Find a Place to Die Blu-ray Review
Blu-ray Release: July 25, 2023 (as part of the Blood Money collection)
Audio: Italian and English LPCM 2.0 Mono
Subtitles: English, English SDH
Run Time: 89:05
Director: Giuliano Carnimeo
Note: This Blu-ray is currently only available as part of Arrow’s Blood Money: Four Western Classics Vol. 2 four-movie collection, which also includes Romolo Guerrieri's $10,000 Blood Money (1967), Giovanni Fago's Vengeance is Mine (1967; a.k.a. $100,000 for a Killing), and Cesare Canevari's Matalo! (1970).
A disgraced former soldier named Joe Collins (Jeffrey Hunter) assembles a ragtag band of scoundrels. Together, they are lured into helping a woman (Pascale Petit) rescue her prospector husband, who is trapped at their gold mine cave-in, though, in reality, they have designs on the gold strike themselves. (From Arrow’s official synopsis)
Giuliano Carnimeo (aka: Anthony Ascott) was always a working man’s director, but his contribution to Italian westerns was still substantial, totaling (at least) 14 movies, the best received of which were his four sequels to Gianfranco Parolini’s ...If You Meet Sartana Pray for Your Death (Italian: Se incontri Sartana prega per la tua morte, 1968), two Hallelujah movies (They Call Me Hallelujah [Italian: Testa t'ammazzo, croce... sei morto... Mi chiamano Alleluja, 1971] and The Return of Hallelujah [Italian: Il West ti va stretto, amico... è arrivato Alleluja, 1972]), and other movies starring Gianni Garko or George Hilton that were rebranded as Sartana or Hallelujah sequels in some territories. For my money, his best films are his sole giallo, The Case of the Bloody Iris (Italian: Perché quelle strane gocce di sangue sul corpo di Jennifer, 1972) and I Am Sartana Your Angel of Death (Italian: Sono Sartana, il vostro becchino, 1969), easily the best of the series and maybe even a top ten all-timer in terms of pure action. Carnimeo chased trends and wasn’t working from the most innovative scripts, but even his blandest movies tend to be well made and have at least a couple of exciting set-pieces.
Find a Place to Die (Italian: Joe... cercati un posto per morire!, 1968) is one of Carnimeo's more commonly seen films outside of Italy, in part due to weird copyright issues, but also due to its connections to Hollywood westerns. It is an uncredited pseudo-remake of Henry Hathaway’s Garden of Evil (1954) or at least Carnimeo, Lamberto Benvenuti, and Hugo Fregonese’s (more on him in a moment) screenplay begins with the same basic idea and features the same plot twist. Given the Italians’ well-earned reputation for stealing ideas, it was surprisingly rare for spaghetti to wholesale lift their plot from American westerns, rather than mashing up pastiches of whatever was making money at that exact moment in time. Find a Place to Die is a simplified version of Hathaway’s film (the third act is one back-stabbing after another), but still has a relatively strong narrative drive for a late ‘60s Eurowestern.
Perhaps also due to its American roots, Find a Place to Die is co-led by a well-rounded female character played by Pascale Petit, seen a couple of years later in Mario Bava’s erotic farce Four Times That Night (Italian: Quante volte... quella notte, 1971). Independent, interesting women weren’t unheard of in Italian genre cinema, but they were a rarity, especially in the macho-obsessed spaghetti westerns, where the fairer sex tended to appear as damsels, horny innkeepers, nameless sex workers, or simply not at all. Find a Place to Die actually has two women in major roles, the second a canteen entertainer and femme fatale played by Daniela Giordano, who also appears in Four Times That Night, as well as Luciano Ercoli’s Death Walks on High Heels (Italian: La morte cammina con i tacchi alti, 1971) and Sergio Martino’s Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (Italian: Il Tuo Vizio è Una Stanza Chiusa e Solo Io ne ho la Chiave, 1972). Of course, there’s also a scene where Petit bathes nude in a stream and is nearly raped by two members of the posse, so it’s not exactly a progressive look at gender politics, but it’s something.
The other major Hollywood connection is star Jeffrey Hunter. Hunter came into his own during the Golden Age of revisionist westerns, appearing in Robert D. Webb’s White Feather (1955) and The Proud Ones (1956), Abner Biberman’s Gun for a Coward (1956), Nicholas Ray’s The True Story of Jesse James (1957), and John Ford’s masterpiece, The Searchers (1956). Like many actors of his generation, he made the move to TV during the ‘60s, while supplementing his income with European-produced movies, including three spaghetti westerns – this one, Federico Curiel’s Super Colt .38 (1969), and Javier Setó’s ¡Viva América! (1969). He reportedly even had a financial interest in Vengeance is Mine as part of his contract, which ensured more creative interest as well. This isn’t exactly the best spaghetti western performance you’re likely to see (the character is too trapped in older models to fully work in a spaghetti context), but it is one of the most committed ones you’ll ever see from a former Hollywood player. Sadly, Hunter died after suffering a stroke in May of 1969, two years before the film was released in the United States.
