China 9, Liberty 37 (1978) Poster

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Another Excellent Monte Hellman Western-Jenny Agutter Fans will Love It
aimless-4622 January 2006
"There ain't no soft-hearted gunfighters" says Matthew Sebanek (Warren Oates) to Clayton Drumm (Fabio Testi) late in Monte Hellman's lyrical western "China 9 Liberty 37" a/k/a "Amore, piombo e furore". The English title reflects the words on a crossroad's sign shown at the start of the film.

Hellman fans will be happy to finally find this film available on DVD, as a 2005 release by Mill Creek Entertainment. Although the IBDb does not yet link to it, Amazon has it listed as "China 9 Liberty 37/Gone With the West". The second movie on the DVD, "Gone With the West" (a/k/a "Little Moon and Old Jug"), is a James Caan-Sammy Davis Jr. western best described as "The Rat Pack on LSD". It is a horrible western made even worse by the condition of the print they used to make the DVD, but it does feature one of the most intense cat-fights in cinema history.

The print for "China 9" is a bit better but suffers from a poor "pan and scan" full-screen treatment and weak audio tracks. It also has some editing glitches, which probably resulted from the need to cobble together a decent print for transfer to DVD. And I suspect the original release was longer than this 98minute version.

Hellman and Oates also collaborated on "The Shooting" and if you enjoyed that effort you should really like "China 9". In "China 9" Oates plays a retired gunfighter mining gold on land he refuses to sell to the railroad. Testi (the best of a long line of English-challenged pretty-boy European actors who worked in the western genre in the 60's and 70's) is hired by the railroad to kill Oates. But the two gunfighters hit it off and Testi refuses to complete the job. In the meantime Oates' wife Catherine (Jenny Agutter) comes on to Testi. They run off together believing she has killed Matthew, but he survives and begins to hunt them down. To add additional complications to the story, the railroad recruits a squad of gunfighters to kill both Matthew and Clayton.

Clayton Drum is good western hero. Although he drinks a lot of cocaine based tonic, he maintains his professional integrity and refuses to sell out to the wild west show promoters or the dime novelists. The world may be changing and making him irrelevant, but he sticks to his principles. "My life is not for sale".

Fans of "The Hunting Party" will find a familiar storyline, Fellini fans will find a nice homage to their favorite director, and Sam Peckinpah fans will find an actual appearance-while a small speaking part it is more than just a cameo.

The action sequences are extremely well staged, although the effects are on the cheap side. The action in the big final showdown scene is totally credible and leaves one wondering why other directors can't exercise their imaginations and come up with equally plausible shootouts. Plus there is an extremely nice twist to the story's resolution that you don't see coming. Finally, Hellman goes out on a slick "mise en scene" shot that actually advances the story a final notch.

"China 9" is an absolute must-see for fans of Jenny Agutter. Hellman liked to give his films an overexposed grainy look (as if the film stock was pushed a couple of steps in processing). Combined with minimal makeup this gave his heroines a strikingly haunting and earthy beauty, check out Millie Perkins in "The Shooting" and "Ride the Whirlwind". Like Perkins, Agutter has never looked better and is more than credible as the catalyst of this love triangle.

Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
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A Few Corrections
azjimnson20 July 2010
Warning: Spoilers
A lot of misinformation in some of the other reviews. The character who began to make the, "As long as I've got a face," remark--which was never finished-- was the the younger brother of Oates' character. The last name of Fabio Testi's character, who was nothing but respectful in his comments to Jenny Agutter's Catherine, was Drumm, not Jones. I do agree the score was not good, and I suspect Hellman had little control over that. He wasn't in a position of power after the brilliant "Two Lane Blacktop" flopped. It was coal, not oil, that Matthew (Oates) was counting on to make him rich. And Drumm did not "constantly drink cocaine laced whiskey." He had one bottle of it given to him by the owner of the circus. If I recall this was before the second lovemaking scene in the hotel, and cocaine, for those who don't know, makes one very amorous. I think it was meant as a joke. All that said, I have to agree this not a great Hellman film, and his approach was probably too contemplative for most fans of spaghetti Westerns. Even though the final shootout is more typical of the genre. I love the chief bad guy saying. "This didn't go so well," just before he attempts to surrender and Oates shoots him. It's a measure of Oates' skill as an actor that he manages to gain our sympathy for Matthew, even after admitting having killed a whole family, "right down to the dogs, the cats, and the chickens," for the railroad. I was surprised by Katherine's decision to stay with Matthew (though she really had little choice), and that final scene must have looked amazing in the original Technovision 235:1 frame. I think it symbolized that Oates was finally cutting his ties with his past completely. I think he was sincere when he told Catherine, "No one will hurt you again," meaning he wouldn't. Fabio Testi's accent was thick, but I give Hellman credit for not dubbing him, and for adding a back story about Drumm coming to the USA after his grandparents' death to explain it.And, yes, I think the West was full of people with nearly indecipherable accents. I've lived in the West for near to 20 years, and still can't understand some of the old timers.
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Another minor gem in Monte Hellman's filmography
chaos-rampant25 March 2009
Named after a mysterious signpost in Beaumont, southeast Texas, set between U.S. 90 and the adjacent Southern Pacific railroad tracks, that inexplicably reads "China 9 Liberty 37", with the genre fading quick into obscurity in both sides of the Atlantic, this, Monte Hellman's and Warren Oates' final western, seems to be trying to succeed despite itself, setting pitfalls for itself and falling into them but still somehow remaining a formidable picture, not just worthy of bearing Monte Hellman's name (a vastly under-appreciated American auteur with an incredible run in the early 70's that saddly never took off) but doing justice to it.

If the movie can work despite Fabio Testi's unintelligible Italian accent, then it can overcome almost everything. I say almost because Pino Donaggio's score (a jumbled mess of muzak apart from the fitting opening credits theme that seems to be consciously channeling Morricone) defies overcoming and Hellman's inexplicable fixation to not only squeeze a heartfelt romance out of two actors (Testi and Jenny Agutter) who simply don't have it in them to look "in love" but to go ahead and film not one but two long "making love" scenes, y'know, the ones where the two lovers are lost passionately in each other's eyes, kiss like fishes and rock back and forth in a rhythmic staccato all of which is played to horrible "making love" muzak, threaten to throw the whole thing permanently off.

But just when you think he's lost control, all Hellman needs to do to suck the viewer back in is cut to Warren Oates. A man not only made from that late 60's mold of cinematic badass but also a naturally charismatic actor who gave some truly electrifying performances for Hellman (COCKFIGHTER and TWO-LANE BLACKTOP), Oates, as the grizzly homesteader fighting the railroad company he once worked for that is now trying to steal his land, makes the movie, has the gravitational pull to keep everything together. Even in his early 50's he has so much charisma he can spare some for bland hunk Fabio Testi.

