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The Hellbenders (1967) – Sergio Corbucci

So what do you say Spaghetti Westerns are about? Lone hero fighting with baddies in search for revenge/treasure/love?

Yep.

And what about the adventures of outlaws with no clear protagonists/antagonists? Anyone?

Let’s wind the clocks back to ’63. Sergio Leone sees a sad thing in his home Italy – people don’t go to see home-made movies. Instead, they prefer Hollywood blockbusters (despite what your grandma says, nothing have changed in this world).  So, he decided to take one of the most popular genres, Western, get some unknown Hollywood actors for the leading roles and make an impression that the movie wasn’t made in Italy but in USA. As an inspiration for the story and the way things are going, Leone took Akira Kurosawa’s Samurai epic ‘Yojimbo’. The film was named ‘A Fistful of Dollars’ and marked a start for an era of Spaghetti Westerns.

Sergio Leone, ‘the other Sergio’ Corbucci and the third one, Sergio Solima, were kings of the Spaghettis during 60s and 70s, making the actors like Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Franco Nero, known to the whole world.

Sergio Corbucci shares some similarities with Leone – Morricone as a composer, have similar themes (both Leone’s ‘Fistful of Dollars’ and Corbucci’s ‘Django’ were inspired by Kurosawa). But Corbucci’s style is far more harsh, his heroes are much less noble, much more brutal. The visuals in his films are much more strikingly violent. Also, he worked far faster than Leone, releasing up to 4 films a year! And you say Woody Allen is fast!

Before making ‘I Crudeli’ (or ‘The Hellbenders’), Corbucci did some really awesome stuff like ‘Navajo Joe’ and ‘Django’ – classics of the Spaghetti Western genre. ‘I Crudeli’ wasn’t hailed that much as some of his other flicks and now is considered a rare and forgotten movie.

But, – guess what? – I’ve seen it. And that’s a pretty damn good movie we have ‘ere!

Style is typical Corbucci. Harsh, violent, striking… no-taboos for dadda tonight.

Morricone’s music is also present here, BUT it’s much worse than usual Morricone’s business, I have no idea why. I found Morricone’s music to be one of the weakest things in the movie.

One of the most iconic scenes in the movie is when our main characters murder a whole bunch of people to get to ‘their’ money. It’s played out in a typical Corbucci fashion – harshly, not being shy of showing us something. Even though the amount of blood & gore is limited, this scene is extremely hard to watch.

Other brutalities committed by the leads and their slow downfall (no spoilers, as usual!) is something really breathtaking.

Characters are much less Black&White, like we’re used to see them in Spaghettis. Everyone of them thinks he’s doing something for good and commits his brutalities for good and it’s up to viewer to (or not to) root for one or the other. There is no clear answer, like – ‘this guy is SO good!’ or ‘this maaan is sooo BAD!’.

Every single person in this movie has something good and bad within him. And that you can’t say who are we supposed to root for (but you start eventually – for one of them), that every single person who watches this movie has his own perception of who’s better, who’s worse, makes this movie truly unique.

It is fantastic how Director holds of from revealing who’s his favorite! This fantastic quality of this movie makes it the best character-study Western, ever.

Story is really cool. It starts of slowly,but trust me – it’s worth it.

The movie happens just after the Civil War has ended, South has lost. But a ruthless Confederate officer, Jonas, thinks that war is not over till he gets even. Even Steven, with the North. So he and his sons decide to rob the caravan to finance the raise of the Confederation. Jonas, to be able to pass through the hostile territory with the minimal fuss, while the money is hidden in a coffin said to contain the body of his dead son.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but the story about struggle of Southern soldiers to accept their loss, is not typical to the Western genre. I mean, I haven’t seen a single film like it, I mean at all. I don’t wanna say there is NO such movie, only that if it is there, the print is hidden someplace deep in the sands or somethin.

Resume: not everybody’s going to like this Western as much as I did. My certain fascination with the phenomenally human perfectly-developed characters and my love towards ‘the other Sergio’s’ style made me rate this movie as high as I did. Certainly, I highly recommend to check it out if you’ll… errr… will be able to find it of course! I wasn’t joking or nothing when I said this film is real rare, this is not something lying on the shelves in your local Blockbuster.

9/10

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