Killer Calibre 32 (Alfonso Brescia, Italy, 1967)

In the Old West an elegantly attired contract killer named Mister Silver (Peter Lee Lawrence) is hired by the owners of the local banks to find and eliminate the masked outlaws who’ve been robbing stagecoaches and who on their last raid ruthlessly killed all the passengers.

Well-plotted and pacy Euro-Western featuring some rough and tumble stunt-work in which none of the actors appear to have been doubled and offering an excellent English dub. German actor Peter Lee Lawrence (the young husband seen gunned down in flashback by Indio in Leone’s For A Few Dollars More) is the stern, serious and unfailingly polite lead (‘Sorry, Ma’am’, he informs a bar hostess before decking her with a punch) whose fighting and marksmanship skills (he kills his victims with a silver bullet!) are so sharp he seems almost too damn good for the ruthless killers he’s up against. Lorenzo Gicca Palli’s screenplay spins some smart twists once the robbers realise they’ve been betrayed by their own boss and find themselves being knocked off one by one by a mysterious assassin. Silver isn’t the only one hunting the outlaws and the motives of at least one of the supporting characters here proves a genuine surprise. If the production values are a touch ragged (the bruises Silver receives from a beating simply disappear between scenes, there’s a lousy day-for-night shot and a crudely animated title sequence hilariously derivative of the one in Fistful Of Dollars), well, who cares? It’s all part of the fun. I liked the film a lot and in part I liked it because it has none of the tongue in cheek parody or cynicism of the Leone westerns. It treats everything with same stern, unironic seriousness as Silver’s character (at one point our hero joins a bar fight because someone spilled his drink!) and Brescia’s unflashy, functional direction is about as far from Leone’s exaggerated stylistics as you can get. That might make it sound dull but it isn’t at all thanks to Peter Lee Lawrence’s engaging performance and an unusually sturdy plot. The film moves so quickly that the relative black and white nature of the characters never seems a drag.

The Birth Of A Legend

53 years ago an American television actor accepted the starring role in a low budget Italian-German-Spanish co-production of a remake of a Japanese samurai movie, at a time when the very notion of Americans acting in European movies was regarded in Hollywood as the kiss of death for their careers. Seriously, how wrong can you be? Joe Leydon has a good summation of the impact of the Clint and Leone trilogy here.