Un Treno per Durango
In Mario Caino's 1967 release, Train for Durango, two adventurers, Gringo (Anthony Steffen)and Luca (Enrico Maria Salerno), are down on their luck after a job in Guatemala goes sour and Gringo is wounded in the ass. They board the train for Durango in Mexico during the height of the Mexican Revolution. The train is robbed by Mexican bandits. The safe is stolen, a French madame is kidnapped, and everyone is killed except Luca and Gringo who find the keys to the safe. They take off on an adventure to steal the safe, free the madame, and battle it out with Mexican bandido, and meet and are aided by a mysterious American and his arsenal of weaponry.
Spaghetti Westerns have always intrigued me for their strong style. And if the style is minimal, then at least they are fun to watch. But this one is one of the most fun and one of the funniest I've seen (a relative statement, of course). The film is also a curiosit,. mainly for Steffen's surprisingly convincing comedic role. But the film is very..... simple. It does not over complicate itself and the plot is easy to follow but not in the least overly simplistic. It is what it is, and doesn't try to be anything else. It is different than most Steffen films because, as I said, he plays a comedic role, as opposed to the quiet tough guy, he's smart ass con man who has a very rough run of it. Steffen is partnered with Enrico Maria Salerno. No matter how different these two are, they play very well together. Most of the comedy obviously come from their various misfortunes along the way.
When we first meet them, they are retreating from a scam gone bad in Guatemala. Gringo's been shot in the ass, and, of course. this makes riding very tough. A lot of the comedy involves these two trying to survive in Mexico. They are scammed by peon informats, buried up to their necks in the dirt, beaten, and go through many near-death experiences. But it's all for laughs. The films is a comedy but it pre-dates the era of Trinity rip offs- there are no extended brawls. In fact, I can't even remember one brawl! Thank God! It's just for fun. The type of humor this film contains is mostly situational humor, as opposed to the slapstick so prevalent in the later comedy western era. Steffen and Salerno get into a lot of trouble and end up in some pretty hairy situations. It is not the comedy of the 70's with fistfights, slaps, or any other unfunny physical humor. And for a comedy, it is rather funny at times. Not as funny as Giulio Petroni's Life Is Tough, Eh Providence? but still funny.
Mario Caiano's direction is top notch. He paces the film very well with the proper amount of humor in between. Many scenes are very impressively staged, such as the horse torture scene with our 2 heroes buried up to their necks in the dirt with Jose Bodalo's horsemen riding just past them several times. Add a machine gun in and it is a great scene. And most of the film consists of these great set pieces, all very very well directed. The cast is great as well, with many familiar faces. Anthony Steffen is very good in his role, showing range I didn't know that he had. Enrico Maria Salerno is great too,.the actor has a knack for comedy, and was the funnier of the two. Genre regular Mark Damon plays the suave American. He is good in his role but it is hard to like Damon. His character is treacherous and Damon even makes the absurd claim that it was he who single handedly taught Steffen how to play a comedy role, even stating he was proud of him after he pulled it off... yeah, well. Argentinian Jose Bodalo and Spaniard Roberto Camardiel play the two bandit leaders,both equally over the top. Dominique Boschero plays the beautiful French woman. That's all she needs to do. The music by Carlo Rustichelli is great. A vibrant Mexican piece serves as the film's man theme and not only fits the film well, but is very catchy. These Zapata westerns always have good scores. The Spanish sound they have is always pleasing to my ears, as is the soundtrack to this one, very lively..
It's a good comedy spaghetti with lots of fun to be had, with great action, acting, and directing.... Just a good, fun spaghetti western that is highly recommended to any fan. And if you don't llike comedies, take a look at least to see Steffen as an actor.
Reviewed DVD: If I hadn't watched this film on the great Koch Media label, then what business do I have writing this review? None. That's why I viewed on Koch. As always, Koch delievers the goods, with near perfect quality picture and great sound. The film's humor may fall flat sometimes because it is only available in German and Italian, but with Englsih subs, so Germans and Italains may get the jokes better than I did. The extras are what we come to expect from Koch: two thorough interviews. One is with Mario Caiano, detailing the making of Train for Durango and his other westerns. The other is centered on Mark Damon's career in European cinema. This guy seems really arogant. It is widely accepted that it was Richard Harrison who recommended Clint Eastwood to Sergio Leone, but Damon wants to complicate things by claiming it was he. The other extras include the films trailer and a gallery of lobby cards and posters. It's a brilliant release.