The Film (2.5/5)
A few years ago I did an article for Fang of Joy #1 on the thrillers of Luigi Bazzoni, as a director, 2 of those thrillers fall squarely into the giallo genre Footprints and his most iconic film the Fifth Cord. The earliest film in that category, The Possessed blends giallo with elements of gothic horror. After Footprints, however, Bazzoni retired for 18 years before ending his career permanently with a series of documentaries. However, less spoken of are his westerns, one of which Brothers Blue was directed between The Fifth Cord and Footprints, the earliest of his western entries is 1968's Man, Pride, and Vengeance starring Franco Nero and Klaus Kinski and released to Blu-ray this month by those fine folks at Blue Underground.
Man, Pride and Vengeance stars Franco Nero as Don Jose a soldier for the Spanish army who becomes obsessed with a gypsy woman named Carmen (Tina Aumont). The first half of the film details a cat and mouse game between the pair as Carmen takes note of Don Jose's infatuation with her, and uses it to to her advantage (for example kissing him to sneak her friends past a gate he’s guarding). The film changes gears around the halfway mark with the arrival of Klaus Kinski's villainous boyfriend Garcia. At this point Carmen begins to use the now disgraced Jose as part of a greater robbery plot with Kinski, and his gang.
The first half of the film has an oddly comedic tone that I was not prepared for. The second half of the film was more of a traditional spaghetti western though. In this half Don Jose and Carmen plan and execute a heist allegedly to earn enough money to come to America and start again. However, Carmen is a master manipulator and things are not exactly what they seem.
It's interesting to chart Bazzoni's career. His first film the co-directed The Possessed blends small town drama, gothic horror, and giallo-esque mystery, and his final narrative feature is grouped into the giallo genre, where it does indeed fit. However, it also plays as a psychological thriller with elements of science fiction and the avant garde. The Fifth Cord oddly is his most straight forward film, it's about as giallo as giallo gets, and at the same time it's Bazzoni's greatest success. Man, Pride, and Vengeance leans more toward the films outside the Fifth Cord in that it's a genre blend, however, unlike the other films it's not largely successful in it’s execution.
This could be simply a matter of expectations. When I sat down to watch the film, I expected something that fell within the boundaries of the spaghetti western, and during the last half I got that with some excellent action and violence. Bazzoni especially during this latter half captures the beauty of Spain's deserts in exquisite detail, and we get a truly intense captivating performance from Klaus Kinski. But the first half of the film doesn't mesh completely with the second, and the two halves feel less like 2 halves of one film, and 2 halves of 2 separate films that were forced together. Almost, like a Western variant on Franco’s Nightmare Come at NIght Nonetheless, there are elements to recommend the film, and the second half really proves to be a fun violent ride.
Man, Pride, and Vengeance is presented in a quite decent 1080p 2:35:1 transfer preserving the film's theatrical aspect ratio. The transfer has very good fine detail, nice colors, and solid blacks. However, there are some issues with noise showing up here again it's not to such an extreme that it distracts from the viewing experience.
The DTS-HD MA tracks in both English and Italian are both quite serviceable. Dialogue, score, and effects come through nicely, and I did not detect any major issues.
Not the most epic of extras packages BU still provides some very exciting stuff on this Blu-ray. The disc kicks off with a commentary track by C. Courtney Joyner and Henry Parke that is in-depth and informative. We also have an interview with both Franco Nero and Vittaro Storaro. The disc is rounded off by a poster gallery and trailer.
Not the best of the spaghetti westerns Blue Underground has released, it is still a fun film. The A/V is quite decent though it shares a familiar problem with some earlier BU Italian releases. The extras though slim are nice and informative. RECOMMENDED.