We’ve got more Spaghetti western action from Guest Reviewer Lee Broughton — the more obscure they become, the more fanciful the concept. This creative 1968 entry foregrounds a gothic vibe and employs imagery and narrative devices that Lee says would fit well in a horror movie. Italo western fans know the regular actors Fernando Sancho, Femi Benussi and Aldo Sambrell, who star alongside Lang Jeffries and future Pedro Almodóvar star Marisa Paredes.
Requiem for Gringo
1968 / Color / 1.66 widescreen / 98 min. / Requiem para el gringo, Requiem for a Gringo, Duel in the Eclipse / Street Date, 23 October 2018 / $16.28
Starring: Lang Jeffries, Femi Benussi, Fernando Sancho, Ruben Rojo, Carlo Simoni, Carlo Gaddi, Aldo Sambrell, Marisa Paredes, Giuly Garr, Angel Alvarez.
Cinematography: Mario Pacheco
Film Editor: Jose Antonio Rojo
Production Designer: Eduardo Torre de la Fuente
Original Music: Angelo Francesco Lavagnino
Written by Enrico Colombo, Giuliana Garavagli, Maria del Carmen Martinez Roman
Produced by Enrico Colombo and Sergio Newman
Directed by Jose Luis Merino
Guest review by Lee Broughton
Jose Luis Merino’s obscure but wholly pleasing Spaghetti Western Requiem for Gringo begins with a wholly expected double-cross. The Mexican bandit Carranza (Fernando Sancho) and his men are transporting stolen loot over the border into California when he orders the gang to split up and meet at the Ramirez ranch. He takes his best men — including three deadly gunslingers called Tom Leather (Ruben Rojo), Charley Fair (Aldo Sambrell) and Ted Corbin (Carlo Gaddi) — with him while hoping that the rest will be captured by the authorities. In the course of taking over the Ramirez place, Carranza’s ruffians kill two men: the peon lover of Nina (Marisa Paredes), a Mexican girl who works there, and a visitor called Dan Logan (Carlo Simoni). Both Nina and Dan’s brother, Ross Logan (Lang Jeffries), become determined to avenge their loved ones by playing something of a long game but Carranza has more pressing problems to worry about. His fancy woman Alma (Femi Benussi) is having an affair with Tom Leather and the pair are eager to get on with double-crossing him and absconding with his loot.
We know that we’re in for something a little different here when the unfortunate Dan is given a chance to win his freedom in a duel and we learn that Carranza’s bad guys favour a very elaborate set-up for their shooting contests. Each man is bound to a separate wooden post by the same length of rope that ultimately winds up being stretched taut between them. A sharpshooting gang member then shoots the rope in two, which allows the duellists to free themselves before going for their guns.
During this duel we see an early example of Tom Leather’s sly efforts to undermine Carranza: with the whole gang present, Leather defers the honour of shooting the taut rope to his boss and there’s a nice bit of tension and suspense generated when Carranza momentarily doubts his ability to still shoot that well. The bandit is only too aware that he’ll lose the confidence of his men — and his position as their leader — if his shooting skills are revealed to have become diminished with age and inactivity. This scene and others that offer little insights into the canny Carranza’s natural ability to hold onto power in spite of Leather continually probing him for weaknesses are a nice touch and they are all helped by some great acting by the inimitable Fernando Sancho.
Another slightly off-kilter moment occurs when the show’s bearded protagonist Ross Logan is introduced: he’s wearing a jaguar skin poncho (though it looks more like leopard print) and riding a donkey when he ambles into the grounds of his large house. However, he’s no snazzy Man With No Name knock-off. Logan has been out altruistically taming the West but he tells his butler that he’s now looking to find some peace of his own. The first thing that Logan does upon returning home is to retire to the quiet seclusion of his grand study.
This gothic-looking, ornately decorated and book-lined room reveals that our hero is actually a learned man of science and he’s soon studiously poring over an elaborate astrological chart marked ‘April 17, 1867’. He’s glad to be reunited with his beloved telescope but when he takes a look through it all he spies are stragglers from Carranza’s larger gang, who are approaching his place with ill-intent. Logan’s prowess with a gun is revealed when he swiftly deals with them.
Logan’s jaguar skin poncho isn’t just for fashion-related effect. It is apparently a sign of his interest in and knowledge of Mayan myths, culture and science. Building upon this idea, when Logan goes to stay at a remote hotel that is situated close to the Ramirez ranch, his science-based abilities are perceived to be mystical and the Mexican locals are soon referring to him as the man with magical powers.
Logan’s reputation as a magician is established during his first meeting with Nina at the hotel. He tells her that there’s a storm coming and thunder and lightning immediately present themselves outside in a very dramatic manner. Interestingly, Charley is part Indian and when he comes to the hotel looking for Logan, our hero is able to terrify the superstitious gunman and force him to flee by simply producing a small cat from about his person.
Further episodes unfold in which Logan also cleverly tricks and isolates Tom Leather and Ted by playing upon personality traits and obsessions that he knows he can exploit as weaknesses. In this regard, his game plan is a little like that of Robert Woods’ Pecos in Maurizio Lucidi’s Pecos Cleans Up (1967). It’s at this point that the formal properties and the narrative structure of the film become quite interesting.
