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Sansone e il tesoro degli Incas (1964), co-written and directed by Piero Pierotti
Although released in Spain on DVD, this is one Spaghetti Western I suspect
to be primarily known to aficionados via Christopher Frayling's book on the genre. At any rate, the following description, suggestive of a hallucinatory
experience, must certainly have been etched into the minds of several readers:
Samson and the Treasure of the Incas (1965), which must have one of the most bizarre plotlines in the history of narrative cinema, begins, simply
enough, as the story of Sheriff Alamo's journey by stagecoach to Silver City, Nevada, bringing a suspected murderer to justice. One of the stagecoach
party - Jerry Damon, the real murderer - for some reason suddenly decides to set off in search of the famed treasure of the Incas, which is buried in the
Pallidi mountains. Meanwhile, the other members of the party are captrued by the Incas, who are on the hunt for victims to sacrifice to their Sun God: Mysia,
Queen of the incas, recognises the suspected murderer as the man who once saved her life and promptly falls in love with him - a sin apparently punishable by
death in Inca circles. The imprisoned travellers' situation seems hopeless - until Samson turns up in the last reel and causes the temple of the Incas to
collapse, rescuing his friends from a cruel fate'. Samson and the Treasure of the Incas was not billed as a comedy.
It is perhaps unfortunate but no, this is not an accurate
synopsis of Pierotti's film, which Frayling was probably unable to see and I suspect that the above text merely reflects his own interpretation of the
telescoped, misleading synopsis found in the American Film Institute Catalogue. The one thing Sir Christopher does get right is the conflation it represents
between the peplum and the western, at a point of juncture between these two trends. For the rest, the Samson character appears from the very start, a quiffed,
bulky cowboy type (played by the unappealing Sergio Ciani aka "Alan Steel") who happens to be nicknamed "Samson", and some kind of
explanation (an exodus following some Spanish colonial incursion centuries back) is given to justify the presence of Peruvian natives in the Wild
More curious than interesting, Samson and the Treasure of the Incas is a routinely skilful film. More notable than anything else (including its rushed
ending, with no epilogue added on) is a look both gaudy and cheap, which might have discomforted Emimmo Salvi - himself a peplum alumnus apparently infatuated
with silly colour schemes. The garish clothing given even to the most casual bit players in Pierotti's movie brings much of the male cast - especially the
feathered, showgirl-like Incas - within the campy vicinity of drag queen territory, adding a presumably unintended dimension to the spectacle of muscular men
divesting themselves of their shirts before grappling at each other in what is meant to be an earnest wrestle.
This film was viewed by me on the Spanish DVD by Impulso, which is anamorphic and has excellent image quality. Featured as options are the typically fine
Italian soundtrack and an execrable Spanish dub, obviously created long after the making of the film itself, which never opened theatrically in Spain.
Feb 27 14 1:32 PM
UNTER GEIERN (1964) Director: Alfred Vohrer
I'm still way behind on my German Western trek. Since I originally wrote this I have seen Robert Siodmak's PYRAMIDS OF THE SUN GODS and THE AZTEC TEMPLE (1965), composited for American release. Lex Barker stars in the epic.
The Bauman ranch is attacked and the women folk are murdered. Returning from bear hunting Mr. Bauman (Walter Barnes) arrives on the scene and is stricken by what appears to be the work of the local Shoshone tribe. But Chief Winnetou (Pierre Brice) thinks otherwise as does his old friend and hunting partner, "Surehand "(Stewart Granger).
Granger looks the part but his white hat and fringed jacket appear spotless and to have come directly from mailorder, clean and pressed. They never get dirty, nor does he. Granger sounds dubbed and it takes a lot away from his usually more personable style. The villains are led by S. Rupp, one of the leading Mexican bad guys in FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, a much grittier and more important Eurowestern made the same year. Elke Sommer is also distractingly clean and neat, but pleasant to look at. Walter Barnes is the only performer who looks like he belongs in the blasted landscape (Interiors: CCC-Atelier, Spandau, Berlin, Germany Grobnicko polje; Croatia-Krka Falls, Krka National Park, Croatia Paklenica Canyon, Paklenica National Park, Croatia Perucko reservoir, Yugoslavia Platak, Yugoslavia Tolove Grede mountain, Yugoslavia Vrlika, Yugoslavia ).
And look closely for Mario Girotti (aka Terence Hill) in the supporting cast.
Alfred Vorher's direction is competent, yet distanced from the center of the action and he appears to favor standoffish, geometrical compositions. He was more at home directing Krimi's ( THE COLLEGE GIRL MURDERS; THE HAND OF POWER).
As a surprise, the Native Americans ride in to rescue the wagon train at the end instead of the US Cavalry. This is the only Winnetou Western I have seen, as the English dubbed FRONTIER HELLCAT. I've never had the desire to read the Karl May novels. I have seen Robert Siodmak's two part adaptation PYRAMID OF THE SUNGODS - AZTEC TEMPLE, like those films, UNTER GEIERN is a sometimes picturesque but curiously "wooden" looking and playing western.
German westerns are unique and not for everyone's taste and certainly very unlike in mood and style the Italian westerns of the same era.
If you do have to see this, watch it in 2.35:1 or not at all.
(c) Robert Monell, 2008 Unter Geiern (1964)
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