Man of the East Blu-ray Review
Blu-ray Release: February 9, 2021
Audio: English 2.0 mono DTS-HD Master Audio
Run Time: 125:11
Director: Enzo Barboni
To claim his father's ranch, Sir Thomas Fitzpatrick Phillip Moore (Terence Hill) has come to the West. Unbeknownst to him, his father's dying wish was that his friends and fellow highwaymen teach the lad how to be a real man. Abiding by his last request, the three remaining members of his troupe, Bull (Gregory Walcott), Monkey (Dominic Barto) and Holy Joe (Harry Carey Jr.), are set for a lofty challenge. Thomas is as green as they come and prefers bicycles and poetry over horses and guns. Ill-equipped to deal with his new surroundings, he finally knuckles down when a whirlwind romance forces him to take action against a jealous town marshal. (From Kino Lorber’s official synopsis)
The spaghetti western fad was particularly explosive and its dominance in the Italian film market was precarious from the beginning. Every time market saturation threatened to crash the genre, another film would tweak the formula, renew interest, and lead to a dozen knock-offs that threatened to crash the market again. The final big stage of the cycle was characterized not by filmmaking style, escalations in violence, or political content, but comedies that began by parodying the genre’s stagnation, before devolving themselves into bug-eyed antics and fart jokes. This comedic spaghetti trend began in earnest with the release of Enzo Barboni’s (under the pseudonym: E.B. Clucher) They Call Me Trinity (Italian: Lo chiamavano Trinità…) in 1971, though star Terence Hill (real name Mario Girotti) had been steadily rising through the genre ranks for several years. These earlier roles included Ferdinando Baldi’s Django Prepare a Coffin (Italian: Preparati la bara! and aka: Viva Django!, 1968), where he was Initially hired for his passing likeness to Django (1966) star Franco Nero, and early pairings with real-life friend Bud Spencer (real name Carlo Pedersoli) in Giuseppe Colizzi’s loosely-knit trilogy of God Forgives…I Don’t (Italian: Dio perdona... Io no!, 1967), Ace High (Italian: I Quattro dell'Ave Maria, 1968), and Boot Hill (Italian: La collina degli stivali, 1969).
Hill & Spencer’s chemistry shone through Colizzi’s modest, standard-issue action efforts and they were paired again for Enzo Barboni’s (pseudonym: E.B. Clucher) They Call Me Trinity (Italian: Lo chiamavano Trinità…, 1971), which was designed as a parody of the spaghetti westerns’ stalling repetition. It was enormously popular and led to an even more popular sequel, Trinity Is Still My Name! (Italian: Continuavano a chiamarlo Trinità, 1971), a year later. Hill & Spencer continued to be paired in poliziottesco comedies after the spaghetti’s died off. Spencer was certainly typecast, but the remainder of Hill’s western career was exclusively tied to the Trinity character. Almost every one of his pre and post Trinity westerns were sold or repackaged as official sequels, much as had happened with Nero and the Django character, including Colizzi’s trilogy and Mario Camus’ La collera del vento (1970), which was retitled Trinity Sees Red. Tonion Valerii & Sergio Leone’s My Name Is Nobody (Italian: Il mio nome è Nessuno, 1973) was a special case designed as an implied cash-in, as well as a criticism/reconciliation of the slapstick westerns.
Due to Barboni’s input, Man of the East is arguably the closest audiences got to a true third Trinity movie (at least until Barboni made his legacy sequel, Sons of Trinity [Italian: Trinità & Bambino... e adesso tocca a noi!], in 1995), to the film’s overall detriment. The barely incidental differences between Trinity and Sir Thomas grow frustrating, as does the fact that it often seems as if Thomas has been tacked on to a different, better movie about three aging highwaymen reuniting their gang. Hill doesn’t even appear until the 15-minute mark. The greater idea behind Sir Thomas seems to have been an attempt to mix Trinity with the type of fish-out-of-water city slickers Buster Keaton played in Out West (1918), The Paleface (1922), and Go West (1925). The combination doesn’t work, because the two character types are so incompatible – Keaton thrived playing born losers who succeed as a result of their indomitable pluck, while Hill’s Trinity types are born winners that succeed because they’re supernaturally talented in every aspect of life. They do share an aloofness and relative invincibility, but Keaton’s the only one who managed to be an actual underdog. It’s much harder to root for a tall, blonde, ever-grinning sex symbol, like Hill.
I am admittedly not the best audience for Italian comedy westerns (or Italian slapstick in general), but Man of the East is chock full enough of running gags to have its share of funny moments and the theme of the Modern East encroaching on the Wild West (something Barboni almost certainly borrowed from Leon’s Once Upon a Time in the West [Italian: C'era una volta il West, 1968]) works beyond simple jokes contrasting Thomas’ English manners with the brutish behavior of cowboys. At two hours and five minutes, however, the biggest problem is that the share is spread thin. This isn’t entirely Barbino’s fault, since international audiences had already indicated that they liked lengthy westerns by making The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Italian: Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo, 1966) and the Trinity movies the biggest hits of the era. Even the normally dependable Damiano Damiani, director of the influential early Zapata western Bullet for the General (Italian: El Chuncho, Quien Sabe?, 1966), made a bloated Terence Hill comedy in A Genius, Two Partners and a Dupe (Italian: Un genio, due compari, un pollo, 1975) by the end of the cycle. The awkward manner that Hill (and later his romantic subplot) is paperclipped onto the aging bandit’s story doesn’t help.
