(Italy/Spain - 1965; US release 1966)
Written and directed by Duccio Tessari. Cast: Montgomery Wood (Giuliano Gemma), Fernando Sancho, George Martin, Hally Hammond (Lorella De Luca), Nieves Navarro, Antonio Casas, Jose Manuel Martin, "Pajarito," Juan Casalilla, Pablito Alonso, Nazzareno Zamperla, Paco Sanz, Jose Halufi. (Unrated, 99 mins)
Following the blockbuster success of Sergio Leone's A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS in Italy in 1964, countless spaghetti westerns followed at a relentless pace for the next decade. An early hit in the spaghetti cycle, 1965's A PISTOL FOR RINGO made it to American theaters courtesy of Embassy Pictures in 1966, a full year ahead of FISTFUL's belated US release. However, its influences lie more with the '50s style Hollywood B oater rather than the trailblazing work of Leone or Sergio Corbucci's DJANGO, right down to Ennio Morricone's uncharacteristically Dimitri Tiomkin/Elmer Bernstein-like score. Written and directed by Italian genre journeyman Duccio Tessari (who had already scripted several post-HERCULES peplum and would latter dabble in everything from 007 ripoffs to gialli to crime thrillers), A PISTOL FOR RINGO is part of that first wave of spaghetti westerns--along with Ferdinando Baldi's TEXAS, ADIOS and Sergio Corbucci two-fer of MINNESOTA CLAY and THE HELLBENDERS to name just three--that were still emulating the Hollywood style before Leone's more influential FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE and THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY set the genre template, along with the more politically-charged Zapata spaghettis like Corbucci's THE MERCENARY and COMPANEROS, and Damiano Damiani's A BULLET FOR THE GENERAL. Corbucci would soon shift gears--the same year he made THE HELLBENDERS, he also cranked out the classic DJANGO--and it wouldn't take long for Tessari to make the change with PISTOL's much different sequel THE RETURN OF RINGO later in 1965.
theme song performed by Maurizio Graf, but it's so beholden to Hollywood westerns that it even borrows SHANE's ending with Ringo riding off alone. A PISTOL FOR RINGO was a huge hit in Italy in the summer of 1965, and by the end of the year, Tessari and most of the main cast would be back for THE RETURN OF RINGO.
|Fernando Sancho as--wait for it---Sancho in A PISTOL FOR RINGO.|
(Italy/Spain - 1965; US release 1966)
Directed by Duccio Tessari. Written by Duccio Tessari and Fernando Di Leo. Cast: Giuliano Gemma, Fernando Sancho, George Martin, Hally Hammond (Lorella De Luca), Nieves Navarro, Antonio Casas, "Pajarito," Monica Sugranes, Victor Bayo, Tunet Vila, Juan Torres, Jose Halufi. (Unrated, 97 mins)
It's obvious that at some point between finishing A PISTOL FOR RINGO and starting the sequel THE RETURN OF RINGO, director/co-writer Duccio Tessari and writer Fernando Di Leo (an uncredited script contributor on PISTOL) saw A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS. RETURN is an in-name-only sequel, bringing back much of the same cast (producer Luciano Ercoli even makes sure his wife Nieves Navarro gets a musical number) in different roles with Giuliano Gemma playing a character named Ringo, but clearly not the same Ringo from the previous film, much like Clint Eastwood's archetypal "Man with No Name" is similar in each installment of the Leone trilogy, but they aren't the same character. Here, Gemma's Ringo is a Union soldier returning to his home near the Mexican border two months after the end of the Civil War. He's devastated to find his entire family buried in the local cemetery after the town was taken over by a group of Mexican outlaws led by the evil Fuentes brothers, Esteban (Fernando Sancho, cast radically against type as "Fernando Sancho") and Paco (George Martin, who was the good-guy sheriff in the previous film). When Ringo learns that his wife Hally (Lorella De Luca) has been abducted, informed she's a widow, and is being forced into an arranged marriage with Paco and the useless sheriff (Antonio Casas) has no plans to do anything about it, he goes undercover as a Mexican peasant to wipe out the Fuentes gang and rescue his wife and the young daughter he never knew he had.
theme song) but leaning more toward the distinctive sounds of a spaghetti score. Despite the American success of A PISTOL FOR RINGO, THE RETURN OF RINGO only received a spotty release later in 1966, though the first film was popular enough in the States for MGM to rechristen Sergio Corbucci's 1966 western JOHNNY ORO (starring Mark Damon) as the unofficial sequel RINGO AND HIS GOLDEN PISTOL for its 1967 US release. A PISTOL FOR RINGO and THE RETURN OF RINGO have just been released in a double feature set from Arrow, with numerous extras, including archival interviews with Gemma (who died in 2013) and De Luca (who passed in 2014), who talks at length about the career of her late husband Tessari (1926-1994), and commentary tracks with spaghetti scholar Henry C. Parke and fan/cult screenwriter C. Courtney Joyner (CLASS OF 1999, DOCTOR MORDRID). When viewed in succession, both films serve to show the transition taking place in the spaghetti western genre in its infancy, from the mimicking of old-school Hollywood to the new standards being set by the Italians in the formation of their uniquely original style that would soon be influencing American westerns in just a few short years.