VENGENCE TRAILS: FOUR CLASSIC WESTERNS ARROW REVIEW

Maybe 20 years ago, maybe a generation past, I watched with my father a series of Westerns that stayed with me. I rarely knew their names, the plots were hazy and the ability to define one over the other, hard. However as I grew up and spent more time looking at the screen and the dusty streets of some forgotten American (read Spanish or Italian actually), I began to remember. Franco Nero was the first face. His is of an bronzed, sun scorched adonis, dispatching death to those evil doers. DJANGO was one film I remembered seeing. Of course also came Tomas Milian, TEPEPA. My dad loved his fuck you attitude to authority and his indignation at how the rich, their offspring and their power broker, have now and will always win. Then I forgot so much until VENGENCE TRAILS landed on my mat to review. I flicked through the discs and then began to recall others. Klaus Kinski was a face I remembered. AND GOD SAID TO CAIN which is on this set, was the film. He a gold miner with a grudge. Half wild man, half avenging angel. It was an eye opener for me. I do not know where my dad got this from, although anyone who remembers the 1980s VHS boom will be assured that it was a copy not approved by her majesty or Herr Thatcher.

Then came Nero again, this time in MASSACRE TIME. I remembered it. He is a brother. He is to return to claim a family plot. He returns and find that all is not well. Those who told him are dead and his brother, a drunk is roughed up. Yep I remembered that swagger, the table filled with the dead Carradines and my dad’s nod of approval as Nero deals death and decency. I watched a lot of films when I was younger. God. MY NAME IS PECOS had a face I remembered. George Eastman or Luigi Montefiori to his friends. I saw him in horror films as a teenager. Those terrible, gut busting films of my youth. Video nasties and all. But I always remembered him in a film, with a bunch of nasty, scuzzy guys looking for gold stuffed in something. They plot and probe each other until the inevitable. It was like THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE but with more death and harsher sunlight. Also no badges. I never saw BANDIDOS, my dad likely did. Massimo Dallamano is a name I know. Venus in Furs, Solange and Super Bitch to name a few. Sex and death. Here it is more, revenge and redemption. Shot student becomes a master of retribution. The hands of a man are his most lethal weapon. And so, it would seem, is his memory.

DISCS

Arrow have certainly balanced quality with quantity in releases both current and forth coming. Their Shaw brothers set is a must for many (not me I do not like Kung Fu movies). The 2K MASSARCE TIME is the best on the set by a mile. Tones haven’t shifted, light is consistent and that horrid bleaching of the past, now a thing of it. MY NAME IS PECOS is also highly impressive. Not to be downbeat but there appears a slight colour fix issue. That is to say, the colours appear to drain on 4K screens. Just a word of caution. BANDIDOS has been served the most use of the restoration. I saw the standard version online to compare and it is an uplift that saves the film from both saturation (both in texture and in definition of frame) but it does not go as far as to make it the best it can be (like the army…). AND GOD SAID TO CAIN is an older restoration that looked good in the past and has not really been altered, so if you have that US disc of it, do not expect much.

EXTRAS

Arrow do invest in quality extras. The box contents aside (the poster is great and Vranckx work throughout both fizzes and buzzes with energy) the set itself has a lot of new stuff to consume. The best? Ok so I usually do 3 but here will do 5 to cover them. The best C. Courtney Joyner and Henry Parke on MASSACRE TIME. Encyclopaedic, exploratory and often informative, the do slip into Fulci future but they understand he was a jobbing director and that the film is more than him. New documentary featuring a new interview with Fabio Melelli and a new audio interview with actress Marcella Michelangeli on AND GOD SAID TO CAIN, repays repeat viewing. More because it digests the production in a non Kinski eye often. Third is the New interview with actor George Eastman on MY NAME IS PECOS . He is a warm, funny and sometimes sardonic wit. Its too short but it is a well balanced intro to his work. On the same disc the New commentary by actor Robert Woods and C. Courtney Joyner revels in the film but again insightful, almost excessive information and a conversation on boots drive it to be listened to. Finally, Alternate US dub on MASSACRE TIME. This is the version I saw, I am convinced. Watch both Italian and US versions. They make for compelling viewing.

4-DISC LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS

  • High Definition Blu-ray™ (1080p) presentations of all four films
  • 2K restorations of all four films from the original 35mm camera negatives, with Massacre Time, My Name is Pecos and Bandidos newly restored by Arrow Films for this release
  • Restored lossless mono Italian and English soundtracks
  • English subtitles for the Italian soundtracks
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtracks
  • Galleries for all four films
  • Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by author and critic Howard Hughes
  • Fold-out double-sided poster featuring newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx
  • Limited edition packaging with reversible sleeves featuring original artwork and a slipcover featuring newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx

DISC 1 – MASSACRE TIME

  • Alternate US dub
  • New commentary by authors and critics C. Courtney Joyner and Henry Parke
  • New documentary featuring a new video interview with actor Franco Nero and an archival video interview with actor George Hilton
  • New video interview with film historian Fabio Melelli
  • Italian trailer

DISC 2 – MY NAME IS PECOS

  • New commentary by actor Robert Woods and C. Courtney Joyner
  • New interview with actor George Eastman
  • New interview with actress Lucia Modugno
  • New documentary featuring a new interview with Fabio Melelli and an archival interview with cinematographer Franco Villa
  • Italian trailer

DISC 3 – BANDIDOS

  • New commentary by author and critic Kat Ellinger
  • New interview with assistant director Luigi Perelli
  • New interview with actor Gino Barbacane
  • New interview with Fabio Melelli
  • Alternate end title sequence

DISC 4 – AND GOD SAID TO CAIN

  • New commentary by author and critic Howard Hughes
  • New documentary featuring a new interview with Fabio Melelli and a new audio interview with actress Marcella Michelangeli
  • New interview with actor Antonio Cantafora 

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