Bandidos Blu-ray Review
Blu-ray Release: July 27, 2021 (with the Vengeance Trails set)
Audio: Italian and English DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 Mono
Subtitles: English, English SDH
Run Time: 95:36
Director: Massimo Dallamano
Note: This Blu-ray is currently only available as part of Arrow’s Vengeance Trails four movie set, which also includes Massacre Time (Italian: Le colt cantarono la morte e fu... tempo di massacro; aka: The Brute and the Beast, 1966), My Name is Pecos (Italian: Due once di piombo, 1966), and And God Said to Cain (Italian: E Dio disse a Caino…, 1970).
Former top marksman Richard Martin (Enrico Maria Salerno) teams up with a fresh apprentice to get his revenge against the former protége who betrayed and maimed him. (From Arrow’s official synopsis)
The spaghetti western craze burned bright and fast, quickly generating multiple subgenres within a decade’s time, such as the overtly politically-themed Zapata westerns that marked the middle of the fad and goofball comedy westerns that closed it out. One of the heartier variations was the master & apprentice or mentor western, which was spawned Sergio Leone’s second spaghetti feature, For a Few Dollars More (Italian: Per qualche dollaro in più,1965), which was itself inspired in part by Anthony Mann’s The Tin Star (1967). In Leone’s film, an elder bounty hunter, played by Lee Van Cleef, is paired with a younger character, played by A Fistful of Dollars’ (Italian: Per un pugno di dollari, 1964) Clint Eastwood. The duo begin the film as rivals, but grow to depend on each other as the story progresses and they’re forced to pool their resources. The film’s popularity rocketed the aging Van Cleef into the unlikely position of international superstar and often saw him cast in a mentor capacity alongside a younger rising star. Think of them as a typical revenge western – because they all involve some sort of delayed retribution – with a Pygmalion twist.
The best and most popular of these were Giulio Petroni’s Death Rides a Horse (Italian: Da uomo a uomo) and Tonino Valerii’s Day of Anger (Italian: I giorni dell'ira), which were released mere months apart in 1967 and both starred Van Cleef. Also released in 1967 was Massimo Dallamano’s Banditos (aka: You Die...but I Live, 1967). Dallamano’s career began when he worked as a cinematographer on A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More. As a director, he became better-known for his flashy sexploitation movies – Devil in the Flesh (Italian: Le malizie di Venere, 1969), Venus in Furs (Italian: Venere in pelliccia, 1969), and Dorian Gray (German: Das Bildnis des Dorian Gray, 1970) – and well-regarded trilogy of gialli – A Black Veil for Lisa (Italian: La morte non ha sesso, 1968), What Have You Done to Solange? (Italian: Cosa Avete Fatto a Solange?, 1972), and What Have They Done to Your Daughters? (Italian: La Polizia Chiede Aiuto; aka: The Police Ask for Assistance, 1974) – but Bandidos was his directorial debut. It was also the last western he made in any capacity.
Bandidos follows many of the basic plot points from Petroni and Valerii’s films (for the record: Romano Migliorini, Giovan Battista Mussetto, and Juan Cobos’ screenplay only begins by-the-numbers, before branching out into some surprising places), but trades off Hollywood veteran Van Cleef for Italian veteran Enrico Maria Salerno, who, in a fun twist, dubbed Clint Eastwood in Leone’s movies) He’s slightly miscast as an out-of-sorts one-time ruffian, especially following a career-redefining role as a straight-laced and composed police inspector in Dario Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (Italian: L'Uccello dalle piume di cristallo, 1970) a few years later. Still, Salerno’s inherent elegance as an actor helps support the character’s fall from grace, forcing a classy guy into a desperate, dilapidated mess. Richard is more tragic than Van Cleef’s mentor gunslingers, because, even in the direst of straits, Van Cleef always maintains his dignity. Secondary lead Terry Jenkins, on the other hand, appears to have been hired exclusively for his resemblance to Death Rides a Horse’s John Phillip Law (they go the extra mile by dressing him in essentially the same costume).
Despite crediting Emilio Foriscot as cinematographer, Bandidos was, not surprisingly, shot by Dallamano himself, whose visual flair and eye for melancholy imagery helps elevate the film. Some of the creative compositions and lighting schemes even outshine what he did for Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More, and he clearly learned lessons in suspense and editing while working for Leone. I wouldn’t call Bandidos his best movie (What Have You Done to Solange? is one of the greatest non-Argento/Bava/Fulci gialli of all time), but it is his most virtuosic. This includes a slow pan over the carnage of the opening train slaughter set to the title theme, “La ballata del treno” (“The Ballad of the Train”), as crooned by singer/composer Nico Fidenco, that ends on two hands clasped in death (a barroom painting later in the film mirrors the imagery), a brief, but jaw-dropping series of first-person P.O.V. shots, and final shoot-out that pulls out all the stops.
The original 35mm camera negatives were scanned in 2K and restored by L'Immagine Ritrovata in Bologna, Italy, then additional grading was done at R3Store Studios, London. For whatever reason, this ended up being noisier than the other three other films in the set. It’s not an issue on-par with earlier Italian genre Blu-rays, such as Blue Underground’s Django disc, which was egregiously blanketed in CRT snow, but it is definitely noticeable, especially if you’ve watched the collection all in a row (this is most obvious along the edges of warm hues, which exhibit a mosquito noise-like effect). Fortunately, this doesn’t cascade into too many other problems, like posterization or major edge bleeding. Details are still tidy, the neutral, earthy palette is consistent, and no one tried to mitigate the noisiness with excessive sharpening.
Bandidos comes fitted with original Italian and English dub options, each presented in uncompressed DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mono. As a reminder, the Italian westerns were shot without synced sound, often with international casts who are speaking multiple languages on-set. All language tracks are dubbed and the choice as to which dub to listen to can change from film to film and is largely one of personal taste. This time, the English track has more depth and (in my opinion) the better performances, but can sometimes pretty tinny and hissy. Egisto Macchi’s score gets both the best and worst of the track’s inconsistency. The Italian dub is muffled all-around, but is also interesting for the fact that different sound effects are used. Note that no Italian audio could be found for the final shot.
Commentary with author/critic Kat Ellinger – The co-host of the Daughters of Darkness podcast (with Samm Deighan), editor-in-chief of Diabolique Magazine, and author of All The Colours Of Sergio Martino (Arrow Books, 2018) brings her extensive knowledge to another top-tier commentary track. She begins the track explaining why she, a Euro-sleaze/horror expert, would be doing a spaghetti western commentary track, citing both the historical importance of the westerns in the Italian horror pipeline and her love of Dallamano’s work. From here, she delves into the director’s career, the careers of other major cast & crew members, aged celebrity gossip, the history of the Italian film industry during the 1960s and ‘70s, and more.
A Man in the Saloon (18:51, HD) – A new interview with assistant director Luigi Perelli, who discusses his upbringing, love of film/filmmaking, working his way up the ladder, and a number of the films he worked on.
They Called Him Simon (11:40, HD) – Actor/stuntman Gino Barbacane recalls working on Massacre Time, My Name is Pecos, and Bandidos, then plays a song on his concertina.
Western Bandits (11:27, HD) – Film historian and author Fabio Melelli closes things out with a crash course on Dallamano’s career and mentor westerns (he points out the father/son aspects as important – something I’d honestly not considered), compares Bandidos to other similar works, like Death Rides a Horse and Day of Anger, and discusses the film’s nihilistic touches.
Alternate end title sequence (1:18, HD)
German promotional gallery
The images on this page are taken from the BD and sized for the page. Larger versions can be viewed by clicking the images. Note that there will be some JPG compression.