With the spaghetti western dead by 1978 (the last major release was MANNAJA the previous year - and the Italian genre industry moving on to a not-so-eclectic mix of MAD MAX and JAWS rip-offs to sustain itself in its waning years, before the advent of home video and movies opening worldwide killed it off) and Clint Eastwood continuing to carry the American western on his shoulders almost single-handedly, China 9 Liberty 37 is more of a throwback to Hellman's previous westerns, a particular niche unto themselves that take from both national western schools but subscribe to neither, than anything contemporary, certainly not as violent and cynic as most 70's westerns. Seen with regards to an overall oeuvre, China takes its proper place somewhere between THE SHOOTING and RIDE THE WHIRLWIND. More the sum of their author's fixations, clearly works bearing a distinct auteurial mark, Hellman's westerns seem like the late 60's equivalent of Budd Boetticher's Ranown westerns. The minimalism of the plot, the isolated settings, the lone female characters... but that's for another post.
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Interesting, if far from perfect, Western.
mitcj6 October 2001
This moves at an unhurried pace, and you may feel as if you've seen much of it before, especially if you're a spaghetti western fan. But it's worth seeing for the character played by Warren Oates, a former gunfighter whose behavior swings from the sympathetic to the unforgivable and almost back again. In a modest Western like this, it's a pleasant surprise to see ambiguous characters. So that his conflict with Fabio Testi, a younger gunfighter who steals Oates' wife, is full of uncertainty. For all the familiar trappings, you're uncertain how it will end; and that should keep you watching. As the object of desire, Jenny Agutter is constrained by a mumbling Irish brogue and an under-written part. But you can see why Testi is smitten with her. Bottom line: see this for Oates, a great actor in a worthy role.
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"I had a feeling you were gonna be trouble".
classicsoncall6 November 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I always enjoy reading the reviews on this site because I learn so much about films like this, the genre they represent and the impact they might have had on other movies, actors and directors. For my part, I've seen a fair number of spaghetti Westerns but I'm no expert. All I know is, once a midget shows up, there's a circus usually not far behind, followed by impossibly choreographed acrobatics that mesh into some kind of fight scene. Surprisingly, that wasn't the case here. Sure the midget and the circus made an appearance, but what knocked me out of my chair were those strategically placed love scenes; three of those must be some kind of record. Jenny Agutter in the nude was not what I was expecting on the Encore Western Channel in prime time, and I don't know whether to be shocked or surprised by that. But it does hold one's interest.

Some advice if I may for those reviewers who had a hard time following the dialog. I had no trouble, even with Fabio Testi's accent, once I enabled the sub-titles option on my TV. I do that now as a general precaution for just such an eventuality. Surprising what a good job some captioners do, providing dialog you don't even hear at all sometimes.

Always great to see Warren Oates in one of his classic TV Western appearances, so catching him here in a lead role was twice the treat. That was a cool move showing Clayton Drumm (Testi) how fast he was with a gun in that early set up. Made you wonder what would happen once the real thing came around. Worth the wait I would say.

Where the movie takes a refreshing break from the hero getting the girl occurs at the finale here when Drumm simply rides off into the sunset - alone! What a heel! But at least he stayed true to character instead of wimping out for the traditional 'settle down and let's have kids' happy ending. I wonder if that midget made out any better.
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Wonderful Revisionist Western
dbuskirk115 March 2001
One of the few (only?) westerns where sex is the main motivator, a wonderful spaghetti western with Fabio Testi and Jenny Agutter, with Warren Oates and a rare performance by Sam Peckingpaugh. An important film in the ouvre of Monte Hellman, quintessential 70's cult director; a man who has made more great films than Coppola yet remains mostly unknown in his home country. See "Two-Lane Blacktop," "Cockfighter," and "The Shooting."
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One of the last Spaghetti/American Westerns
mgtbltp10 February 2009
Warning: Spoilers
This is a Western that, as another poster mentioned, has sex as its driving force.


It's basic Western cliché story line is hired gun Clayton Jones (Fabio Testi) is about to hang for some offense in the town of China, Texas. We see him in a jail cell and out in the town square we see a hanging platform with three nooses, a Chinaman and a China woman are bound and lined up below it we cut back to Clayton who is removed from his cell apparently to join the condemned. We cut to Clayton in the offices of a railroad company where some officials hand him a pardon with the stipulation that he is to go kill Matthew Sebanek, who won't sell out his land at the cheap price offered to the RR. He has become a small obstacle to the tracks. We see two corpses hanging from the gallows as Clayton rides out of town.