Barboni was not an acting lead director during the earlier parts of the spaghetti western boom, but his contributions to the genre were massive, beginning with his role as director of photography on Sergio Corbucci’s first western (arguably co-directed with Albert Band), Grand Canyon Massacre (Italian: Massacro al Grande Canyon; aka: Red Pastures, 1964). He is then credited as the person who urged Sergio Leone to go see Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo (1961), allegedly leading directly to the production of A Fistful of Dollars (Italian: Per un pugno di dollari, 1964). He continued working as DP/cinematographer on Corbucci’s Django and Hellbenders (Italian: I crudeli, 1967), Eugenio Martín’s The Ugly Ones (Italian: El precio de un hombre,1966), and Baldi’s Texas, Addio (1966), Django Prepare a Coffin, and Crazy Westerners (Italian: Little Rita nel West, 1967). The year before They Call Me Trinity, Barboni made his directorial debut with a rather typical, but well-made “autumnal” western called The Unholy Four (Italian: Ciakmull - L'uomo della vendetta, translated as Chuck Moll – Man of Vengeance, 1970). Unholy Four proved too dark for the box office in 1970, but it gave him the chance to continue working in the genre, leading to the Trinity series, Man of the East, and Giuliano Carnimeo’s They Call Him Cemetery (Italian: Gli fumavano le Colt... lo chiamavano Camposanto, 1971), which Barboni wrote. Sadly, none of them looked as nice as Unholy Four.
Given how many crappy budget DVDs there have been of the two official Trinity movies, it’s surprising to learn that Man of the East never saw an official R1 DVD. There have been plenty of anamorphic discs released throughout Europe over the years and the always reliable spaghetti western lovers at Koch media released a RB Blu-ray twice in Germany, but this new Kino Lorber marks the first decent North American availability. The 2.35:1, 1080p transfer appears to match Koch’s first Blu-ray, though I don’t have that disc here for a direct, 1:1 comparison. The second German disc looks a bit sharper, according to the caps-a-holic page, though this seems tied to improved gamma levels, rather than the scan itself. Kino’s transfer hasn’t gone through many filters and is almost definitely sourced from an older HD scan made with DVD and television, not obsessive compulsive collectors, in mind. The scan is on the fuzzy side, partially due to the purposefully softer qualities of cinematographer Aldo Giordani’s photography, edges bleed a tad, and the Technicolor hues lean blue. On the other hand, while soft and sometimes snowy, the digital grain doesn’t have the frustrating telecine sheen, DNR, or blown-out whites seen on the most problematic Italian genre BDs. A boost in contrast and color vibrancy would be welcome, but the overall image is satisfactory, given Man of the East’s lack of Sergio Leone-level interest from the general movie-buying public.
As in the case of Kino’s same-day release of Carlo Lizzani’s The Hills Run Red (Italian: Un Fiume di Dollari; aka: A River of Dollars, 1966), the only audio option available on this disc is the English language dub, which gives the Koch BD an advantage for including the Italian dub as well. Of course, as per usual, I must remind readers that these movies were shot without synced sound and that the international casts were sometimes speaking multiple languages on set. All language tracks are dubbed and things like lip sync and consistent sound quality will always be inconsistent. It doesn’t seem likely that any of the major characters are dubbing their own performances, but the bulk of the cast does seem to have been speaking English on set. The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono sound is thin as expected, but has even tone and volume levels. Distortion is limited to the dialogue in a handful of scenes. The music was composed by the sibling duo of Guido & Maurizio De Angelis, under the pseudonym Oliver Onions. This was one of the team’s earlier film scores, following Trinity is Still My Name. It occasionally riffs on Ennio Morricone’s Man with No Name music, but I think this is more a case of parody, rather than plagiarizing, because the recognizable moments usually coincide with a visual joke of some kind.
Commentary with filmmaker Alex Cox – The director of Repo Man (1984) and Walker (1987), as well as the author of 10,000 Ways to Die: A Director's Take on the Spaghetti Western (Kamera Books, 2009) contributes yet another solid, though somewhat uneven expert track. Again, as in the case of The Hills Run Red, it’s amusing that Cox is talking about this particular movie, since he had nothing nice to say about it in the original printing of his book. He hasn’t really changed his mind this time, though, and is plenty critical of Man of the East, opting instead to complain about the lack of action, and to discuss the film’s place in the greater spaghetti western canon and the larger careers of its cast & crew. His lack of enthusiasm and the two-plus-hour runtime leads to more long silent stretches than heard on the Hills Run Red track, since he says pretty much nothing for the final hour of the movie.
Trailer and trailers for other Kino Lorber spaghetti western releases.
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.