Director: Antonio Margheriti
Code Red Releasing

Richard Harrison seeks VENGEANCE on Code Red's second spaghetti western DVD.

The heist of $30,000 in gold is botched after lookout Domingo (Luciano Pigozzi, WEREWOLF IN A GIRLS' DORMITORY) double crosses the group, leading to the deaths of its mastermind Mendoza (Claudio Camaso, BAY OF BLOOD) and young Richie (Alberto Dell'Acqua of the Dell'Acqua stunt family) and the disappearance of the gold. Outlaw Jokko (Richard Harrison, EVIL SPAWN) – pronounced Rokko or Rojo depending on the dubbers, although his gunbelt is monogrammed "J.B." – learns the identity of two of Richie's killers from Domingo before killing him (so much for "and Alan Collins as Domingo") but not the others. He takes on card shark Yuma (stuntman/weapons handler Fredi Unger, BLOOD AND BLACK LACE) and bandido Laredo (Ignazio Spalla, SABATA). He takes on Yuma hand-to-hand until Yuma proves that he cheats at fighting as much as he does at cards. Then he follows Laredo's betrothed Jane (Spela Rozin, MAFIA KILLER) to "New Laredo" – a town whose only prosperous business is grave digging – and uses her to bait Laredo and his men in a siege of the derelict town jail. Searching for the identities of Richie's other killers – with a Pinkerton detective (Paolo Gozlino, DJANGO THE BASTARD) and love-struck Jane in pursuit – he is ambushed by "Kid" (Werner Pochath, DEVIL HUNTER) but also discovers a clue leading to the identity of the fifth killer.

The Italian spaghetti western fad was definitely showing its age by 1968 – although it was not released stateside until 1972 by Sam Lang and J. Arthur Elliot (who collaborated with the film's executive producer Alfredo Leone on backing Mario Bava's BARON BLOOD) – and VENGEANCE is more of the same with only the welcome presences of Harrison, Pigozzi, Unger, Pochath, and Camaso. Between action setpieces, it plods along about ten minutes too long, and we stay with it just to see how Jokko will dispatch his next victim (mostly shootings, but there's also a neat spurs to the throat bit). The climax in the sulfur mine is the highlight of the film as director Antonio Margheriti – billed as "Anthony M. Dawson" – and cinematographer Riccardo Pallotini seem to drop their usual three-camera shooting set-up (which does not allow for much in the way of clever compositions) in favor of a some nice dolly shots and Bava-esque lighting not unlike their work on THE VIRGIN OF NUREMBERG. Composer Carlo Savina (LISA AND THE DEVIL) contributes a rather generic spaghetti western score with a theme song by actor/singer Don Powell (BLACK EMANUELLE).

Previously released in 2000 by Image Entertainment in a barebones anamorphic widescreen version, VENGEANCE is presented here by Code Red in a dual-layer, progressive, anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) from a brand new HD master with a slightly different color balance but also more detail, slivers of additional picture information (although there are very few good compositions in the film since Margheriti and cinematographer Riccardo Pallotini shot most of the scenes with three zoom-happy cameras running simultaneously), and appropriately sunburnt skintones. It's the same element Alfredo Leone licensed to Image so it's still a bit worn like most of Leone's holdings.

The film's Italian trailer (3:46) is presented here without any onscreen text and PAL speedup evident in its rendering of Savina's theme song. That's already more than the Image disc had, but there's also a new interview with Richard Harrison (26:53) in which he recalls getting a three picture deal with American International Pictures – at the time he was married to Loretta Nicholson, daughter of AIP's James H. Nicholson – only to be switched from a leading role to a supporting one in MASTER OF THE WORLD because Vincent Prince wanted Charles Bronson for the part. He went to Italy and his career took off with gladiator pictures, spaghetti westerns, Euro spy films, and crime pics from the sixties through the early eighties before heading off to the Philippines and Hong Kong, returning to the states in the mid-eighties. He discusses working with producers Luciano Martino (KILLERS ARE CHALLENGED), Frank Agrama (THE GODFATHER'S FRIEND), Dick Randall (CHALLENGE THE TIGER), the Shaw Brothers (MARCO POLO), and Fred Olen Ray (TERMINAL FORCE).

Harrison also recalls Camaso being on drugs during the production, Marisa Mell getting Helmut Berger on drugs during BEAST WITH A GUN, getting recruited by fellow American actor Gordon Scott to do a couple Nazisploitation films, and being surprised at how fast Ray worked (and seeing his footage incorporated into the softcore ANGEL EYES amidst John Philip Law bedding various B-movie starlets). He also recalls his shock at shooting a handful of scenes in Hong Kong for Godfrey Ho that would be incorporated into at least fifteen unrelated ninja films (which themselves incorporated recut, redubbed, and rescored footage from a number of low budget films). Executive producer Alfredo Leone is also on hand for a video interview (10:18) in which he recalls only being involved in the financing for the film in exchange for certain territories. He does claim to have gotten involved in the editing of the English version which is apparently different from the Italian cut of the film (the only other version on video is the German version which runs slightly shorter). The disc also includes trailers for GOLD OF THE AMAZON WOMEN (another Leone property), NEON MANIACS, TOP OF THE HEAP, THIS IS A HIJACK!, SHAKMA, SPLITZ, DEVIL'S EXPRESS, DEATH PROMISE, and THE DEATH OF BRUCE LEE. (Eric Cotenas)