Matthew Sebenek (Warren Oates) is sort of a hardscrabble squatter/homesteader, he is sitting upon land that has oil beneath it and knows it, oldest of the Sebenek brothers he looks to be between 45-55 years old, his comparatively child bride wife Catherine (Jenny Agutter) looks between 20-25, Matthew treats Catherine more like a slave than a partner, she is unhappy and shows it. There are no children present that, in most Hollywood Westerns, that depicted these types of May-December relationships would cement the couple together with a common cause.

Into this situation rides reluctant hired gun Clayton Jones and he gets his first eyeful of Catherine as she is bathing in the stream near the road to the homestead, she doesn't hear him coming while she reclines in the water and is surprised when Clayton's voice asks which way to the Sebenek's but not embarrassed and she does not try to cover up in any way. In subsequent scenes we learn that Matthew who was a former hired gun of the railroad has Clayton pretty much pegged for what he truly is, but that sort of binds him into a wary friendship with him that blossoms. We also see that love starved Catherine is attracted to Clayton by her demeanor and it is she who makes the first move to consummate an affair. Clayton who has come to like Matthew decides not to kill him and that he best get away from the dicey situation but Catherine gives it away on the day Clayton leaves and she and Matthew come to blows in the kitchen and she stabs Matthew and leaves him for dead.

Catherine rides away to follow Clayton, and Matthew and his brothers take off after them.

Now this is an adult treatment of situations that are real, I've know real life stories that have played out exactly so and have had similar ends. It's refreshing to see a Western with more mature themes that still has enough Western elements to keep it in Genre and interesting enough to keep you watching.

There are some nice stylistic camera shot touches in a later whorehouse confrontation. If I have any complaint about the film it would be the overly intrusive soundtrack that in some scenes plays annoyingly over the dialog, it doesn't help that it has a 70's sound to it. Other music is provided by the actors themselves and gratefully its recorded live (not sound studio looping) and sounds very realistic.

Sam Peckinpah has a nice cameo as a seedy pulp novelist.

Check it out if you can find it. The version I saw was almost full wide screen though it still had some side cropping where you could tell so when the credits were rolling. For the most part you wouldn't notice it however there is one scene where when Catherine is coming on to Clayton, she stands in a open doorway in a nightgown back lit by a kerosene lantern and you can see she is plainly naked, she is half cut off by the cropping which makes me suspect that there may be a few more scenes where we are not seeing the full potential of the cinematography.
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"This day hasn't turned out well"
Bezenby9 November 2018
This one comes very late in the Spaghetti Western timeline, is directed by an American, and plays out like a love story. It's different to say the least.

Fabio Testi is Clayton, a condemned man who is reprieved at the last minute, as long as he tracks down Warren Oates and kills him. Oates used to work for the Railroad and they don't like loose ends, so Clayton has to take him out. A problem arises in the form of Jenny Agutter, Warren's much younger, hot wife whom Clayton first spies skinny dipping. Clayton shacks up at the Oates/Agutter household under the pretence that he's passing through, but Oates is no fool, and Agutter starts making goo-goo eyes at the hunky Clayton.

Not a shot is fired in anger for the first fifty minutes of this film, as Clayton decides he can't kill Oates by he can get it on with Agutter, which leads to Oates attacked her and Agutter retaliating in a surprisingly violent way (she stabs him in the back and brains him with a rolling pin). Clayton and Agutter think Oates is dead and they can be a couple, but Oates wakes up and gathers his numerous brothers for some does the Railroad when they find out Oates isn't dead...

As this is a late era Spaghetti Western, the pacing isn't exactly full throttle, but I was surprised to see that the violence was very realistic - people get shot and fall over instead of clutching themselves and spinning around the place, and the violence is very abrupt and sudden, like the accidental shooting of a hooker through a window or two corpses being shot over and over again.

Plus, Testi stands out as the lightening fast Clayton, made weak through his love for Agutter. Apart from her dodgy Irish accent, Agutter does well too and spends a lot of time naked with Testi (I actually gave birth to Testi's child just by watching this film!). Warren Oates stands out too, with his mumbly, tired character.

