Il Ritorno di Ringo
I had some high expectations for Duccio Tessari's The Return of Ringo, for many reasons. First, I've heard many good things about the film, including how many have said it was better than Tessari's original A Pistol For Ringo, also starring Giuliano Gemma. Second, I'm a big Giuliano Gemma fan, as he can even make a mediocre film watchable due to his many talents, and lastly, the two previous movies I watched before this were truly awful films by Demofilo Fidani and Roberto Mauri, so I was long overdue for a good, even great, spaghetti western. This film did not disappoint me, folks.
Giuliano Gemma once again stars as Ringo, in a loose retelling of the classic Greek epic Odyssey, with Ringo assuming the Ulysses role. He stars as Captain Montgomery "Ringo" Brown, who has returned from the Civil War, only to find that his town of Membres has been overrun by the Mexican Fuentes gang, led by Esteban (Fernando Sancho) and Paco (George Martin) Fuentes. To his horror, he also finds that his wife, Hallie, has been taken by Paco with the intent to marry her.
Ringo goes undercover as a mestizo, and goes into town, where he works for an eccentric florist. Through this, he is able to find out more about the gang, and he also finds out that he has a daughter. When the Fuentes gang fakes Ringo's funeral so Paco can finally marry Hallie, it's the last straw for Ringo, and he plots his revenge.
Ringo is eventually able to rally some of the townspeople and his friends and they pretty much wipe out the Fuentes gang, and he is reunited for good with his wife and daughter.
Now, this is indeed the only official sequel to the original Ringo film, but other than having essentially the same cast (Gemma, Sancho, Navarro, Martin, etc) and having the main character named "Ringo", there is no continuity with the other film. The Ringo of the original was more or less a bounty hunter whose father fought in the war; this one was in the war. So it's a pretty good assumption that these are two different Ringos.
But more than anything, what sets this one apart from the first film is Gemma's performance. It is dead-on intense and serious, a departure from the first film's Ringo, who was a wisecracking, boyish (but still deadly) character. And also, Gemma's portrayal is really quite different from that seen in the other 6 or so films I've seen of his. In all of them (such as Arizona Colt and And For A Roof, A Sky Full of Stars), Gemma usually plays variations on the boyish, athletic ,"aw-shucks" kind of guy, who's still lightning fast with a gun. In this film, there's really none of that. From the moment he finds out the fate of his town and wife, he's pretty intense and focused, nothing relaxed at all. He seems pretty dangerous from the get-go. I have to say it's the best performance I've seen from him, so far.
The rest of the cast is excellent as well. George Martin's Paco character, a rather wily, evil man, is a complete turnaround from the squeaky clean sheriff he portrayed in the original Ringo film. And Fernando Sancho plays a rutheless, evil bastard as usual, although this time he's a rather classy one, as opposed to the greasy bandito we usually see him play. And Nieves Navarro is a pleasure to behold, as Rosita, the prostitute who takes care of Esteban but has a soft spot for Ringo. There is really no cheese factor at all in this film; even the few moments of romance or light humor are done tastefully, and integrate really well into the film.
This is an early film, but like the first one, there's no shortage of violence. There's even a scene where the Fuentes gang murders a funeral procession and then shoots the corpses of the men they've just killed a few times, too. Ouch. Tessari is truly a master of directing action sequences, and the several fight scenes in the film work really well, in part because when he films a fight scene (with the exceptional camera work of Francisco Marín), instead of having the camera more or less stay in one or two spots, he follows every move of the fight with the camera. It follows the punch, then jerks back as someone is kicked in the stomach, only to quickly lurch forward as a punch is landed on the jaw, giving the fights a rather frantic and hyperviolent feel to them, which works really well. I almost found myself bobbing and weaving to avoid the punches a few times.. And action aside, there was a shot in this film that is one of the most beautiful I've ever seen in a spaghetti western, as Ringo is watching the Fuentes brothers harass some funeral goers in the church:
Ringo sits there, somewhat peacefully, watching the scene with a rather enigmatic expression on his face... is he plotting his revenge? Taking comfort in God? It almost seems peaceful with the candles and religious statue in the foreground. I had to pause the film and take this in, it was really moving in a strange kind of way. There is also an exceptional soundtrack by the Maestro himself, Ennio Morricone, used to great effect throughout the film.
I watched the Japanese SPO release which looked and sounded good, in both the Italian and English language tracks. The English overdub acting was truly exceptional, especially the actor that voiced Gemma. I'd have to put this one on my "not to be missed" list. It was undoubtedly one of Gemma's best, and I'd venture to say it was better than the original, too. I highly recommend it without reservation.
The U.S. Trailer: