul Rosso (1966)

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English Title Seven Dollars To Kill / Seven Dollars On The Red
Director Alberto Cardone
Screenplay Amedeo Mellone , Juan Cobos , Melchi Coletti
Photography Jose F. Aquayo
Music Francesco De Masi
Cast Anthony Steffen , Elisa Montes , Fernando Sancho ,
Loredana Nusciak , Gianni Manera, Jerry Wilson


Very much a companion film to director Alberto Cardonne's earlier Blood AtSundown, Seven Dollars To Kill continues Cardonne's infatuation with spaghetti Western as Freudian melodrama. The resulting film is a curious mixture of choppy plot assembly and powerful, indeed overwrought theatrics. Somehow it works, at least in part due to the efforts of a strong cast and a superb musical score byFransesco De Masi. Blood At Sundown was scored by Michela Lacarenza, best known as the trumpet player on the soundtrack of A Fistful Of Dollars. Whilst the score for Seven Dollars is De Masi's, it should be noted that Lacarenza is still involved in the music- this time providing his poignant trumpet playing  talents.Seven Dollars opens with a massacre of a family by bandit Chacel- Fernando Sancho, inevitably in standard villain mode. After shooting an Indian mother, Sancho tosses seven dollars onto the corpse so that her husband can buy a replacement; hence title. There's a child there, also, young Jerry who seems about to be gunned down with the rest, but Sancho instead takes the child with him, ordering his wife to adopt him as their own. The reason for this becomes delightfully clear. 'You cannot give me a son!', Sancho snaps. 'No woman can give you a son', his wife replies and Sancho's penchant for armaments takes on inevitable connotations. His guns don't fire blanks anyway. The husband and father is Johnny Ashley, Anthony Steffen, competent as always, as a gold prospector missing his wife and child. After arriving home to the find the carnage, Steffen buries his wife and swears to seek out his son. De Masi's music provides suitably tragic underlining; Lacarenza's trumpet a distinctive musical identity for Ashley- solo and elegiac. What follows is, at first, a standard revenge storyline. Ashley follows repeated false trails, always missing Sancho's gang and his lost son. It becomes clear that this quest will run and run, consuming Steffen's life. Cardonne's direction is at it's most untidy at this point, unfortunately. Time passing is shown choppily. Not until Steffen finally rides away from a deserted cabin having again missed Sancho and the camera pans skywards accompanied by another musical climax do we realise with any certainly that the following scenes will be later; ten years later, indeed with a greying Steffen and young Jerry know an adult Jerry Wilson. From here on, Cardonne's direction shows a more certain touch. Young Jerry is now very much part of Sancho's gang; a thoroughly unpleasant psychotic first seen murdering an innkeeper over the availability of his daughter. De Masi provides a suitable identity for this chip off the wrong block- a harsh electric guitar theme for a harsh man. Wilson and Sancho are planning a robbery at the bank of Wishville, home of hotelier (and the rest), Loredena Nusciak and her kid sister Elise Montes. Nusciak, it turns out is an old flame of Steffen, fighting a losing battle to persuade him to give up his continuing quest for his lost son. Coincidentally, both Wilson and Steffen are now bound for Wishville and, inevitably they meet; Wilson saving Steffen's life without either man having an inkling as to their real relationship. Whilst Nusciak attempts to settle Steffon down (again), Montes takes off with the man of her dreams- Wilson, unfortunately. Nusciak doesn't approve so, naturally the relationship blooms, or seems to until Montes finally discovers the truth; Wilson has been using her as an excuse to check out Wishville. When she's caught overhearing this, Wilson shoots her just like his old dad (he believes) suggests. All isn't lost however, as, dying, Montes staggers into town to warn the people and tell Nusciak she was right after all. In the films rousing last twenty minutes, Cardonne lets rip with an effectively staged ambush sequence as the people of Wishville tear Sancho's gang apart until only the boss is left standing. Unaware of his particular role in his life, Steffen assaults Sancho with fists and then meathooks. Vengeance is complete, but Steffen doesn't know it. Instead we get a gloriously twisted psychological finale. Wilson believes Sancho was his father and seeks out Steffen. Just as Steffen is about to deal with the matter however, Sancho's wife reveals the truth to him; Wilson was bought back from a raid. His full name is on an insurance policy in the name of..... whoops. There's a term in drama known as pathetic fallacy. Simply put it means nature providing a suitable background to events; appropriately placed storms during climaxes. Cardonne loves pathetic fallacies and here provides us with an elemental downpour. Rain gushes into the mud as Steffen finds himself facing his own son avenging the death of the man who killed his real mother amongst others. You see what I mean about Freudian? Of course Steffen can't shoot Wilson. When Sancho's wife tries to tell the latter the truth- Sancho isn't his father- he shoots her. With Wishville's streets now turning into a swamp, Steffen simply advances on Wilson refusing to draw. The men meet in a muddy scuffle, Steffen pleading with Wilson to get out of town. Instead Wilson tries to knife his real father, but kills himself by mistake. Lacarenza's trumpet rises, the Alessandroni choir cuts in as Steffen cradles the dying man. "My son....."Try it if you can track down a copy. Cardonne may not be the greatest Spaghetti Western director ever and this is, as I say an uncertain film, at first. But it improves, and the finale encapsulates that very special baroque, very Italian, fatalism that is so distinctive of the spaghetti Western.
TOM SELDON elpuro@msn.com

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Friday, 16-Jan-98 01:27:00