They Call Him Cemetery (1971)

Gli fumavano le Colt... lo chiamavano Camposanto

poster for They Call Him Cemetery

Giuliano Carnimeo's They Call Him Cemetery is an enjoyable film with a rather impressive roster, both behind and in front of the camera. Carnimeo, also known as Anthony Ascott, gave us the famous original Sartana films. There's also a screenplay by Enzo Barboni (They Call Me Trinity), music by Bruno Nicolai (who, if you're reading this, should need no introduction), and cinematographer Stelvio Massi, with over 15 spags such as Price of Power under his belt. And the stars are the very well known Gianni Garko and William Berger.

That Garko stare that means that death is imminent if you don't get out of the way

That "Garko stare" that can mean only one thing: death is imminent if you don't get out of the way

The plot involves the McIntire brothers(Christopher Chittel and John Fordyce), two easterners who come to visit their father's ranch, only to find that he and other ranchers in the are being harassed and extorted by a local gang of thugs. The brothers are somewhat naive, refusing to use guns and believing they can somehow drive the thugs away by peaceful means.

The McIntire brothers

Meanwhile, whenever the brothers get in trouble, or a near-death situation, Garko's character, known in this film as The Stranger, Camposanto, and Cemetery, seems to show up just in time to save the brothers from peril. We later learn that he has been hired to watch over them. We also soon find out that Berger's character, named Duke, has been hired to kill them. The problem is, Duke seems to have a rather friendly history with The Stranger, complicating matters quite a bit. The Stranger teaches the brothers how to shoot, who, after begrudgingly accepting the law of the west, get their own guns. -

William Berger as Duke

William Berger as Duke

Eventually, the band of thugs (who we later realize was hired by one of the ranchers) move to get rid of the brothers in a final showdown, and the Stranger is there to help them out. He finally ends up in a duel with his old friend Duke.

Garko's got a gun

I enjoyed this film, which was the Koch Media release, Italian with English subs. They did a great restoration with the picture and the sound. The aforementioned talent combined to make it a pretty entertaining film. Like many, not a deep "message" film or anything, just a good, conventional genre piece. Berger plays it a little more serious than the "cool hipster" thing that we're used to, but I also wonder if some of that had to do with it not being his own voice. Garko ruled in this picture. I remember the first Sartana picture, which was the first film I saw of his, and being blown away by the guy's screen presence. It doesn't always work in every film (like 10,000 per Massacre), but when he's on, he just steals your attention, especially with that patented Garko stare that would make you piss your pants were he standing in front of you.

Garko stares again

Not too much to complain about in this film. The McIntire brothers, who look like they just stepped out of a 1970's teen drama, play the innocent "fish out of water thing" perilously close to annoying at times, but it's okay. The only other thing was there were two barroom fight scenes that were really cliched and contrived. You know the kind, it's as though the director yelled, "Ok, everybody, brawl!" and instantly everyone's fighting it out. They didn't seem very real and went on a bit too long. But other than that, pretty good.

The highlights were Garko at the top of his game, as well as Massi's camerawork. Not a moment goes by in the film where there's not some great shot framed out. One of my favorites was at the duel at the end. It takes place in some very European-looking ruins, undoubtedly on a hill in Italy somewhere, but the scene is shot beautifully:

Duke and Cemetery in the Showdown

All in all, a pretty well-executed film, and definitely worth a watch.

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