For our December session, Kirk Ellis brought something truly unexpected: a spaghetti Christmas Western.
Written and directed by Duccio Tessari, (known for sword-and-sandal epics and Westerns, he reportedly co-wrote but was uncredited on Sergio Leone’s A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS), A PISTOL FOR RINGO (1965) is convoluted but stylish, comical yet violent.
The plot has a band of outlaws from Mexico cross into Texas and rob a small-town bank. The sheriff and his posse are in close pursuit. The robbers hold up in a large ranch house where the sheriff’s fiancée lives with her father. To try to find out what the bandits are up to, the sheriff convinces Ringo (Giuliano Gemma, billed as Montgomery Wood), the prisoner he has locked in his jail for killing four men, to join the desperados in the ranch house. And by the way, Ringo, who prefers milk over whiskey, shot the four men after he finished playing a game of hopscotch.
There’s much shooting and killing, sometimes brutal and callous, sometimes like theater of the absurd. And there’s dialogue, some of it pretty humorous, like when Ringo is about to take a bullet out of the wounded bandit leader’s shoulder at the ranch, he tells the bandit he used to work for a barber who was a surgeon on the side and helped him operate on twelve or thirteen horses. The bandit says, “I’m not a horse, understand!” Ringo replies, “And I’m not a doctor, so that makes us even.”
Tessari keeps Christmas evident throughout the film. It opens with two cowboys facing off on the town street, but instead of pulling their guns, they smile and wish each other Merry Christmas. People in the town are buying and decorating Christmas trees. Customers in the bank wear green and/or red items of clothing. Even at the ranch with the bandits in charge, the ranch owner’s daughter still decorates the house.
The music was composed by Ennio Morricone, and the film was shot on location in Almeria, Spain, where Leone shot his “Dollar Trilogy.” But while Leone’s films had a parched, bleak geography, RINGO has bursts of sharp, verdant color.
With a running time of 1 hour and 39 minutes, it is available on Blu-ray.
Along with Kirk, Emmy-winning screenwriter and producer and also author of the book RIDE LONESOME about the production, themes and historical relevance of that classic film, our group includes Johnny D. Boggs, record nine-time Spur Award-winning and Owen Wister Award winner whose work includes LONGHORNS EAST, Kirk’s wife Sheila, David Morrell, award-winning author and New York Times best-selling author of FIRST BLOOD, the novel that introduced the character Rambo, and Robert Nott, award-winning journalist and author of several books on Western films, including his most recent THE FILMS OF BUDD BOETTICHER.
Watch “A Pistol for Ringo” and leave your thoughts in the comments below!