In revolutionary Mexico, a young American joins a group of bandits and aids them in their fight against the authorities. But it's money he's after, and he has an ulterior motive...
Scripted by Salvatore Laurani and Franco Solinas, Damiano Damiani's sweaty, sun-baked Spaghetti Western is one of the best in the genre. A true epic, it takes in a gallery of colourful characters and action setpieces all set against a vast, dusty landscape and doesn't shy away from its strong political elements.
The main characters are all distinctively drawn and played. Chuncho (Gian Maria Volontè, terrific) is the earthy, grand, bandit leader who has been led astray from his noble cause. Tate, the "Gringo", (Lou Castel) is the cold and calculating, homosexual, capitalist killer. El Santo (Klaus Kinski) is the grenade-throwing religious fanatic, half-brother of Chuncho (not that there's much of a resemblance, it has to be said). Adelita (Martine Beswick) is the cigar-chomping, rifle-brandishing moll.
The gunfights are plentiful and exhilaratingly rendered; it's a wonder there's anyone left alive a the end of the film, considering how many bullets are flying around. But the human aspect is not ignored: Chuncho kills for the good of his people, and when he is driven by the love of money he forgets his principles, not only to his own cost, but to the cost of the ordinary citizens who regard him as their hero. This is complicated by the fact that has a true friend in Tate (there's definitely a mutual attraction between them), but the restrained American is a bad influence, which leaves Chuncho with a difficult choice at the end.
As well as all this, there are many moments to savour, such as the champagne cork popping at the same time as a huge explosion, or the scene where Chuncho sings the malaria-stricken Tate to sleep at the top of his voice. Perhaps the film rambles a little too much, but that's just a quibble - this is an excellent, rousing Western. There also great music by Luis Enriquez Bacalov (supervised by Ennio Morricone).