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Vengeance Trails Blu-ray Review

“Vengeance Trails” offers up 4 spaghetti westerns. 

Spaghetti western fans, rejoice! Arrow Video has released a new box set titled “Vengeance Trails” which features “Massacre Time,” “And God Said To Cain,” “My Name Is Pecos” and “Bandidos.”

Horror maestro Lucio Fulci directs 1966’s “Massacre Time” which stars spaghetti western icon Franco Nero as a gold prospector named Tom who is called back to his hometown for unknown reasons. Upon arrival, Tom discovers his brother has become a drunk and that the town is basically run by Mr. Scott and his deranged son Junior. The surprises don’t stop when Tom discovers a family secret that will upend his world.

The plot of “Massacre Time” isn’t much, but thankfully the cast more than makes up for the shortcomings. As per usual Franco Nero knocks it out of the park. He’s one of the best actors of the spaghetti western for a reason. The real scene stealer is Nino Castelnuovo as Junior. It’s an incredibly wild and over-the-top performance that you can’t look away from. Between the way he holds his head to his brutal violence, the character truly makes the movie worth watching.

1966’s “My Name Is Pecos” is the weak link of the set. The story finds a Mexican gunslinger named Pecos who returns to his hometown where he finds he man responsible for his family’s murder (Joe Clain). Clain (who has many men in his outfit) is searching for money that was stashed by one of his men who double crossed him. Will Pecos be able to get revenge Clain and company?

“My Name Is Pecos” feels like a generic spaghetti western. The plot and characters are vague, the production values are minimal, and the middle act is meandering. Robert Woods is adequate in the title role and there’s plenty of shootout action if that’s what you’re looking for, but there’s not enough new material here to make it standout from the rest of the spaghetti westerns.

1967’s “Bandidos” is the best of the lot. In this picture, noted gunman Richard is traveling by a train which becomes held up by his former student Billy. Billy and his men slaughter everyone but spare Richard’s life. Billy, however, shoots Richard’s hands which forever ruins his career. Time passes as Richard becomes a traveling showman. He meets a man named Philip and teaches him to shoot like he once did. It turns out Philip is an escaped convict who was framed for murder. To say what happens next will be entering spoiler territory, but the lives of Richard, Philip and Billy become intertwined. 

Directed by Massimo Dallamano (who was the cinematographer on “A Fistful Of Dollars” and “For A Few Dollars More”), “Bandidos” is more of a psychological character study of 3 characters than it is an action western. The viewers really get into the heads of each characters which makes every character action impactful. The past and present plays heavily into these 3 characters and you’re eager to find out what their fate is. 

1970’s “And God Said To Cain” is a revenge western that revolves around a man named Gary Hamilton who has spent 10 years in a prison camp. After getting pardoned, Gary seeks out those responsible (led by Acombar) for him being framed for a crime he did not commit. His journey leads him back to his hometown which also happens to have an impending tornado.

Despite having a thin and repetitive plot, “And God Said To Cain” is a dark, atmospheric western about revenge, sins of the father, and characters not being able to escape their past. The parallel between the tornado and the character of Gary (who is basically a force of nature) is a unique element (especially for a western) that elevates the predictable story. Speaking of Gary, Klaus Kinski delivers a badass performance as the character. Could he have used a little more characterization? Sure, but the ere of mystery works.

Video/Audio:

Presentation: 2.35:1 1080p. How do they look? Each film has been given a 2K restoration. “Massacre Time” and “My Name Is Pecos” have the sharpest prints here. “And God Said To Cain” has a nice clean print while “Bandidos” is a little fuzzy albeit solid.

Audio Track: 1.0 English and Italian. How do they sound? All 4 films have Original Lossless Mono tracks with optional English subtitles. Both the English and Italian tracks of ‘Pecos’ sound the best here while ‘Cain’ has quality sounding English and Italian tracks. The English “Bandidos” track is crisp but the Italian one is of lesser quality. ‘Massacre’ has a top notch Italian track, but the English track is a little snowy in parts. There is an alternate US Dub track for ‘Massacre’ as well.
Extras:
* A booklet with credits, 4 essays on each film by Howard Hughes, photos and restoration notes.
* Double-sided poster for “Bandidos” and “Massacre Time.”
* German promotional image galleries for all 4 films.
* Italian trailers for “Massacre Time” and “My Name Is Pecos.”
* Alternate end title sequence for “Bandidos.”
* Commentary on “Bandidos” by Kat Ellinger, commentary on “My Name Is Pecos” by Robert Woods and C. Courtney Joyner, commentary on “And God Said To Cain” by Howard Hughes, and commentary on “Massacre Time” by C. Courtney Joyner and Henry Parke.
* A new video interview with “Bandidos” assistant director Luigi Perelli.
* A new video interview with “Bandidos” actor Gino Barbacane.
* A new video interview with film historian Fabio Melelli about “Bandidos.”
* 2 new video interviews with “My Name Is Pecos” actor Luigi Montefiori (AKA George Eastman) and actress Lucia Modugno.
* “Pecos Kills”- An informative new “My Name Is Pecos” documentary which features an interview with film historian Fabio Melelli and an archival interview with cinematographer Franco Villa.
* “Between Gothic and Western”- A new documentary on “And God Said To Cain” that features an interview with film historian Fabio Melelli once again alongside a new audio interview with actress Marcella Michelangeli.
* A new video interview with “And God Said To Cain” actor Antonio Cantafora.
* “Two Men Alone”- A new documentary on “Massacre Time” which includes an interview with Franco Nero and an archival interview with actor George Hilton. My favorite extra here. I loved hearing Nero’s stories.
* A new interview with film historian Fabio Melelli about “Massacre Time.”

January 6, 2022 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , , , , , , ,

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