Viva La Muerte... Tua! / Long Live Your Death
So, let's see here... Duccio Tessari, Franco Nero, Eli Wallach, Lynn Redgrave and Eduardo Fajardo - sounds like a gathering of great talent for a great spaghetti, right? In the case of Tessari's 1971 outing, Don't Turn The Other Cheek!, unfortunately, the answer is no.
Nero stars as a Russian prince-turned conman named Dimitri Vassilovich Vladek Orlowsky, who, in his travels out west, learns of some hidden gold from a dying Mexican, and that he's to seek out a man named Lozoya to find out more about it. Lazoya's in prison, and also happens to be allowed to escape, due to a crooked sheriff Randall (Horst Janson) who's been paid off by a journalist named Mary O'Donnell. She wants him to fill in for the deceased revolutionary, "El Salvador", and get the Revolution going again, so she can get her big story. He escapes with Dimitri (who knows nothing of Mary's scheme), and agree to find the gold together. Along the way, they must deal with Randall hunting them down, Mary, and General Huerta (Fajardo). Along the way, as expected, they betray each other a few times, but in the end, they get their gold and Mary, Dimitri, and Lozoya ride off jovially in a motorcycle.
Oh, where to begin, where to begin. I really did not like this movie. At all. In fact, I found myself looking at the time remaining quite often, as I couldn't wait for it to end. As you regular readers probably know, I'm no fan of the comedy westerns, to the extent that I generally avoid them in most cases. Considering the names in this one, I felt it was worth at least giving it a try, and to its credit, the comedy, although not very funny, was not that of the slapstick that characterized most of the comedy spaghettis. The SWDB forum thread gave it mixed reviews, and Sebastian over there liked it a lot, calling it "one of Tessari's finer movies", so my expectations were a bit higher for that reason as well. I'm not quite sure if this falls into the "Zapata Western" subgenre, as, although it's set during the Mexican Revolution, it's not really central to the plot, and there certainly isn't any serious political subtext as in the best Zapatas.
The plot was interesting enough, although a bit typical. As with most spags, it was derivitave in some ways - there was the pocket watch, and the "maps tatooed on asses" was done (with much more comedic effect in Margheriti's The Stranger and the Gunfighter). What killed this movie for me was the fact that two of the main characters, Mary and Dimitri, were incredibly annoying. Redgrave's character was rather intrusive, and I couldn't wait for her scenes to be over. Janson played just about the most wooden character in Sheriff Randall that I've ever seen. Wallach was decent, as usual, even though at this point, he was sort of typecast in these films ever since doing Tuco from TGTBTU. But Nero...
Now, with the exception of the original Django, I'm not a fan of Franco Nero, and yes, I know that's not a very popular opinion in spaghetti-land. I think his serious stuff, in most instances, is overacted (both in and out of the genre), and his comedic "ain't-I-just-such-a-goddamn-funny-smartass" schtick is undoubtedly one of the most annoying things I've encountered in the genre, if not all of cinema. It's what made films like The Mercenary and Deaf Smith and Johnny Ears not nearly as good as they could have been, as it's the same formula - a buddy film where Nero's a comic foil to a serious character (often played by a much better actor) that often becomes too distracting.
The music, by Gianni Ferrio often seems innappropriate for what's happening on the screen at times (sounding more like it should have been in a late 60's modern action or spy film set in England), and Jose F. Aguayo's cinematography is average. But there is a good blooper, as we see Nero and Wallach run through a field (with an unusually modern group of buildings in the background), and we see a white sports car zip by:
Now, harsh as I may seem, the film is not incompetent by any means. It's just that considering the cast and director, I expected a much better film than a rather conventional and unfunny comedy. It tries too hard to be funny. If you're a Nero fan or you like the spag comedies, there's something to like here, but otherwise, I wouldn't bother. I couldn't help but think of one of those witty taglines that film critics like to use. In this case, it'd be "Tessari should be slapped in the face for making Don't Turn The Other Cheek!"