This must be one of the very last Spaghetti Westerns, and it's worth tracking down if you can find an uncut version of it. Sam Peckinpah makes a surreal cameo too, just to add to the sense of weirdness.
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Existential Spaghetti
hrkepler30 May 2018
'China 9, Liberty 37' is last of Monte Hellman's westerns, and his weakest attempt in that genre. The film tries to combine elements of spaghetti western with Hellman's usual existential vision. Although entertaining and thrilling at moments, the film falls into mediocrity as there isn't enough spaghetti nor existentialism.

Clayton Drumm (Fabio Testi) is a gunslinger waiting to be hanged, but is given last minute pardon when men from railroad company hire him to kill Matthew Sabinek (Warren Oates) who used to work as a hired gun for same men years ago. Sounds interesting? Clayton rides into the farm where Matthew lives with his young wife Catherine (Jenny Agutter). The younger and faster gunslinger, who has grown weary of the killing, decides not to complete his mission when he starts to like Matthew and two men become sort of friends. And then enters farmer's gorgeous looking wife.

There is the feel of growing tension in the first quarter of the film, that promises to become tense thriller, but then falls flat as generic love triangle and revenge story. Fabio Testi's lack of charisma against the talents and gravely looks of great Warren Oates becomes obstacle that doesn't allow proper chemistry to evolve between two main characters. Monte Hellman's other westerns (or western type movies) weren't always very thick and original on plot either, but they were executed with fascinating ways and ideas.

Recommended to the fans of Warren Oates and Monte Hellman, and when you do, try to get the uncut version as there are some meaty lines (an nudity) to juice things up a little bit.

Also, another great western director Sam Peckinpah treats the fans of the genre with wonderful cameo as an author Wilbur Olsen who wants to write story based on Clayton's life.
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You Must See it Uncut....
Michael_Elliott1 July 2010
China 9, Liberty 37 (1978)

** (out of 4)

Condemned gunman Clayton Drumm (Fabio Testi) is saved from the noose but he must track down farmer Matthew Sebanek (Warren Oates) and kill him since he refuses to sell his valuable land to the railroad company. Clayton goes to do the deed but ends up falling in love with the man's wife (Jenny Agutter), which just adds more problems. This Italian/Spanish co-production from cult director Hellman has a few decent moments but in the end this is a pretty boring affair from start to finish. I know Hellman has a strong cult following among some film fans but I can't say I'm one of them. This film here is yet another Spaghetti Western that tells a rather familiar story but Hellman puts his own spin on things and these spins actually hurt more than help. This film has a lot of problems including letting the viewer know who we should be cheering for. The film starts off with Testi being the bad guy and we're given Matthew to like. At around the thirty-minute mark we switch sides as it turns out Matthew is a real jerk who abuses his wife and the director has decided to put us in a love story. The love story between Testi and Agutter never works for several reasons. One reason is that the two have no chemistry and one can't help but roll their eyes at the love banter they give at each other. The screenplay mentions that Agutter is shy and "changes her clothes in the barn" but that doesn't keep her from being nude in this thing at least six different times. The nude scenes are only available in the R-rated cut (most boots are of the TV print) and are the main reasons to watch this thing. Agutter is an incredibly beautiful woman so seeing her nude is about the only thing that keeps this sucker moving. However, even the sex scenes are messed up by Hellman as he decides to film them in a slow-motion fashion with an incredibly bad score over them and a couple even has some sort of weak pop song. Why on Earth Hellman decided to do this is anyone's guess but it doesn't work. I also didn't believe Testi in his role too much but then again this could be due to the fact that Hellman seemed more interested in showing off his body than anything else. Oates is always dependable and he turns in a good performance even though the screenplay does him no favors. Agutter's role is pretty thankless but she gives it all she can. Look quick for Sam Peckinpah as a writer.
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Uneven, but has some interest
Wizard-84 October 2015
When the spaghetti genre was all but dead in the late 1970s, the last gasps brought some of the most interesting examples of the genre, including this one. Actually, I am not sure if it qualifies as being a "spaghetti western" because it was helmed by an American director (Monte Hellman) instead of an Italian. It's probably because of this that the end results don't always play out like a typical spaghetti western. It's quite slow at times, and its atmosphere, instead of being action-packed, is pretty serious. In fact, it's almost arty at times. The movie is also interesting in that the main character of the movie, played by Fabio Testi, is not all that sympathetic. Speaking of Testi, his thick accent makes some of his dialogue difficult to understand. But the movie has some strengths as well as weaknesses. There's not much action, but what there is is fairly exciting. There's a good musical score (kind of a mix between European and American western music). And while the movie is slow, it does get you interested in sticking around to see what will happen in the end. If you are into Italian westerns and want to see something a little different - and have some patience to sit through some slow and/or clunky moments - this movie does have some interest.
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An Unremarkable Spaghetti Western
atlasmb8 September 2015
"China 9, Liberty 37" sounds like the final score of a high school girls' basketball game, but it is the American title of this spaghetti western. Fabio Testi plays the part of Clayton Drumm, a gunslinger who avoids the hangman's noose by agreeing to take on a job--the murder of a man, Matthew Sebanek (Warren Oates), whose land is desired by the railroad. He rides to the man's property and insinuates himself into the household. Like Clint Eastwood, he is the quiet, deadly type and the lady of the house, Catherine (Jenny Agutter) takes a hankering to him.

