Sunday, March 24, 2013

El Professore Movie Review: The Return of Ringo

Director: Duccio Tessari
Starring: Giuliano Gemma, Fernando Sancho, Lorella De Luca, Nieves Navarro
*** 1/2

It's Homer's 'The Odyssey' re-imagined as a Western.

To be honest, El Professore tends to prefer his Italo Westerns when they go Goth and/or are overtly violent. This early and highly regarded entry really is neither, but it is such an involving and well crafted piece that it's impossible not to come away from it without realizing you've just witnessed a genre classic.

Full review after the jump.

In it, Ringo (Gemma) returns home from the Civil War only to find his land decimated by a Mexican Gang and his fiancé poised to marry the head Mexi bandit behind it all. Going undercover as a Mexican, Ringo attempts to sort out what has happened and discovers among other things, the daughter he didn't know he had.

Director Duccio Tessori lensed only a precious few Westerns (among them the prequel in name only, 'A Pistol For Ringo', 'The Price of Power' which re-imagines the Kennedy assassination (!) and the whimsical 'Zorro' starring legendary French actor, Alain Delon). 'The Return of Ringo' is arguably his finest and is one of the key early hits in the U.S. While initially appearing more like the local Yank Western, it's Italian heritage comes out in it's by now famous close-ups, unusual camera angles and stylishly filmed gun battles. None of these were as overt as they were in the Leone Westerns that were being filmed at the same time, but they are there nevertheless. If Tessori had made the Western his primary genre, he could have joined the ranks of Leone and Corbucci as one of it's masters.

Giuliano Gemma was Italy's first Western hero. In America, his name is often changed to Montgomery Wood and more often than not is given a dubbed voice that really doesn't suit his looks. That's a shame as he is a strong, expressive actor who always convinces you the character he's portraying is the genuine article. Genre vet Fernando Sancho is typically suave, yet smarmy as the main bandito and as usual makes for a fine foil. The two leading ladies provide both sparks and an interesting study in contrast. The beautiful, doll faced Lorella De Luca underplays her role admirably as Ringo's long suffering estranged fiancé, while Nieves Navarro really plays up her part as the initially conniving Mexican whore. Angered by Ringo's rejection of her, she is eventually won over by his honorable ways and proves instrumental in his plotting for revenge. Ms Navarro threatens to steal the film.

Complete with a memorable (though decidedly low key) score by the maestro Ennio Morricone, 'The Return of Ringo' is indeed one of the great ones and a good starting point for the uninitiated who've only been exposed to the Leone classics and want to delve a little deeper.

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