A Bible and a Gun!
A group of Mexicans and Confederate soldiers meet in the Old West out near a crumbling fort to make a peace deal between the two warring factions. Arrangements are made and agreements are finalized and the Mexicans begin to celebrate. The whites gun them down in cold blood, massacring nearly all the families gathered there. One small boy, shot but not killed, manages to survive, and is later found by an itinerant preacher and adopted into that family. The boy grows up in the Word of the Lord, with his new mother and father and sister, Princy (Barbara Frey). Soon the two kids are both of age and the family visits a small western town where Princy runs off with some men, wanting to experience life. Her step-brother vows to find her and bring her back, but before he gets far, he stumbles into a stagecoach robbery where he guns down the robbers with ease, a natural shot, a natural killer. He prays over their dead bodies and that’s when the orphan gains the name Requiescant (Lou Castel). He sets off on his mission, which takes him to a fairly lawless town run by an ex-Confederate soldier, George Bellow Ferguson (Mark Damon), who turns out to be the man responsible for the gunning down of Requiescant’s family. Ferguson is also stealing land from the locals with phony grants and schemes. In the end, Requiescant has to confront his past, his violent present, and shoot his way into a future for him and his new people, because a showdown is looming.
This is a damned fine Spaghetti Western. It’s got a lot of the trademarks: the close-ups, the wild music, the operatic storyline. But it also explores ideas of faith and violence, of family and loyalty, and how all of these matters intertwine and weave into a web some would call Fate. Castel is terrific as the torn but determined Requiescant, his gift of being a natural shot and a natural killer never questioned yet still butting up against his religion. He knows that the Bible won’t get things done, though, and he leans into what he must do. Damon is great as the villain because he’s not straight-up evil; he’s just as conflicted as Requiescant. He offers the young man opportunity after opportunity to leave fairly peacefully, but events conspire and both men are destined to fight to the death. Along the way, there are some terrific shots and visuals, and you can feel the dry heat of the desert in every trickle of vibrant sweat you see pouring down character’s faces. There’s also an underlying theme of revolution, of the People rising up against the Owners, and the fact that the conflict is between Mexicans and Whites is pretty relevant to today’s politics.
All in all, this is a really good film. It may be a bit long and a bit too convoluted, but in the end, it all comes together. The action is blazing and the turmoil is real. Everything is set to constant boil, and when the hot water spills over, people are going to get burned. It’s not an all-time classic Spaghetti Western, but it smells of the same rarified air.
Three and a Half Stars out of Four