During his stay on the property, Drumm's emotions are stirred and he questions his decision to murder the man.

A large part of the story is a romance. But most of the characters are driven by pride or greed, so you know love will probably suffer in the crossfire.

Better known for such films as "Walkabout" and "Logan's Run", Jenny Agutter does a credible job as the object of men's desires. Nudity is a sizable part of her role. Testi, as the strong silent type is enough to stir a frontier woman's imagination. Oates, as usual, plays a scruffy, steely-eyed guy.

I found the story interesting, but technical issues--like imbalanced sound and choppy editing--sometimes get in the way.
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A somewhat odd spaghetti Western
smatysia4 August 2013
A somewhat odd spaghetti Western. I am not familiar with this Monte Hellman, but at first I thought he was trying to be Sergio Leone. Later, I thought he was trying to outdo Leone. I am not sure if the setting is supposed to be southeast Texas, even though there are towns named China and Liberty there, but the countryside there is wooded, and even a bit swampy. Excellent photography of the arid Spanish landscapes. The sound was awful, though, with score and background noise often drowning out dialog. Fabio Testi was the wooden anti-hero, with a serious Italian accent. Warren Oates was the only really well-developed character. Jenny Agutter was oh, so beautiful. But she was alternately reserved and wanton, so it was hard to figure out her character. (You really have to see the uncut version. It is available if you search hard enough for it.) There were a few anachronisms and plot holes but not terribly so. A pet peeve of mine is people suffering grievous wounds, like gunshots and stabbings, and seemingly having no ill effects after three days. I know it moves the narrative along, but sheesh. Anyway it was OK, and just a bit better due to Agutter.
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Not enough sauce on this spaghetti
helpless_dancer11 February 2000
A rancher standing in the way of the railroad getting his property is slated for killing by a convict who will escape the hangman's noose if he does the job. Instead of doing the hit, the con takes off with the rancher's wife, creating a big manhunt and many deaths. There was a big shoot-out at the end of the picture and a few high points along the way, but overall this film was a loser. Too many pointless sex and nudity scenes, not enough action. Slow and dull.
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If you didn't see this in 1979 or '80, you didn't see all of it
bfdeal-12 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this at the 1978 Telluride Film Festival with Monte Hellman in attendance. We were a bit worse for chemicals at that time, but the film made an indelible impression on my pals and me. To this day we still talk about it and quote some of the most outrageous lines put into a film up until that time.

