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DVD, Movie Review

Review: I Want Him Dead [Dir: Paolo Bianchini – 1968]

I Want Him Dead is a violent tale of murder and revenge set against the backdrop of the American Civil War.

Craig Hill (Taste of Killing, Seven Guns for a Massacre) stars as Clayton, a man who’s no stranger to a good kicking. Following the rape and slaughter of his sister at the hands of ruthless bandit Jack Blood (Jose Manuel Martin) and one of his henchmen, he vows to avenge her death at whatever cost to himself.

Meanwhile, Blood and his gang of grimy desperadoes are recruited by gunrunner Mallek (Andrea Bosic) to cut short forthcoming high level peace talks that threaten to end the war and put him out of business. The plan is to assassinate the Generals meeting for the top secret conference, pointing the finger of blame at the Confederates and prolonging the conflict.

These less than subtle strands, blending the basic ingredients of many a Spaghetti Western, collide together somewhat awkwardly in a climax that sees the nefarious plot thwarted and revenge dished up at the business end of a hunting blade.

Released in 1968, I Want Him Dead was the work of Paolo Bianchini, whose contributions to the genre share a common theme of tough nihilism and include one of Quentin Tarentino’s personal favourites, Machine Gun Killers (aka Gatling Gun). For I Want Him Dead, he peppered the cast with faces familiar to any fan of the genre, including the aforementioned Hill, Bosic, Martin and the members of Blood’s gang.

This is possibly one of Hill’s finest roles alongside that of Hank Fellows in A Taste of Killing and despite glaring historical inaccuracies, the film builds up to what should be a gripping climax in the best traditions of Spaghetti Westdom. Unfortunately, it’s the ending that proves to be something of a letdown, failing to deliver the satisfactory denouement that the seething rage bubbling away throughout, seems to promise.

Fair enough, the violence is cranked up in suitable fashion, but with Jack Blood getting his comeuppance as the result of a fistfight, retribution seems a little tempered. The warnings are there throughout though, with the inordinate number of times that Hill’s character gets beaten up, possibly signposting the fact that the only punch up he’ll win is the one where justice is finally served.

Blood’s gang, one of whom took part in the rape and murder that sets Clayton on the road to bloody retribution, miss the revenge boat entirely, choosing to kill each other as they make an escape with the $50,000 they were due to be paid for the assassination. It’s all exciting stuff – with the gang killing each other on the back of a speeding horse and cart – but a somewhat tepid outcome considering the audience is rooting for a classic-style gundown and for the entire gang to be served their just desserts at the behest of Clayton’s trigger finger.

All that said, I Want Him Dead remains decent Spaghetti fare. Craig Hill makes for a robust anti-hero, whose sole motivation is revenge, even if he does manage to snaffle the gunrunner’s fallen loot somewhat unceremoniously at the end. The Almerian scenery is suitably dusty and grand, and the sweaty close-ups, forced perspective shots and brutal atmosphere (all trademarks of the Spaghetti Western) provide enough to hold the attention of the average fan.

It’s just a shame that a more gratifying conclusion isn’t there to reward the audience’s investment.

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This review is the first in a series of spaghetti western reviews by Nick James, the man behind the brilliant Head Full Of Snow and Have Pen Won’t Travel. Be sure to visit his blogs and follow him on twitter @Jeffman1

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