Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Movie Review: This Man Can't Die (1968)


A Spaghetti Western with considerable depth, This Man Can't Die hits more targets than it misses. An involving story with engaging characters maintains reasonable potency, helped by above-average production values.

Expert marksman Martin Benson (Guy Madison) has a shadowy past but is helping the US Army dismantle a gun-running cartel illegally supplying Indians with shotguns and ammunition. Despite bringing a few members of the gang to justice, the main financier behind the smugglers remains a mystery. Martin's cover as an informant is blown and his family becomes a soft target.

Benson's ranch is attacked, his parents killed, his sister Jenny (Anna Liotti) raped, and his other siblings Susy (Lucienne Bridou) and Daniel (Steve Merrick) are forced to take cover in remote cave shelters. But one of the assailants is badly wounded in the attack, and Daniel insists that the man must not die: he can reveal vital information about the bandits. As Susy fends off unwanted advances from abhorrent businessman Graham (Rik Battaglia), Martin tracks down the gun-runners while fighting off a succession of hit-squads trying to hunt him down.

This Man Can't Die (also known as Long Days Of Hate) draws strength from taking the time to build several relatively rounded characters and to establish the relationships between them. Despite the limited acting talent on display, the screenplay (by Luigi Emmanuele, Gino Mangini and director Gianfranco Baldanello) provides Martin, Susy, Daniel and Graham with distinct personalities, and even supporting characters such as the town doctor and eventually Tony, the wounded man, are enunciated. The result is a western in which the frequent action matters, the Benson siblings providing a strong foundation to care about.

Guy Madison anchors the movie with an authoritative presence, a half-smile adequately hiding his strictly finite range. Otherwise, and without any well-established genre stars, This Man Can't Die stutters with pedestrian delivery from a willing but barely capable cast.

Baldanello often rides to the rescue with brisk pacing and excellent editing. This Man Can't Die benefits from good locations, attractive photography and fine transitions to keep the story moving along. And Baldanello achieves a good balance between action scenes and interludes that advance the story, a seemingly simple approach that eludes many second-tier Spaghetti Westerns. The Amedeo Tommasi score is attractive, despite some wholesale borrowing from Morricone.

Without breaking too much new ground, This Man Can't Die stays alive.






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