Since then I've been trying to find the version I saw, but have only encountered pablum-style crap with all the good stuff edited out and horrific washed-out video transfers.

So I need to ask, are my memories of these lines from the film accurate or did whatever was in me at the time make them up?

Testi to Agutter: "As long as I have a face, you'll have a place to sit."

And, Warren Oates to the world in general: "If they didn't have c*nts there'd be a bounty on them."

A great, OTT film for its time. Where is Monte Hellman when we need him?
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aka Gunfire not 1978
pecknpawpapers15 December 2006
Your information is incorrect! I have first hand knowledge that this film, Gunfire, was not a 1978 production but a 1981 production.

Gunfire was done in Spain. There was a film festival that was supposedly honoring "Sam" and he went to Spain for that original purpose. They were filming Gunfire with Warren Oates at that time. He visited the set. That's all I am prepared to say about the matter at this time.

Sam hated inaccuracy and those who didn't properly "do their homework". Please honor his memory at least with accuracy since the anniversary of his death is upon us on December 28th. That is a day I will never forget.
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American Monte Hellman helms a Spaghetti Western
kevinolzak19 June 2010
This 1978 Italian-Spanish Western was directed by the enigmatic American Monte Hellman, who has made few features during his 50-year career. Its recent airing on the Western Channel confirmed its cult status, as it stars Warren Oates, that fine underrated actor frequently used by Hellman, this being their final collaboration before Oates' untimely death at age 53 in 1982. Not having seen it since the early 1980s, and perusing the other 11 reviews on IMDb, I can attest that this is the full, uncut 102 minute version, with all the nudity and some of the most frank, shocking lines you're likely to hear in a Western. The other comments gripe about the poor quality of all available prints, and the accent of leading man Fabio Testi. I have two major complaints myself, in that the film seems much longer due to its meandering script, but what is unforgivable is that the soundtrack, from the footsteps to the chickens, even the music, simply drowns out much of the dialogue. The photography is excellent, the acting is good, and Hellman works wonders with his material, I just couldn't recommend it to anyone hard of hearing. The frustration is eased by Warren Oates, who manages to gain sympathy as the wronged husband, and the lovely Jenny Agutter, who supplies the film's bold nude scenes as the supposedly shy wife who becomes a whore. As the gunman who falls in love, Fabio Testi's accent makes his line readings a real chore to decipher, while small cameos are provided by Sidney Lassick and Sam Peckinpah, the latter playing a wealthy author manufacturing tales of the Old West. There is also an extremely brief appearance by European cult beauty Helga Line as a hotel proprietor. The 15-year heyday of the Spaghetti Western (1964-1979) was nearing its end, and this frank and occasionally bloody example continues to wallow in obscurity, but isn't that a typical fate for any movie directed by Monte Hellman? My favorite Hellman feature remains his first, "Beast from Haunted Cave," a 1959 collaboration with Gene and Roger Corman.
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Not worth the 38 cents I spent to see it.
topher_johnson19 November 2010
Maybe it was just the copy I got but I had trouble understanding anything said, the sound was just terrible. Despite that, I plodded through it hoping something would happen to make it worth the time. Unfortunately, it just didn't grab my attention at all. The characters were uninteresting, their motivation confusing, and I found myself wondering how much time was left long before it was done.

The intended love connection was contrived and seriously under-developed. I've heard of love at first sight but when a married woman and the man intending to kill her husband are supposed to 'feel the burn', a little indication beyond eye contact is required to convince this viewer.

I probably shouldn't complain because I did only spend 38 cents but being free wouldn't be enough to help raise the rating on this one. I give it a 4 because it had some potential and I have seen worse but it's more of a 3.5 rounded up...

