Monday, June 1, 2015

Man, Pride and Vengeance (1967)


Aka "Pride and Vengeance", "With Django Comes Death"

“Man, Pride and Vengeance” is a spaghetti western I heard good buzz about from fellow fans of the genre, and I became really excited when Blue-Underground slated it for its debut U.S. DVD and Blu-ray release. It stars the ever-reliable Franco “Django” Nero and is directed by Luigi Bazzoni whom helmed a giallo I really enjoyed (with Nero no less) entitled “The Fifth Cord”, a small supporting role for everyone’s favorite madman Klaus Kinski and lensed by award-winner Camillo Bazzooni of “Apocalypse Now” fame. Even the fact it’s based on a popular play/opera at the time didn’t deter me, as I thought Enzo G. Castillari’s adaption of William Shakespeare’s classic play “Hamlet” was made wonderfully into “The Wild and the Dirty” (aka “Johnny Hamlet”). However, the statement that sold most on the film came from the horse’s mouth himself as Franco Nero has stated in interviews that “Man, Pride and Vengeance” is his personal favorite film that he ever made. With talent and statements like this, one can understand that I emerged from the film slightly underwhelmed, and dare I say, disappointed.
One of the many film adaptions inspired by Georgees Bizet’s opera “Carmen”, “Man, Pride and Vengeance” turns the story on its head and changes the setting to a spaghetti western, which were ruling the box office in Italy at the time. The plot is simple, and to put it bluntly, it's about a man (Franco Nero) blinded by lust for a luscious gypsy (Tina Aumont) and how he ruins his life in pursuit of her love.
Franco Nero is a fine actor, but in some of his roles he has a tendency to overact, and none-more-so than here as he tries to convey his sexual obsession with Carmen. Dialogue like “I want to murder you” and “you sicken me” actually got me to unintentionally laugh more than identify with his character. Tina Aumont enjoys a rare leading role as our amoral and seductive gypsy, and her looks are far more enticing than her acting ability. Her gorgeous dark eyes are pools of sexual depravity, and it is easy to believe she could lure any man to his ruin, as she does on many occasions. Klaus Kinski is typecast as our gypsy’s husband and he is just as wild-eyed and kooky as ever.
Luigi Bazzoni’s camerawork is rarely inventive, though it does have a frenetic feel as he tries desperately to make a brooding atmosphere full of psychological tension, though he doesn’t wholly succeed. I will commend the score by Carlo Rustichelli as it isn’t the typical Ennio Morricone-inspired spaghetti western theme; instead, it is a lavish mix of low key pieces and operatic music to help tie the film to its source material. Though a spaghetti western, it breaks out of the box by not taking place in the United States, but in Spain. I was fooled at first, assuming that Nero was a soldier for the Yankee army, but dialogue halfway through shows he was a soldier for the Spanish army and he wants to use some of the loot he stole to get to the “new land” America. Why they didn’t just have the film take place in America is beyond me, as it could have easily been written to do so.
I am all for Spaghetti Westerns changing things up a bit, but “Man, Pride and Vengeance” changes things a little too much. I prefer a little more sauce with my spaghetti western as this plate full of salted noodles is far more of a psychological drama as opposed to an action western. It’s well made for the most part with a talented crew and cast, but Nero’s overacting, lack of action and the film's failure to draw me into the psychological tension made it easily forgotten about as soon as the credits rolled with Tina Aumont’s brown eyes the only facet to entice me in my dreams. It also made me laugh with its unintentionally funny dialogue and to the insane height Nero’s character was willing to plummet his life to in order to land a “piece of pussy”. Plus, it doesn’t even take place in the United States… seriously?!?! It was worth a one-time watch but I highly doubt this is a spaghetti western that will be getting numerous spins in my DVD player. 
Written By Eric Reifschneider

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