Thursday, January 8, 2009

Kill and Pray / Let Them Rest / Requiescant (Italy, 1967)

(A version of this review appeared in a print copy of the excellent film magazine Shock Cinema some half-dozen years ago. If you don’t know the magazine, you should. For more info on Shock Cinema, check out their homepage).

(Spoilers.) If you’re into the operatic Spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone, Carlo Lizzani’s trashy and fun western probably won’t be your cup o’ tea. Still, the first 15 minutes is more than entertaining, mixing both the best and the worst of what an Italian western can be, while the film as whole is an entertaining, interesting and truly individual oddity.
A group of Mexican banditos (Revolutionaries to some people, like the director) meet up for an official peace settlement with some Southern soldiers around the time of the Civil War and are promptly tricked, betrayed and slaughtered. The child son of the leader of the Mexicanos survives a head-shot to wander out into the desert, where he found and taken in by a passing-by pastor with family, driving a wagon with "In God We Trust" printed on the side. (Credit sequence.) Years go quickly by and the boy is suddenly a (mighty white) man who, when the pastor’s daughter by birth splits with a passing by Can-Can Troupe, swears to find her and bring her home. Before he even manages to leave town, he witnesses a stagecoach robbery and when the gun of the stagecoach driver falls into his hands, proves himself to be a (god) gifted sharpshooter and kills two of the robbers. An innocent babe in the wood going out into the big bad world to find the gal therewith becomes an angel of death who quotes the scriptures after he shoots them dead, goading his horse onwards by whacking its butt with a frying pan. Of course, he eventually finds the girl, who has since become a prostitute forced to work for the very folks who engineered the slaughter of his family by birth. By the end of the film, the gal may be dead but vengeance is not only his, he also steps directly into the shoes of his long-dead Daddy and to become the new Mexican Bandito Leader... I mean, Revolutionary.
Featuring — amongst other things — drug use, less than subtlety implied homosexuality (hey, if I weren't a happily married man, a couple of them bad boys wouldn’t find me saying "No"), a perve bad guy who rubs a Barbie doll against his cheeks when he's excited, the sexist abuse of women, a nasty shooting contest, an entertainingly overacting main bad guy (Mark Damon as the sinister "southern gentleman" James Bello Ferguson who leads the pack of villains), and a fabulously vile and laughably entertaining revenge-shooting, the film, despite obviously fake blood, huge gaps in logic and a lead good guy with the charisma of a wet sheet (Lou Castel as Requiescant), is actually rather good until Pier Paolo Pasolini shows up. Playing the priest Don Juan, he ruins the fun by constantly spouting long speeches of deep and meaningful metaphysical and political content that, while battering the various themes of Kill and Pray over ones head, also bore the tears out of you. Whenever he opens his mouth, one is advised to take the time to get a beer from the fridge.
Nonetheless, for fans of Italian trash and less socially redeemable spaghetti westerns, under any of its names Kill and Pray is great stuff!

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