Matalo! (1970)

poster for Matalo

Now, this was a strange one. Cesare Canevari's Matalo! (1970) is a low-budget psychedelic western that although by no means a great film, gets high marks on style.

The film starts out with a guy named Bart (Corrado Pani) about to be hanged for a robbery. At the last minute, a gang comes in to rescue him, after which he proceeds to quickly wipe out the whole gang. He later hooks up with his old buddies, Phil and Ted, as well as Phil's beautiful redheaded girlfriend, Mary. Together, they set about to rob a stagecoach, where Bart gets shot down. The rest of them hide out in an old ghost town with the newly acquired gold

There's a lot of tension in the hideout. Someone is obviously watching them, there's a lot of sexual tension between Ted and Mary, and there's a bit of double-crossing going on. Eventually they find out that some old lady has been watching them. She's the lone inhabitant of the town, and they proceed to torment the hell out of her.

Around this time, we see some other guy in the desert lying down, exhausted, a rather unusual looking dude with a paisley jacket named Ray, (Lou Castel, who you may know from Damiano Damiani's excellent "A Bullet For the General"). Shortly hereafter, we also see a woman in the desert next to the ruins of a stagecoach. They seperately end up heading into town, where the bandits, paranoid as ever, capture and torment them as well. Ray gets tied up, beaten, and left out in the hot sun without any water, left with Ted as Phil and Mary to deliver the gold to the people who hired them to steal it. Ray was the son of a preacher and doesn't use guns, much to his disadvantage. The deal with the gold doesn't work out, so they return to town. In the meantime, Ray manages to get loose, thanks to the help of his horse that snuck back into town. The horse proceeds to beat the shit out of Ted. I'm not kidding. It's actually pretty funny, as the camera goes back and forth between the rearing horse (below), and a big, fake hoof putting the hurting on Ted.

killer horse

Beware the wrath of this horse! He's a killer. Seriously!

Then, lo and behold, it turns out Bart wasn't really dead, but in cahoots with Mary the whole time, as he suddenly appears, to get the gold from the others. A major gunfight ensues, with Mary and Phil dead at the end of it. Ray appears, and proceeds to breakout a big bag of boomerangs (?!), and finishes Ted off.

The three baddies in Matalo

Get all that? Now, I was watching some sort of German release of this film that I found on the net. I don't think it's the Wild East version that was recently released, but I'm not sure. At times, it felt like there was a missing clip or two, with some strange continuity. Ray is just introduced out of nowhere, no background story or anything, as is the woman with the stagecoach, but the way it's set up, it seems as though they forgot to put a scene or something in there. There is not a whole lot of dialogue in the film, and almost has an improvisational quality to it.

So, why am I saying you need to see this one? Because, even with all its flaws, in terms of style, it's not like any other spag I've seen so far. It has a great soundtrack by Mario Migliardi, consisting of a few pieces that sound a bit Morricone-esque (whistling and such), some late-60's/early 70's acid rock complete with fuzz guitar, and then a lot of avant-garde atmospheric sounds. There was one piece towards the beginning of the film that had some crazy-ass acoustic 12-string guitar action. Often, the soundtrack, combined with the strange camera techniques (blurs, strange angles, slo-mo) give the film the feel of a rather disturbing horror movie. The soundtrack is still out there on reprint, I'm going to pick it up.

Other random thoughts: The voice acting and the English dubbing leaves much to be desired. Claudia Gravy (who plays Mary) is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful women I've seen in the genre. I found myself almost distracted every time she was on the screen. Lou Castel's character is a bit odd... pudgy, somewhat short, and deadly with those boomerangs, not your typical spag hero.

So. all and all, pretty C-grade stuff, but worth a watch for the fact that it often plays like a late 60's psychedelic art film, but not in way that twisted and sometimes long-winded David Lynch-esque Django Kill! If You Live, Shoot! by Giulio Questi does. It's more like Easy Rider or something.

Lou Castel

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