July 21st, 2020

Yellow and Red Vertigo

The Same Sands in Different Lands

Spaghetti Westerns were typically Italian productions shot in Spain standing in for the old American West. But why shouldn't one have also been set in Spain? At least one was--1967's Man, Pride and Vengeance (L'uomo, l'orgoglio, la vendetta). That's not the only atypical thing about it, though. The story centres on a torrid romance between Franco Nero and Tina Aumont--it feels much more like a film noir or psychological tragedy than a Spaghetti Western until two thirds of the way through when Klaus Kinski shows up. It's a decent enough film about poisonous love, though it works mainly on the strength of its visuals, particularly in terms of how gorgeous Nero and Aumont were.

The film's German title is Mit Django kam der Tod. I can just imagine how many Django fans were thoroughly disappointed by this film with which the only thing it has in common with Django is Franco Nero. And his lovesick, earnest Spanish officer has very little in common with the character he played in that influential 1966 film.

Handsome young Jose (Nero) meets Carmen (Aumont), a beautiful young gypsy, when she starts a fight in a barracks' workshop. Escorting her to prison, he allows her to walk ahead after she begs him not to allow her to be shamed in front of her neighbours. Of course, she gives him the slip and he's put in detention.

But it's not the last he sees of her nor the last time she takes advantage of him. But they both seem to have a fabulous time rolling in bed and it's not really clear how much of what she does is manipulation or how much is genuine affection for Jose. Or maybe it's both, as she tries to explain to him later.

When he's heartbroken over an Englishman she starts living with, she tells him, yes, she loves the Englishman now. But only for now. Why can't Jose understand that? Maybe he's sore because he had to skip town after murdering a superior officer he found in bed with her.

Then things really do start to look like a Spaghetti Western. Jose gets a really nice but totally impractical sable corduroy jacket and big turquoise scarf. And suddenly Carmen has a husband who's just been released from prison. And it's just poor Jose's luck that it happens to be Klaus Kinski.

Not that Kinski seems to be the jealous type here, just generally ruthless and sadistic. When Jose's young friend is shot during a botched robbery, he tries to carry him to safety but Kinski saves everyone the trouble and executes the lad.

There are some pretty good fight scenes though the climactic tussle between Nero and Kinski is kind of ruined by it being muddy blue day for night shots. The main story stays between Jose and Carmen, though. She remains slightly mysterious but credible and Jose is prevented from coming off as just a pathetic load because Nero is so devastatingly handsome. There was definitely something between these two. Just what it was is the kind of tormenting question that ends in graves.