9 February 2008 | Bunuel1976
TODAY IT'S ME
TOMORROW YOU (Tonino Cervi, 1968) ***
I'm sure this title has been broadcast on Italian TV many times over the years but, only after renting it on DVD along with many another Spaghetti Western, did I bother to check out whether it was any good – and I was surprised to see it receive a *** rating on the "Cult Filmz" website! As it turned out, I found myself agreeing with that assessment – which makes the film one of the better (if largely unsung) entries in this profuse, eclectic and erratic genre.
An interesting name in the credits is that of co-screenwriter Dario Argento; actually, early in his career the soon-to-be horrormeister worked on several such efforts in this capacity (including the ultimate genre masterpiece, Sergio Leone's ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST ). Similarly, director/co-screenwriter Cervi started out as a producer on films by such Italian art-house heavyweights as Antonioni, Bertolucci, Bolognini, De Sica, Fellini, Lattuada, Monicelli and Visconti, etc. – though, later, he even dabbled in nunsploitation flicks!
Anyway, as I said, this is a pretty good Spaghetti Western – albeit saddled with a catchpenny (and meaningless) title – involving a typical revenge plot: leading man Brett Halsey (appearing, unnecessarily, under the amusing pseudonym Montgomery Ford!) emerges from prison after five years, having been framed for the murder of his Indian squaw bride (shown in sepia-toned flashback, this is pretty much a genre fixture); he rallies a compact but formidable band of gunmen/mercenaries (shades of THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN ) and sets out in pursuit of the real culprit, ex-pal Tatsuya Nakadai (the celebrated Japanese actor is given the Mexican name of Elfego, though he wields a deadly machete in the fashion of a samurai!).
Halsey appeared in a number of low-brow Spaghetti Westerns (one of them being ROY COLT AND WINCHESTER JACK , incidentally an irregular – and disappointing – stint in the genre by Mario Bava, another seminal figure in Italian horror cinema) but this is most probably the best one he did. Accompanying the appropriately dour and black-clad lead, among others, are beefy Bud Spencer (a future icon of brawling comic fare – by the way, I have three more Spaghetti Westerns of his lined up for this week, one of which also credits Argento among its scriptwriters) and genre/Euro-Cult stalwart William Berger (his character is something of a fop and, furthermore, has a gambling addiction).
Nakadai's presence here, then, is a delightful surprise – which definitely works to the film's advantage (his demise, in a confrontation not unlike that in a Budd Boetticher Western, is a particular highlight); with this in mind, prolific composer Angelo Francesco Lavagnino incorporates several weird Oriental sounds into the traditional Spaghetti Western motifs – and the result is effective indeed. Sergio D'Offizi's notable cinematography, however, isn't rendered justice by the English-dubbed print utilized for the VCI DVD – which is considerably scratched and muddy (at one point, Halsey remarks that "It'll be dark soon"
but the sky, as it appears, is already pitch-black!). Needless to say, the film contains the expected set-pieces of violent action – including an admirably sustained forest ambush at the climax.