Kill Them All and Come Back Alone (1969)

Director: Enzo G. Castellari - Cast: Chuck Connors, Frank Wolff, Franco Citti, Leo Anchoriz, Giovanni Cianfriglia (Ken Wood), Alberto Dell'Aqua - Music: Francesco di Masi

The most concise description of this movie was provided by a SWDB forum member called Reverend Danite:

Bang crash, bang wallop, biff bosh bash - wallop wallop, kap-ow ping, boof aghhh BANG!

If the (great) title didn't tell you what this film is about, the description most probably did. Don't expect too much story or characterizations here, this film is about action and action alone. Boing, oink, wallop.

It all starts with the longest pre-credits sequence in the history of the spaghetti western (yes, even longer than the pantomime of Once upon a Time in the West), a fourteen minute action sequence in which the protagonists are presented one by one: Hoagy, the gunslinger, Deker, the dynamite expert, Blade, the knife thrower, Kid, the baby faced killer, Hogard, the muscle man, and of course McKay, who has assembled them and provides the group with a brain (at least that's what we're supposed to believe). They're a squad and the action was merely an exercise, a sort of endurance test to prove their abilities. The six mercenaries are selected for a dangerous operation in war time behind enemy lines. To change the odds of the South, they must try to steal a shipment of gold from a Yankee fortress, high up in the mountains. To complicate things the gold is stored (note this detail) in the powder magazine, amongst an arsenal of dynamite. The Southern officer who masterminded the plan, tells McKay that he'll be the only one who will be rewarded for the job. In other words, Mckay is ordered to "kill them all and come back alone".

Released in 1969, Kill them all and come back alone more or less fell between two stools. Sergio Leone's Once upon a Time in the West had marked the end of the heydays in the previous year, and it would take another year before Enzo Barboni's They call me Trinity would breathe new life into the genre. With its non-stop wholesale action, the movie heralds the Trinity formula, but the action is still of a more ugly nature here, and the body count is pretty high. There's relatively little blood and most victims make pirouettes or summersaults before they pass into eternity, but there are some gruesome killings too. Overall the atmosphere is quite nasty, especially near the end, when greed and double-crossings lead to hostilities among the squad members. These men are only half a dozen, but twice as dirty as the bunch assembled by Lee Marvin in Robert Aldrich's action classic.

Director Enzo G(irolami) Castellari hardly wastes a second of the 96 minutes of running time, throwing in fisticuffs, gunfights, fist battles, gun battles, explosions (and an occasional game of arms wrestling too, a favorite pastime of the director, who used to challenge muscled actors before signing them!). The script (mainly written by Tito Carpi, who also did a lot of writing for Carnimeo's Sartana movies) has a few nice twists, but most hints at story-telling dissipate in the endless blasts and bangs, and all credibility is thrown overboard during the assault of the fortress, when the squad exterminates an entire Northern regiment without one of them getting more than a scratch or a bruise! Of course, the spaghetti western is an action genre, but all these fights and battles become a bit grueling after a while, and even some loyal fans of the genre have complained about the lack of substance.

Chuck Connors

Chuck Connors as the Rifleman

The film was no breakthrough à la Eastwood for television actor Chuck Connors. He was a former professional baseball player (Brooklyn Dodgers) and basketball player (Boston Celtics), and had become a star in the series The Rifleman. With his tall, muscular stature, shriveled face and shiny white teeth he seemed an ideal actor for the genre, but he fell ill during filming and had to be doubled in most action scenes. Frank Wolff easily steals the film from him as captain Lynch, a particularly despicable character, who not only double-crosses the mercenaries, but the armies of the Confederacy and the Union as well! Of the supporting actors the best impression is made by Cianfriglia and Dell'Aqua, both professional stuntmen before they turned to acting. They look far more at ease than Anchoriz and Pasolini actor Citti (in his second spaghetti western after Requiescant, in which he appeared alongside Pasolini himself). Hercules Cortes, a former Spanish champion in free-style wrestling, foreshadows Bud Spencer's Bambino, but his thespian talents were so limited that several of his scenes had to be rewritten on the set.

Kill them all and come back alone is a boisterous, over the top action movie, often verging on the absurd. I won't say it's great, but I watched it twice within a span of four days, and enjoyed myself very well on both occasions, so I won't say it's tedious either. Sometimes a brainless action movie is all you need. Alejandro Ulloa's cinematography is a plus, and so is Francesco de Masi's score. I'm not a fan of De Masi, and initially thought the score sounded a bit ponderous, but eventually it fitted the movie perfectly well, offering some counter- balance for Castellari's histrionics. The wonderful title became popular in Italian football stadiums and was finally adopted as a war-cry by the fans of AS Napoli.

The Wild East release of the movie presents the movie in its original aspect ratio of 2,35:1 and has of course, English audio. The source print clearly wasn't in pristine state and the transfer has not been cleaned for the occasion (at least not too meticulously). There are some scratches and hairs, and as more often is the case with older Technicolor prints, faces or blue skies can suddenly turn too green for a moment, but the anamorphic transfer is reasonably sharp and for a film of this age, it looks quite alright.

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