According to wikipedia (edit: according to the lead actresses), the film was co-directed by co-writer Hugo Fregonese, an Argentine filmmaker who found success in his home country, Hollywood, and, for a brief time, Europe. He is a significantly more important filmmaker than Carnimeo whose work includes Savage Pampas (Spanish: Pampa bárbara, 1945; the 24th greatest Argentine film according to Museo del Cine’s Pablo Ducrós Hicken), Golden Globe-winning noir My Six Convicts (1952), Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck western Blowing Wild (1953), and UK western Old Shatterhand (1964). I’m not familiar enough with Fregonese to freely guess what he contributed to Find a Place to Die. Hopefully this disc’s extras, which I usually watch after finishing my review, clue me in.
Spaghetti Westerns – The Good, the Bad and the Violent: A Comprehensive, Illustrated Filmography of 558 Eurowesterns and Their Personnel, 1961-1977 by Thomas Weisser (McFarland, 2005)
Find a Place to Die was, again, another spaghetti western with an iffy copyright history that found its way onto budget label DVDs (Mill Creek, specifically). I don’t think it was ever released on US VHS or Beta, but the transfers were tape quality, anyway. VCI’s standalone DVD tried a little harder, but was still pretty bleak. This Blu-ray debut – currently only available as part of Arrow’s Blood Money four-disc collection – merely needed to be anamorphically enhanced to be an upgrade, but is, fortunately, another 2K restoration from the 35mm camera negative and it looks as good as the other films in the set. There are the usual minor print damage artifacts, like white dots, streaking lines, and small scratches, but cinematographer Riccardo Pallottini’s dynamic photography and natural palette help disguise damage and punch-up texture. There are a few mushy bits and grain can appear clumpy, but the colors are consistent and details pop, even against the muddy darkness of some sequences.
Find a Place to Die is presented with English and Italian dub options, both in uncompressed LPCM mono. As per usual, it was shot without on-set sound and all official language tracks are dubbed. The English track would be the preferred one in this case, since Hunter dubbed his own performance and a number of actors are speaking English on-set. Sound-wise, I could barely tell the difference between the tracks, though I should specify that this is a case where I couldn’t jump from one to the other with the push of a button – I needed to go back to the main menu and choose between versions of the film. Gianni Ferrio was a stalwart B-western composer, who never scored a major hit, but worked on plenty of solid genre entries, like Giorgio Ferroni’s Blood for a Silver Dollar (Italian: Un dollaro bucato, 1965), before turning to gialli, including Duccio Tessari’s The Bloodstained Butterfly (Italian: Una farfalla con le ali insanguinate, 1971) and Puzzle (Italian: L’uomo senza memoria, 1974). This particular score is a unique blend of older Hollywood and newer spaghetti motifs. The theme song, “A Place to Die,” was written by Gerrio and favored collaborator Lilian Terry and is sung by Jula De Palma, famed performer and wife of composer Carlo Lanzi.
Commentary by critic Howard Hughes – The author of Once Upon A Time in the Italian West: The Filmgoers' Guide to Spaghetti Westerns (I.B. Tauris, 2006) discusses the careers of the cast & crew, Fregonese’s possible contributions (briefly), the mostly Italian locations (and American/Mexican locations they’re meant to represent), the unusual presence of nudity throughout the film, Find a Place to Die’s context in the bigger spaghetti western pantheon, and watching Italian genre films on UK home video.
Venus and the Cowboys (11:45, HD) – An introduction from the Professor of History of Italian Cinema at the University for Foreigners of Perugia (Italy), journalist, and film critic, Fabio Melelli, who chats about Fregonese’s input (apparently, both Giordano and Petit claimed in their autobiographies that he was the real director), the film’s use of outdoor locations, Hunter’s Hollywood career and move to Europe, the rest of the lead cast, and censorship woes.
Sons of Leone (18:10, HD) – An archival interview with Carnimeo, who looks back on his education, his career as writer, assistant, and director, being a budget-friendly filmmaker, the westerns’ change into comedies, and some of his favorite collaborators. He doesn’t mention anything about the ‘ownership’ of Find a Place to Die or Fregonese name at all.
Traditional Figure (31:17, in English) – An in-depth career retrospective of composer Gianni Ferrio by musician and disc collector Lovely Jon.
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