No Room To Die (1969)

Una Lunga fila di croci / A Noose for Django

Director Sergio Garrone has directed several spaghettis, most notably the love-it-or-hate-it Django the Bastard. His 1969 outing, No Room to Die, is a somewhat average affair, starring genre regulars William Berger and Anthony Steffen.

The film starts off with a group of baddies who are smuggling some Mexicans across the border to be used as cheap labor (amazing how some things never change, huh?). When they are about to be discovered, they shove all of the wagons off of a cliff, killing all of the Mexicans. The group is led by a man named Santana.

Enter Steffen's character, a bounty hunter named Johnny Brandon, who gets Santana, and collects the bounty. He eventually crosses paths with Berger's "Preacherman" Murdock, another bounty hunter who weilds what looks like a seven-barreled shotgun (but in actuality, behaves more like a rifle, as he often dispenses with adveraries from a distance that a shotgun probably wouldn't). In typical spaghetti fashion, his gun has an endless supply of ammo that never needs reloading. Murdock and Brandon decide to team up to go round up and collect bounties on Fargo's gang, Fargo being one of those typical rich town bosses that we often see in these films. He's also the head of the Mexican smuggling ring, and is played by the director's brother, Riccardo Garrone.

I've seen corpses that are more animated thatn Steffen is in this film.

I've seen corpses that are more animated than Steffen is in this picture.

Wiliam Berger as "Preacherman" Murdock

Wiliam Berger as "Preacherman" Murdock

There's also a subplot involving Fargo's woman, Maya, played by one of the most (if not the most beautiful woman to ever grace the genre) Nicoletta Machiavelli, and she is used as the foil as all hell breaks loose later in the film and she is kidnapped. Mario Brega also has a small, somewhat lighthearted role, a welcome departure from the baddie roles we're accustomed to seeing him in.

Nicoletta Machiavelli can point a gun at me any time.

Nicoletta Machiavelli can point a gun at me any time.

There's the usual double-crosses and broken alliances, all culminating in a three-way shootout between Fargo, Murdock, and Brandon, with only one remaining standing...

I'm sort of light on plot details on this one, as the plot itself was totally unremarkable. At the end of the film, a certain character gives the money to Maya, simply saying, "You know what it's for." I certainly didn't. Now, I'm breaking rank with some of my other buddies on the SWDB, who gave this film a decent review (you can read Len's review on this site, here). I found it somewhat mediocre, in terms of the pacing; that's not to say there isn't plenty of action, as there most certainly is. The plot itself just isn't a very interesting one, and although Garrone's Fargo character is acted well, Berger and Steffen's performances were not up to par. Steffen, who has often been criticized for his wooden acting (not always true, as he showed a diverse range in A Man Called Apocalypse Joe, and other films), is about as animated as a department store mannequin in this film. We're all familiar with the genre archetype of the main character of few words - Steffen takes it a bit too far, as it sometimes seems he's almost daydreaming about something else or he's catatonic. I also find that William Berger's best roles often occur when he's teamed up with a dynamic cohort or adversary in a film such as Garko or Van Cleef. His acting dynamics tend to shine in those interactions with that cohort, as he plays off of the chemistry very well. Considering that Steffen is about as emotive as a a wooden plank in this film, it doesn't give Berger much to play off of, and at times, he seems very detached from his role, as well.

The one saving grace for me for the film was the cinmatography. If you're familiar with Garrone's work, you probably know he likes to make the most of the camera, and he does here, as well. In addition to the unusual framings and angles, there's a good deal of dolly shots and crane shots that look very nice, with the help of cinematographers Franco Villa and Aristide Massaccesi. The soundtrack by Vasco and Mancuso is a typical generic spaghetti soundtrack, not awful, but doesn't really add anything good to the film, either.

All and all, this isn't a terible film by any means. It's much better than Garrone's awful Vendetta at Dawn, but it lacks the unique style of Django the Bastard. With a more interesting plot and a more animated, engaging performace in the Brandon character, it could have been a very good film. Instead, it's a watchable but forgettable one.

The Italian trailer:

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