Roy Colt and Winchester Jack Blu-ray Review/Comparison (originally published 2017)
Roy Colt and Winchester Jack (Brett Halsey and Charles Southwood) are two brawling buddies in search of a cache of gold coins. Along the way, they compete for the affection of a Native American woman (Marilù Tolo) and join forces when confronted by a common enemy: a maniacal reverend-turned-gang-leader (Teodoro Corrà). (From Kino’s official synopsis)
The spaghetti western was too prevalent and popular for a director-for-hire like Mario Bava to ignore and he did make a number of forays into the subgenre, beginning with The Road to Fort Alamo (Italian: La strada per Forte Alamo, 1966) and including the aforementioned Minnesota Clay (though his specific job on that film remains a mystery), A Gunman Called Nebraska (Italian: Ringo del Nebraska; co-directed by Antonio Román, 1966), and the subject of this final review, Roy Colt and Winchester Jack. This final western was released towards the end of the spaghettis’ reign and, as such, is a satire of the genre’s greatest hits, complete with call-backs to everyone’s favorite Sergio Leone films. With a few exceptions, it doesn’t match the goofball antics of Enzo Barboni's mega-popular, genre-re-defining They Call Me Trinity, which was released mere months after Bava’s film. Still, the jokes are quite apparent, which leads me to the problem that, like the Trinity movies and their dopey rip-offs, they simply aren’t very funny. Or, at least, its comedy requires very dated and very Italian sensibilities. It seems that Bava’s personal sense of humour lends itself better to dark and ironic comedy – the kind seen in Bay of Blood and Five Dolls for an August Moon (Italian: 5 bambole per la luna d'agosto, 1970).
Lack of laughs aside, Roy Colt and Winchester Jack is possibly Bava’s best western, perhaps only by default (full disclosure: I have not seen The Road to Fort Alamo), because he never seemed particularly invested in any of them. His work is palpably hobbled by the genre and its expectations, due in large part to the numerous outdoor locations and pre-made sets that characterize ‘budget’ spaghettis (only Sergio Leone could really afford to build anything substantial and often with the help of Hollywood studios). With the exception of a lively (but incredibly unfunny) whorehouse sequence, he wasn’t able to use a lot of ostentatious lighting and his special effects knowledge is limited to a few rather obvious, but no less impressive glass painted composite shots. Even with one hand tied behind his back, so to speak, Bava’s talent for striking visuals are apparent and the performances are above average across the board.
It appears that Roy Colt and Winchester Jack was never released in North American theaters or VHS/Beta tape. The Image Entertainment’s 2003 anamorphic DVD was, thus, the movie’s default premiere. This was followed by a similar disc from Anchor Bay as part of their second Mario Bava Collection. Like Kino Lorber’s Kill, Baby, Kill! disc, this new Blu-ray transfer was sourced from a brand new 2K restoration of the original 35mm negative and utilizes a slightly longer version of the film than the Image and AB DVDs. Again, I didn’t catalogue the differences, but had enough difficulty matching timestamps that I noticed the difference while culling caps. The comparison results are basically the same, because the AB transfer is every bit as noisy and fuzzy as the Kill, Baby, Kill! one. The upgrade might actually be more substantial, because the increase in detail and clarity finally reveals that Bava was using fog, mist, and dust for atmospheric texture. On DVD, these effects look like more noise and are lost in overcranked contrast levels. Of course, the colors are still desaturated and mostly neutral, but richer in HD, especially the blue skies. The Blu-ray exhibits minor compression along the softer edges, while the softness itself is probably inherent in the original material. Other artifacts are limited mostly to vertical lines at the beginnings and ends of some reels and occasional dips in the strength of the black levels.
According to Lucas, Roy Colt and Winchester Jack was probably never released in America, but it was dubbed into English. Unfortunately, that dub was lost, not only because the leads actors are performing in English, but, as Lucas notes, a number of the jokes were “linguistic in nature,” meaning that they aren’t as funny in subtitle form. Bava producer Alfredo Leone (no relation) recently found some of those tracks and Kino was able to cobble together a partial English-language version, which are included alongside the complete Italian dub. Both are presented in uncompressed LPCM mono. Understandably, the English dialogue doesn’t begin until around the 37:00 point (marked as chapter five), but, for some reason, Kino left the track completely blank up until that point, instead of piping in the Italian dialogue. This means viewers have to manually switch between the sound options at a certain point with no real warning, unless they have the ability to watch a chapter count on their display. It’s a weird choice that hampers an otherwise worthwhile effort, as the sound quality is solid throughout both tracks, save the usual issues with overused effects and occasionally tinny vocals (the English dub features a bit more crack and pop). Composer Piero Umiliani’s score occasionally references Ennio Morricone’s more popular genre music, but is generally jazzier to match its sillier tone. Even if they’re underutilized, the themes are memorable and well represented, despite the single channel treatment.
Commentary with Tim Lucas – Given the general lack of information about Roy Colt and Winchester Jack outside of the commentator’s own book – not to mention the lack of additional extras on this disc – this is another vital contribution from Lucas. The most informative section occurs towards the middle of the discussion, when the author describes the long, sad “death” of the Italian western during the ‘70s.
Intermission cards (00:35, HD)
The images on this page are taken from the Kino Lorber BD and Anchor Bay DVD and sized for the page, but due to .jpg compression, they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer. Full-sized .jpg versions can (currently) only be accessed by right-clicking/ctrl-clicking the images and opening them in a new window/tab.