Thursday, January 28, 2010


To be precise, they call him "Cemetery," but more often in the English dub of Giuliano "Anthony Ascott" Carnimeo's semi-comical spaghetti western Gianni Garko's heroic gunfighter is called "the Ace of Hearts." Ace is a man who went the way of the gun when his wife was killed by bandits years ago, but despite a shot of him mourning at her grave this film has nothing to do with revenge. But it turns out to be a little something more than the dismal comedy that it threatened to be at first.

At first we follow two brothers, John and George McIntire, returning from the East to their father's ranch. They've been citified and college educated and, while they're not exactly effete and not exactly fops, they don't really fit into the wild west, the land where babies have bullets for pacifiers and an old lady can shoot a cactus to pieces from a moving train. But they do see themselves as gentlemen with a code of honor to uphold, and this gets them into trouble with the local roughs until the Ace of Hearts intervenes.

The McIntire brothers (Christ Chittell and John Fordyce) are plucky lads but tend to end up in compromising positions despite the Ace of Hearts' (Gianni Garko) efforts to cover for them.

The McIntire boys soon learn that their dad is paying protection money to an extortion gang with an unknown leader. They won't stand for such treatment of their father and with their new retainers Chico and Pedro (the gringos have a hard time telling them apart) they set out to seek justice, only to be caught with their pants (and everything else) down in a pond until the Ace of Hearts intervenes. This time the boys wise up, buy some guns, and ask for instructions from Ace. The helpful gunfighter tries to teach the Mexicans the art of the shotgun, but Chico and Pedro are just as good with throwing knives as they'll ever get with guns.

The film follows the McIntires' quest to learn the identity of the head extortionist, with Ace as their muscle. But the gang has their own hired gun known simply as The Duke (William Berger). "Acey" and "Dukey" know each other quite well and share a mutual professional respect that borders on real affection. In subtle ways they manipulate events so each can get a bigger payday, but both are reluctant to be forced into a potentially fatal showdown -- until there's a $100,000 payday at stake.

The camaraderie between the two gunfighters is the best thing about Graveyard. Garko gives a genial, relaxed performance that has just enough gravitas thanks to the scene at his wife's grave to keep him credible. Berger is even better as a world-weary yet unflappable fellow who never becomes the villain you might expect. He avoids being provoked into fights, responding to insults by agreeing with them, giving an antagonist every chance to walk away until gunplay becomes absolutely necessary. Paid in advance to keep Ace at bay while the gang attacks the McIntires, Duke sees no need to do so by killing him. The grudging friendship between the two gunmen is so well developed that I thought the film would evolve into tragicomedy with one man finally felling the other. But while Garko and Berger give the film a needed edge by playing their characters largely straight, not for slapstick, the film remains a comedy in the end, avoiding any downer finale and even (by modern standards) leaving open another encounter of "Acey" and "Dukey" someday.

Gli fumavano le Colt...lo chiamavano Camposanto is an unpretentious western with generally decent dubbing, though the sound mix on the VideoAsia DVD in the Spaghetti Western Bible Vol. 3 set is a little muddy. Carnimeo's direction is effective but not as flashy as his Sartana films, and some of the comedy is overdone, particularly an overlong barroom brawl scene. Bruno Nicolai throws in a whistling theme tune and adds some mildly melancholy notes later on. There's nothing really special or spectacular about this movie apart from two spaghetti stalwarts, Garko and Berger, doing some of their best acting in the genre. If Ace and Duke had ever crossed paths again, I wouldn't have complained at all.

Here's an Italian trailer uploaded to YouTube by MrSpaghettiWestern:

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