Hudson River Massacre Blu-ray Review
Blu-ray Release: February 25, 2020
Audio: English 2.0 Mono LPCM; Spanish 2.0 Mono Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English SDH
Run Time: 80 minutes
Director: Amando de Ossorio
Canada, Nineteenth-century. The Hudson Bay Company, with James Sullivan (Santiago Rivero) at the helm and supported by the British Mounted Police, impose unacceptable conditions on native trappers. A group led by Leo Limoux (Franco Fantasia), a rebel in retaliation, Victor DeFrois (George Martin), a trapper who, until the execution of his brother by the British soldiers had remained neutral, kidnaps Ann Sullivan (Giulia Rubini), daughter of the ruthless owner of the Hudson Bay Company, to use as a bartering tool while the rebels seek to disrupt and gain control of the company’s business. What Victor didn’t count on was falling in love with his hostage… (From MVD’s official synopsis)
For the most part, the term “spaghetti western” refers to Italian-made movies, but, in reality, most of these films were multinational co-productions. They featured cast members from across the Americas and Europe, were largely shot in Spain, and several were funded by German, Hollywood, and even East Asian companies. Given this, the preferred term is probably Euro-western, as to include the likes of Terence Young’s Red Sun (Italian: Soleil Rouge, 1971) and Burt Kennedy’s Hannie Caulder (1971). Spanish western co-productions, like Miguel Lluch’s La Montaña sin ley (1953), Fernando Palacios’ Juanito (1960), and Michael Carreras’ The Savage Guns (Spanish: Tierra brutal, 1961) even predate the onset of the Italian western craze, while Joaquín Luis Romero Marchent’s Cut-Throats Nine (Spanish: Condenados a vivir, 1972) stood apart from even the spaghetti’s in terms of its graphic violence.
One of the more peculiar entries in the spaghetti-era Spanish western canon (I prefer paella western, but I don’t think it will catch on) is Amando de Ossorio’s Hudson River Massacre (Italian: I tre del Colorado; Spanish: Rebeldes en Canadá; aka: Three from Colorado, Rebels in Canada [the title on the print], and Canadian Wilderness). It was an Italian/Spanish co-production released in 1965, less than a year after Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars (Italian: Per un pugno di dollari, 1964) took the scene by storm. Perhaps due to its Spanish influence or, more likely, being in production before everyone was trying to capitalize on Leone’s film, Hudson River Massacre draws upon Michael Curtiz’ swashbucklers, such as The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) and Captain Blood (1935), while referencing the same revisionist western influences as Leone. There’s plenty of that roughened, ‘60s Eurowestern energy, but the pattern of alternating speedy, excessive exposition with paperback romance, and impressive, yet old-fashioned stunt fights, tend to match what you’d see from the upcoming spate of Spanish horror movies, which usually mimicked British Gothic horror.
Perhaps the most unique aspect of this particular Hudson River Massacre, besides its obvious stylistic delineation from most Fistful of Dollars clones, is its northern location. Most spaghettis take place somewhere around the American Southwest or Mexico and were filmed in the deserts of Almería, Spain. The exceptions are notable, including Sergio Corbucci’s snow swept, Colorado-set The Great Silence (Italy: Il grande silenzio; aka: The Big Silence, 1968) and the aforementioned, equally snow swept Cut-Throats Nine. De Ossorio really squeezes the Navacerradaian locations for everything they're worth, staging action scenes in the rough mountain elements, sometimes even to the film’s detriment, as outdoor fisticuffs seem to drag on forever. Still, it does give a rather cheap looking movie some notable production value.
De Ossorio was actually a major pioneer of early ‘70s Spanish horror, beginning with Fangs of the Living Dead (Spanish: Malenka) in 1969 and peaking early with Tombs of the Blind Dead (Spanish: La noche del terror ciego) in 1972 and its three sequels of varying quality (1973, 1974, 1975). This seems to be a case of a filmmaker needing to find the right genre for his skills, because anyone hoping to see Tombs of the Blind Dead-levels of evocation and visual panache will be disappointed by de Ossorio’s entirely workman-like direction and Italian cinematographers Fausto Zuccoli and Fulvio Testi’s brightly lit photography. The action sequences, especially the big scale horse stampede and shoot-outs, are very well orchestrated, but there’s a distinct lack of style, making Hudson Valley Massacre a necessity only for de Ossorio fans that want to trace the evolution of his style. Before this, he had only directed one other western, Tomb of the Pistolero (Spanish: La tumba del pistolero, 1964), and a single actor (José María Seoane) monologue feature called Black Flag (Spanish: La bandera negra, 1956). Following Hudson Valley Massacre, he dabbled in contemporary drama and comedy, before finding his groove and settling into fantasy horror and documentaries. He was otherwise a writer and worked on the screenplays of almost all of his films.
Hudson River Massacre is a pretty obscure title and, as far as I can tell, has never been available on North American home video. MVD Classic’s advertising materials proudly tout that this Blu-ray (and the company’s DVD alternative) features a “brand new 2K HD transfer.” There’s no reason to assume that the 2K part isn’t true, despite the vague phrasing. It also appears that a very similar-looking HD transfer aired on Spanish television last year, so the 1.66:1, 1080p image is relatively new. Unfortunately, it is also very similar in quality to Spanish horror Blu-rays from BCI/Deimos Entertainment and Scream Factory (many of which shared transfers). I have no doubt that the issues derive from the original scans and masters (the same things have happened to less prestigious Italian-born Blu-ray releases over the years), not from tampering on MVD’s part, but I also need to make mention of the problems. The issue is a combination of authoring/mastering artifacts, rather than a single overriding error. My assumption is that the footage was particularly grainy, so a combination of sharpening and DNR was applied to mitigate the grit. This leads to edge haloes, especially among highlights, mushy textures, and a boxy clumping effect. During the darker sequences, ghosting and aliasing also crop up. General print condition is rough, but not enormously problematic, including only minor scratches and other artifacts (a few short shots are notably blown out), which leads me to believe that the grain actually wasn’t that aggressive. Oh well. It looks better in motion than it does on this page.
Note: Imdb.com claims that the film comes in 89 and 99 minute runtimes – claiming that the longest cut was an Italian market exclusive – but the version on the disc only runs 80 minutes. I found two different Spanish TV rips that also run 80 minutes, so either the longer versions are lost or imdb has its facts wrong concerning this particularly obscure title.
Update: Just before I put this review live, I found basically the same transfers, though in SD, across various “grey market” streaming services on my Roku TV.
Spanish filmmakers, like their Italian counterparts, tended not to shoot with synced sound, meaning that all language tracks are dubbed. This Blu-ray includes the English and Spanish mono tracks in 2.0 (mislabeled as stereo). The English track is presented in uncompressed LPCM and the Spanish dub is lossy Dolby Digital. Both tracks are inconsistent in terms of measurable damage – pops, crackles, warped audio, et cetera – and muffled sound quality, but the compressed Spanish track is far less dynamic, basically equating a wall of noise, especially at any point that the music and effects overlap. The melodramatic score, complete with soap opera-like organ themes, is credited to Carlo Savina, though I suspect some of it was taken from a music library.
The only supplement is a trailer.
The images on this page are taken from the BD and sized for the page. Full-sized versions can (currently) only be accessed by right-clicking/ctrl-clicking the images and opening them in a new window/tab. Note that there will be some JPG compression.