12 June 2008 | Bunuel1976
TWO PISTOLS AND A COWARD (Giorgio Ferroni, 1968) **1/2
This was just as obscure an entry in the Spaghetti Western genre as PROFESSIONALS FOR A MASSACRE (1967), which preceded it, had been; conversely, however, this has a somewhat complex (if still derivative) plot and an altogether somber tone. The film deals with the exploits of a legendary circus performer, a maverick gunslinger played by Anthony Steffen; it transpires, though, that this confident – even showy – façade (idolized by many kids but one in particular a' la SHANE ) hides an essentially insecure and cowardly personality!
The Italian title translates to “The Gunman Marked By God” which, rather than a direct reference to his pistol prowess, I take to be a reference to the permanent scar his father gave him – after a gun he was maneuvering when still a boy had accidentally gone off and caused a cattle stampede which left his elder brother dead! The narrative takes in a variety of characters (though Steffen’s fellow circus members are relegated to the sidelines), but most prominent are the afore-mentioned boy and an unscrupulous cattle boss – flanked by the inevitable hired hand who, once the hero’s yellow streak is exposed, makes it a point to humiliate him at every turn. For the record, Steffen had been given credit for shooting five badmen single-handedly when forming part of a posse…but the deed was really committed by the hired hand – shades of THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE (1962); the latter is played by Richard Wyler, one of the bandits behind a bank robbery and who had callously slain his own men soon afterwards!
Naturally, the hero contrives to regain his composure by the end, save the boy (who has been kidnapped by the cattle boss – because the former can attest to his involvement in the murder of the boy’s father years earlier!) and bring to book the villains…all of which leads him to once more be taken to heart by the townspeople. Ferroni can’t really be said to have had a distinctive cinematic style though, to his credit, he competently dabbled for a good many years in most avenues within the broad scope of “Euro-Cult”; while perhaps not among his more rewarding works, this is certainly an agreeable time-passer – which, however, is awkwardly accompanied by a grandiose and melodramatic score from the usually reliable Carlo Rustichelli that better befits a peplum or a Gothic Horror effort than a Western!