Dead Men Don't Count (1968)

Cry For Revenge / ¿Quién grita venganza?

A little seen but well made Spaghetti Western buddy film featuring two prolific cult film stars. Recently Wild East has released a good quality DVD of this film as a double feature along with Kill and Pray.

The Plot

The film starts off with a flashback. An adulterous wife successfully plots with her lover to kill her husband. Fast forward twenty years later, the widow and the lover, Steve Rodgers, now married, are wealthy landowners who, with the help of the corrupt local Sheriff, have a bunch of hired guns on the payroll to help drive the homesteaders off the land due to the coming railroad. Two bounty hunting brothers enter the town, and the wife is convinced that Johnny, the younger of the two, is actually her long lost son, from her now dead original husband. Meanwhile, Rodgers is fearful that the son has come to enact revenge for his father's murder. Johnny forms a romance with the daughter of one of the homesteaders, while the older brother Fred, is anointed acting Sheriff to help defend the homesteaders from the hired guns. Despite Rodger's concerns, the brothers are comically oblivious to their apparent past. Overall, the film's plot manages to be typical, without being derivative. Normally you would expect Johnny to find out about his past and proceed to avenge his father by killing Steve Rodgers. But the film does not go down that predictable route and credit must be given to the scriptwriters for putting a twist on the "revenge for murdered loved ones" theme.

How the hell did you get up there?

The Players

Anthony Steffen plays the older brother Fred, while Mark Damon plays Johnny. Steffen, who is often accused of woodenness, actually plays a more animated, cheerful, and fun loving character, in contrast to his usual emotionless, stoic hero. He plays the role of world-weary advice giver to the relatively inexperienced Damon. The two have good chemistry together on screen. The cast is complemented by some familiar faces. Piero Lulli plays the corrupt Sheriff, while Luis Induni plays Steve Rodgers. Raf Baldassarre also makes a brief appearance as one of the notorious "Lassiter" brothers.

Before and After: Induni enjoyed a lucrative career as a Just for Men spokesperson.

The Movie

The film features some stylish direction and enjoyable action from Rafael Romero Marchent, a prolific Spanish director of Spaghetti Westerns who also directed Sartana Kills Them All (1971) as well as the excellent Garringo (1969). The soundtrack by Marcello Giombini (contrary to print from the Sueva DVD which dubiously credits Riz Ortolani as the composer) is catchy, and does not get repetitive. It's a rather good natured and light hearted film, filled with humorous banter between the two heroes, but is not without some of the nihilistic bleakness typical of the genre, as we see a lot of people (many of whom are innocent) get slaughtered. An amusing running gag features Steffen and Damon calling off locations of their previous triumphs when faced with a crisis, which serves as a blueprint for a plan of action to help them through their present situation.

Like Dodge City? Yep, like Dodge City.

While some of the characters come fresh from the cookie cutter, the character of the widowed wife is more complex than usual. She is not the evil, conniving witch but rather a repentant, principled and sympathetic woman, remorseful of her past murderous deed. The twenty year fast forward is hilarious though. The filmmakers "age" Luis Induni by changing his hair color from dark brown to blonde, while the wife merely gets a different hairdo!

Band of Brothers

Conclusion

While you would not find this film included in many "top ten greatest westerns" lists anytime soon, it is indeed a well made, enjoyable, and unpretentious western that never tries to be anything it's not. It offers some of the likeable clichés that fans of the genre find appealing. Fans of either Steffen or Damon might find this one worth tracking down.

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