When we last see each of the three gunmen, they are either running away from Logan, chasing after him or arranging to meet him later that day. When Logan subsequently shows up at the Ramirez ranch under the pretence of wanting to join Carranza’s gang, the trio are nowhere to be seen. When Carranza elects to put Logan through the same duel challenge that saw off his brother Dan, he calls for his best three gunmen to present themselves but his calls go unanswered. At this point Logan tells Carranza that he has disposed of the trio and three flashbacks which show precisely how each man met his end are presented onscreen.
These lengthy flashbacks feature fairly clever, often striking and sometimes atypical narrative content as far as revenge themed Spaghetti Westerns go and the general vibe here is at times quite similar to that of Antonio Margheriti’s gothic genre entry And God Said to Cain (1970). At one point it seems that Logan really can draw upon mystical powers but it might be that he’s simply embellishing his memories in order to unnerve Carranza and his men. Some of the physical evidence that Logan produces in order to prove that the three gunmen are dead is pretty macabre.
At a formal level, the film momentarily goes nuts when Logan begins to face off against Carranza and his men. Instead of presenting a series of generic Leone-inspired close-ups of faces, eyes and gun hands, director Jose Luis Merino offers a truly bizarre succession of zoom shots: his camera rhythmically and unrelentingly zooms in and out on a variety of faces over fifty times in the space of nearly three minutes. When shot reverse-shot edits are initiated during this zoom shot frenzy, the effect is by turn dazzling, disorientating and maddening but it sets the atmosphere for the film’s novel finale quite effectively. In what might well be the strangest and most original plot twist ever to appear in a Spaghetti Western, it transpires that Logan has timed the gunfight to coincide with a well-rendered — and atmospherically lit — total eclipse of the sun.
Requiem for Gringo was Lang Jeffries only Spaghetti Western (he was better known for appearing in peplums — see Nunzio Malasomma’s Revolt of the Slaves  — and spy flicks during his time in Italy) and it remains a fairly idiosyncratic genre entry. Jeffries makes for an unusual genre hero, coming on like a very learned and measured muscleman out West. It’s good news when Fernando Sancho’s name appears in the credits of a Spaghetti Western as he always delivers the goods when playing Mexican bandits. His performance here hits the required mark as expected. Genre stalwart Aldo Sambrell’s character in this show deviates from his usual Mexican bad guys as he dresses more like a Yaqui Indian and he’s distinguished by his deeply superstitious nature.
Carlo Gaddi’s leather-clad, whip-wielding and woman bullying Ted brings to mind Sieghardt Rupp’s characters from Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars (1964) and Alberto Cardone’s Blood at Sundown (1966) while Ruben Rojo’s Tom Leather looks and acts like a slick East Coast confidence trickster from a 1950s American Western. Some viewers will recognise Rojo from his starring role in Chano Urueta’s Mexican horror show Brainiac: El Baron del terror (1962).
Requiem for Gringo also features a trio of interesting female characters. Nina — who is expertly brought to life by a young Marisa Paredes (Pedro Almodóvar’s The Flower of My Secret  and Guillermo del Toro’s The Devil’s Backbone ) — is determined to avenge her lover while resisting Ted’s predatory advances. She’s a strong woman who successfully demands that the bodies of the peons who are hung by Charley in retaliation for the deaths of the men that Logan kills are returned to their families for burial.
Giuly Garr’s Lupe works at the hotel but she is an equally strong woman who revels in assisting Logan with his subterfuges. Busy Italian genre flick all-rounder Femi Benussi (Luigi Cozzi’s The Killer Must Kill Again ) is well cast here as the femme fatale Alma. Alma despises Carranza but she wants his loot so badly that she’ll do anything to keep him sweet. Her avaricious nature and loose morals are symbolically signalled simultaneously when she excitedly models a knickers and bra set that she has made out of the jewellery that Carranza has been tossing her way during one bedroom seduction scene.
Technical specifications here are consistently good. Mario Pacheco’s cinematography is pleasing enough and the film’s costumes, sets and locations are all in order. Special mention should be made of the show’s atmospheric lighting, especially that which is seen during the finale’s solar eclipse. On the music front, Angelo Francesco Lavagnino’s soundtrack score is also very good. It’s heavily reliant on some very atmospheric organ work and some fantastic choral vocals that are provided by Alessandro Alessandroni’s choir. The film’s dramatic and really quite superb front titles music really makes good use of the choir’s talents and instills a sense of expectation that Merino and his cast and crew duly meet.
Wild East’s Region-free Blu-ray of Requiem for Gringo is a top quality release. Picture quality is excellent (the images used for this review were sourced from the internet and do not reflect the high quality of the new Blu-ray release) and there is little in the way of print damage present. The presentation’s sound quality is excellent too with Angelo Francesco Lavagnino’s music coming through loud and clear.
Reviewed by Lee Broughton
Requiem for Gringo
Region-free Blu-ray rates:
Movie: Very Good
Supplements: two trailers, two alternate front titles sequences and an image gallery.
Deaf and Hearing-impaired Friendly? N0; Subtitles: None
Packaging: One Blu-ray in keep case
Reviewed: November 14, 2019
Text © Copyright 2019 Lee Broughton
CineSavant Text © Copyright 2019 Glenn Erickson