Carlo Lizzani's much-underrated spaghetti western REQUIESCANT (aka KILL AND PRAY) gets the treatment and exposure it deserves with Arrow Video USA's Blu-ray/DVD combo.
The only survivor of the massacre of a Mexican villagers double-crossed on a deal granting them territory that includes Fort Hernandez and the town of San Antonio, young orphan Requiescant (Lou Castel, ORGASMO) grows up over a period of ten years with a traveling preacher, his wife, and daughter Princy (Barbara Frey, LOVE AT TWENTY). When Princy runs off with a dancing troupe, Requiescant dutifully heads into no man's land armed only with his bible. Looking for traveling accommodations, Requiescant winds up in the middle of a stage coach robbery and inadvertently shoots two of the robbers and discovers that he is a natural born sharpshooter (and gets to confirm it when the dead robbers' partners come in search of him). Arriving in the town of San Antonio, he discovers Princy is a state of forced prostitution by saloon owner Dean Light (Ferruccio Viotti, DAY OF ANGER). He discovers that the town has no sheriff and that the only thing resembling authority is Southern self-proclaimed aristocrat George Bellow Ferguson (Mark Damon, THE DEVIL'S WEDDING NIGHT) who has the local judge, the local doctor, and a gubernatorial candidate in his pocket. Requiescant naively approaches Ferguson about Princy's freedom and Ferguson makes of show of ordering Light to let the girl go and put a stop to his operation. After challenging Requiescant to a drinking and sharpshooting contest which the young man wins, Ferguson sends his men to ambush him; but Requiescant keeps coming back. While seeking shelter for himself and Princy in the ruins of Fort Hernandez, Requiescant discovers the truth about his childhood and his Mexican revolutionary father from the massacre's survivors lead by Father Juan (filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini, SALO) who are once again ready to fight for their liberty.
Shot in 1968, REQUIESCANT manages to be simultaneously a political spaghetti western and a gothic spaghetti western with Damon's perverted pseudo-aristocrat looking at times like Vincent Price's Roderick Usher, lording over his black and Mexican "slaves" and driving his wife (TERROR CREATURES FROM THE GRAVE's Mirella Maravidi) towards a nervous breakdown, along with some overt hints of homoerotic attraction to Dean Light ("I'm not as good-looking as I used to be, am I?") Although it lays on its political allegory rather thickly, the film has some setpieces that rival the better-known westerns of Sergio Leone and Sergio Sollima, including Requiscant's suspenseful game of "hangman's noose" with Light. Colombian-born actor Castel started his career far down in the supporting cast of Luchino Visconti's epic THE LEOPARD but first came to the public notice in Marco Bellocchio's FIST IN THE POCKET as the sociopathic youngest son of a dysfunctional family who decides to do away with his troublesome relatives to please his older brother (Marino Mase, who also appeared in THE LEOPARD). A multifaceted actor capable of effortlessly bringing out he noble or perverse natures of his characters, Castel appeared in only a handful of exploitation films (including two more westerns) but is mainly known for his art film credits including Fassbinder's BEWARE OF THE HOLY WHORE, Herzog's THE AMERICAN FRIEND and THE SCARLET LETTER, and Olivier Assayas' IRMA VEP among others. Pasolini's padre provides commentary on Requiescant's political awakening to the point where our young hero risks being no better than the enemy in the enjoyment he feels taking his revenge. Pasolini regulars Franco Citti (ACCATONE) and Ninetto Davoli (TEOREMA) appear, respectively, as a one of Light's hired guns (who has made a lucky charm out of a doll belonging to one of the slaughtered Mexicans) and one of the surviving revolutionaries. Lizzani had directed the earlier western THE HILLS RUN RED as a favor to producer Dino De Laurentiis but would not return to the genre after REQUIESCANT. He would dabble in other genres including art film (an episode of LOVE AND ANGER which also featured a contribution from Pasolini), crime (THE VIOLENT FOUR, THE BANDIT), gangster (TORINO NERA, CRAZY JOE), comedy (ROMA BENE), sex (TEENAGE PROSTITUION RACKET, THE KLEINHOFF HOTEL), although he is perhaps best known for the arty, giallo-esque THE HOUSE OF THE YELLOW CARPET (which garnered a small theatrical release over here from Orion but became better known on tape from Vestron where it was often mistaken for a horror movie).
Unreleased stateside theatrically, REQUIESCANT first became available from on DVD from Wild East in a non-anamorphic 1.66:1 DVD. The company reissued the film in an anamorphic double feature with Rafael Romero Marchent's DEAD MEN DON'T COUNT and featuring an interview with Castel. A German release followed in 2012 from Koch that featured a 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer, an English dub option, and optional English subtitles for the extras. Arrow Video's Region A/B dual-country release features a stunning 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.85:1 widescreen transfer boasting bold colors and depth (revealing that cinematographer Sandro Mancori could achieve some spaghetti western-like compositions without the scope format). A handful of panning shots look softer but this seems to be a focus issue rather than an issue with the master. Audio is available in cleaned-up English and Italian LPCM 1.0 mono tracks that highlight the gunplay and Riz Ortolani's score. English subtitles are available for both English and Italian tracks.
Actor Castel (13:38) appears in a French-language interview in which he describes how he initially chose roles based on dialectical extremes starting with the negative character in Marco Bellocchio's FISTS IN THE POCKET to a positive one in Liliana Cavani's telefilm of FRANCIS OF ASSISI back to the negative in his first western A BULLET FOR THE GENERAL. Of REQUIESCANT, he discusses the original concept of anarchist scenarist Franco Bucceri (MY DEAR KILLER) and the changes made by Lizzani and Pasolini, including his dislike of the Mexican "chorus" following him around as he experiences his political awakening and the Chaplin-esque touches he added to the film (the shot of him on horseback catching his hat with the frying pan was an insert because of a continuity error in which his hat was on in one shot and missing in the next. Carried over from the Koch release of the film is an interview with director Lizzani (27:43) who discusses his early career working with Giuseppe De Santis and Roberto Rossellini, how neo-realism fell out of favor in the fifties (conservatives viewed it as airing the country's dirty laundry to the world), his association with Dino De Laurentiis, how preventative censorship pushed most filmmakers towards frivolous genres and how his films were reflective of the protests of 1968. Of REQUIESCANT, he describes how Castel was chosen because of his association to the public with Bellocchio and Damon because of his spaghetti western popularity, and Pasolini for his films and leftist intellectual reputation. The Italian theatrical trailer (2:58) has no dialogue and is the source for the introductory images of the Lizzani interview. The combo also comes with a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx and an illustrated collector’s booklet containing new writing on the film by Pasquale Iannone not supplied for review. (Eric Cotenas)
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