aka El chuncho, quien sabe?
Director: Damiano Damiani
Cast: Gian Maria Volonté, Lou Castel, Klaus Kinski, Jaime Fernandez, Martine Beswick
Blue Underground / All Region / Unrated / 2.35:1 widescreen / ENGLISH: DTS-HD Mono and ITALIAN: DTS-HD Mono / SUBTITLES: English, Spanish, French / PURCHASE FROM TLA
Disk Extras: A Bullet For The Director – Interviw With Director Damiano Damiani / Theatrical Trailers / Poster & Stills Gallery / Bonus Disc: Gian Maria Volonte: Un Attore Contro
I don’t have much experience in the “Spaghetti Western” arena aside from “The Man With No Name” or “Dollars” trilogy from the genre’s godfather Sergio Leone and starring the baddest dude in cinema, the steely-eyed Clint Eastwood. And really, I have only seen them once and that was a while ago. So when I got A Bullet for the General in the mail, I was very interested to check it out if only to enrich my film palate. I was immediately more interested because of the marquee names on the disk’s cover; Gian Maria Volonté (from the aforementioned Dollars trilogy) and Euro-cult favorite Klaus Kinski (1979′s Nosferatu the Vampyre). The director Damiano Damiani’s name also caught my eye since he is known for some great Italian police thrillers as well as the awesomeness of Amityville II: The Possession.
Set during the Mexican Revolution, a cargo train carrying weapons to the Mexican army is raided by banditos looking to steal the guns for the revolution’s leader, General Elias. On board Bill Tate, a well-dressed American, helps the raiders and their leader “El Chuncho” by shooting a couple of people on the train. Tate (who is later nicknamed “Niño” or “Child” by Chuncho) joins the gang on their quest to carry the guns across the desert and meet up with Elias to get paid for their spoils. On their journey the have shoot-outs with Mexican army soldiers and collect their guns as well and after raiding an army compound, they find a prized possession; a machine gun. Chuncho and Niño develop an uneasy alliance as neither of them, especially Chuncho, doesn’t know that the other man really wants. Is it for the revolution, the notoriety or the cold, hard gold?
Screenwriter Salvatore Laurani, who also worked with Damiani on Confessions of a Police Captain (1971), wrote a very engaging story here about politics and greed. The characters are very likable and badasses in their own ways. Volonté plays “Chuncho ‘El Chuncho’ Munos”, a greasy, smelly bandit who loves his country but loves money a whole lot too. Will he do anything for gold, including letting his innocent countrymen, women and children be murdered by the government, or is he a true revolutionary? Volonté is a relatively little known actor who chews up every scene he’s in. I am now a huge fan. The ultra cool “Niño” played by baby-faced veteran Italian actor Lou Castel (Fists in the Pocket) is a mystery throughout the movie. All we know about him is the story he told Chuncho about being wanted by the U.S. and he wants to stay with the banditos to stay off of their radar. But as the film progresses, he becomes more and more shady.
If you’re looking for an Italian gore-fest like Fulci or sleaze-o-rama like D’Amato, you won’t find it here. The appeal of A Bullet for the General is the story, the characters and the shoot ‘em up Western action. I am not generally a fan of movies pre-1970 for many of my own dumb reasons, but I make a huge exception for this genre of filmmaking. Back then the movies were driven by the acting more than special effects and that makes them a lot more engaging. I really got to know and feel for the two leading characters and see their evolution. The only thing I was disappointed in was Klaus Kinski’s role which was little more than a cameo as a “El Santo” (the Holy), the bandit priest who only shows up in a couple of scenes but, in Kinski-type fashion, he overacts the shit out of them. I love that guy, I wish there would have been more of him.
This is Blue Underground’s best high definition transfer to date. There is very little of the usual film grain flicker I have come to associate with the other BU Italian film transfers. The colors and contrasts are vibrant and very even throughout which has always been a strong point for Blue Underground Blu-ray releases. The English and Italian mono soundtracks are clean and the levels are also even. There are two versions of the film (International/118 minutes and U.S./115 minutes) which, aside from very different dubbing, are basically the same except the first few scenes are more fleshed-out in the International version. This two-disk release features one whole disk for the full-length (112 minutes) Gian Maria Volonté: Un Attroe Contro, a very interesting documentary about the life and films of the beloved Volonté. On the main disk is a short 6 minute interview with Damiani which basically covers his love of Sergio Leone films and how they inspired his style of filmmaking.