But that's just my 2 scents. ;)
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Monte Hellman, Fabio Testi and Warren Oates...
JasparLamarCrabb31 March 2010
Warning: Spoilers
An interesting, if a bit lethargic, western. A railroad baron saves gunslinger Fabio Testi from a hanging so he can kill Warren Oates, who won't give up his land. Testi gets more than he bargained for when Oates's sex starved wife Jenny Agutter turns on the charm. Soon, they're both on the run pursued by Oates and his ruthless brothers. Monte Hellman's film is not in the same league as his existential masterpieces (THE SHOOTING & RIDE IN THE WHIRLWIND), but it's also not a run of the mill spaghetti western, despite it's Italian backing. Hellman is too inventive a director to make anything resembling a standard movie and although it's a bit slow going, this a very worthwhile film. Oates is exceptional as is Agutter. Testi is dynamite. Sam Peckinpah has a sublime cameo as a dime store novelist. Try to find an unedited cut of this as various chopped up versions are out there. It's really sad that Hellman's directing career never went any further.
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An interesting mixed bag
stewardia19 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I remember seeing this movie in a revival house in the late seventies. I was a teenager and couldn't suspend disbelief enough to sit through the whole movie. I just couldn't buy the Fabio Testi character. I couldn't handle the accent. In my mind, the American West didn't have people like this although in reality it probably did.

I very much remember Jenny Agutter's love scenes. I felt sorry for the Warren Oates character although he wasn't very sympathetic.

I've recently seen a heavily edited for TV version of this movie and there's a lot of bad stuff in the movie: very low budget sets, embarrassingly under-written scenes, under-developed plot and sketchy acting. But there's quite a few good elements that are mentioned in some of the other reviews.

Now that I know Jerry Harvey wrote this movie along with his pal, Doug Venturelli and worked alongside some of his heroes like Warren Oates, Monte Hellman and Sam Peckinpah not to mention some of the Italian folks who made all those great Westerns - I sure wish the uncut film that I rejected as a kid in that movie house was available on DVD.

Jerry Harvey himself appears in a bordello scene as a tipsy customer.

It'd be nice if this mixed yet positive achievement was around to brighten, if only a little, Jerry Harvey's tortured legacy.

Maybe one day.
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What movie did other people see?
andrewsarchus28 December 2012
The fact that this "tuchia" gets 6 stars on the IMDb scale and Two Lane Blacktop rates only 7.2 is proof how meaningless these aggregate scores are. I do sometimes wonder how much is lost in the pan-and-scan releases that these B movies get but I don't think anything could raise this film above bad and pretentious. Whether this is the fault of the producers or the director is usually a tale untold. My guess is that the producers wanted Agutter naked for half the film (bad) and that Hellman thought it would be cool to have Peckinpah mumble a few lines (pretentious). One interesting note is that this is the only screen credit for Jerry Harvey, the ill-fated programming genius behind Z channel in LA during the 1980's.
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Disappointingly conventional
jerrylb23 April 2009
Compared to the pared-down, bleak economy of Two-Lane Blacktop or The Shooting, this film comes over as a flabby, conventional affair. There is not nearly enough attraction between the two romantic leads; the plot wanders and the direction frequently lags; even Warren Oates is not at his quirky best here. The characters are not observed, they are merely filmed.

By way of compensation, some of the cinematography is actually quite interesting. The director of photography was Guiseppe Rotunno who worked on many of Fellini's films, and in many of the exterior shots he and Hellman achieve a singular chiaroscuro effect; the foreground characters are often in deep shadow while an intense, golden morning or evening light illuminates a stunning backdrop of cliffs or mountains.

Many of the interior shots are also carefully lit, again with strong use of shadow; but the main characters just aren't interesting enough to engage the attention. The sudden intensity of Sam Peckinpah's brief appearance points up the shortcomings of the rest of the film; the way Jenny Agutter focuses on him makes you realise how little chemistry there is between her and Fabio Testi.

Hard to recommend, especially with the truly dismal quality of the available prints.
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