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God's Gun / A Town Called Hell Slim Case
Gun: Priest turned vigilante Father John hunts down a gang of criminals, led by Sam Clayton, who killed a man in local bar.
Hell: A group of Mexican revolutionaries murders a town priest and a number of his Christian followers. Ten years later, a widow arrives in town intent to take revenge from her husband's killers.
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As of this notation (10-21-08):
- First, Walmart sells it for 99 cents.
- Second, whoever sells it will never sell out based on quality. This is not a doudle-sided disc nor is it a dual-layer disc. It's a 4.7 GB DVD transfer with two 90 min plus movies back to back (meaning compression so horrible...).
- Third, the phrase "spaghetti westerns" is the category these fit under, but the worst I've ever sat through in my life.
The people involved (talent and staff) must have really been in need of a payday.
Released in 1976-77, "God's Gun" is a Matzo Ball Western about a preacher (Lee Van Cleef) who chases down a band of outlaws (led by Jack Palance) to apprehend a murderer. After the thugs get revenge the preacher's spiritual son (Leif Garrett) teams-up with the one person who can set things aright. Sybil Danning co-stars as a saloon girl and Richard Boone has a minor role.
This Hebraic Western is stylized with a Spaghetti flavor, but is badly executed. I could never get a grip on the tone the filmmakers were shooting for. Is it semi-camp? Semi-parody? It's obviously not something to take too seriously, but sometimes the viewer's evidently supposed to. Since you can't take the story seriously it prevents you from caring about the events of the story and thus it's boring.
Thankfully, there are some highlights. For one, it was shot in Israel, which is unique for a Western. Secondly, there are a few stunning women, including Sybil Danning when she was around 23 and an uncredited saloon babe named Jessie. Thirdly, it's got Jack Palance and Lee Van Cleef; two Western icons. And, fourthly, Leif Garrett is surprisingly good at around 13 years-old.
But the confused tone and relative dullness do it in.
The film runs 94 minutes.
GRADE: Borderline D+/C- (3.5/10 Stars)
A TOWN CALLED HELL
Released in 1971 and directed by Robert Parrish, “A Town Called Hell” (originally titled “A Town Called Bastard”) is a Euro Western about a Mexican town in 1915, which is more of a stone fortress than a conventional Western town, where everyone is seeking a man called Aguila, a mysterious revolutionary who massacred members of the town a decade earlier. Robert Shaw stars as the priest, Martin Landau as a brutal Mexican colonel, Stella Stevens as a vengeful widow and Telly Savalas as the corrupt mayor.
While Italians had nothing to do with this movie it smacks of a Spaghetti Western. Thankfully, it’s thoroughly austere and lacks the goofiness of some Italo oaters. The grim atmosphere is palpable with dust and heat. Typical of Euro Westerns, the score by Waldo de los Ríos is notable. There’s a constant sound in the background, almost like the chirping of crickets, but obviously manmade, which I’ve never heard in a movie before. The cast is great, highlighted by Stevens’ beauty. Speaking of whom, why does she sleep in a coffin like a corpse?
The story’s another matter, however. The first half of the movie involves everyone looking for this guy named Aguila. Then shortly after the midway point we discover who he is but, no, he’s not really Aguila; and so the search continues as the movie shares flashbacks. At the very end one of the characters seems to find Aguila and shouts out his name, but who cares? I’m sure if you re-watch the movie and pay close attention you might be able to put the pieces together, but the mumbling dialogue (with no subtitle option) would make it a difficult task. Still, the solemn ambiance, quality cast and interesting score make “A Town Called Hell” worth catching for those who favor creative Westerns. Unfortunately, just because something’s creative doesn’t mean it’s good.
A UK/Spanish production, the film runs 87 minutes (some prints run about 5 minutes longer) and was shot in Spain.
GRADE: Borderline C/C- (4.5/10 Stars)