Vengeance is Mine 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: 95:20
Director: Giovanni Fago
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), Giuliano Carnimeo's Find a Place to Die (1968), and Cesare Canevari's Matalo! (1970).
Years ago, ex-Confederate Clint (Claudio Camaso) murdered his father and shifted the blame to his half-brother, John (Gianni Garko), who spent a decade behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit. Now a bounty hunter, John is tasked with bringing Clint in alive to face justice. Meanwhile, a gang of bandits, led by Jurago (Piero Lulli), pursue the brothers in hopes of forcing Clint to reveal the location of a cache of gold.
A somewhat forgotten entry in actor Gianni Garko’s western filmography, Giovanni Fago's Vengeance is Mine (Italian: Per 100.000 dollari ti ammazzo; a.k.a. $100,000 for a Killing, 1967) was sort of a follow-up to Romolo Guerrieri's $10,000 Blood Money (Italian: 10,000 dollari per un massacro, 1967 – I recommend reading that review as an intro to this one) and, thus, easily lost in a glut of mid-’60s genre output. Every bit as eager to recall larger spaghetti hits as Guerrieri's film, Vengeance is Mine reunited Garko, who was on his way to mega-stardom with Gianfranco Parolini’s ...If You Meet Sartana Pray for Your Death (Italian: Se incontri Sartana prega per la tua morte, 1968), with Claudio Camaso (neé Volonté), the younger brother of A Fistful of Dollars (Italian: Per un pugno di dollari, 1964) and For a Few Dollars More (Italian: Per qualche dollaro in più, 1965) villain Gian Maria Volonte. Camaso was hired to play a Volonte-alike in $10,000 Blood Money and Garko played ‘Django,’ but, here, his character is named Clint Forest (as in an area that might be west of the east woods), while Piero Lulli is left to play a character named ‘Jurago.’ Not surprisingly, Garko’s character was renamed Django for the German release.
Vengeance is Mine – not to be confused with Shōhei Imamura’s Vengeance is Mine (1979) or John Trent’s Sunday in the Country, aka: Vengeance is Mine (1974) – was Fago’s first film as lead director and one of three westerns he made behind the camera, followed by To Hell and Back (Italian: Uno di più all'inferno; aka: One Way to Hell, 1968) with George Hilton and Viva Cangaceiro (1969) with Tomas Milián. As an assistant director, he worked under Riccardo Freda on The Horrible Dr. Hichcock (Italian: L'orribile segreto del Dr. Hichcock, 1962), Antonio Margheriti on The Golden Arrow (Italian: L'arciere delle mille e una notte, 1962), and Lucio Fulci on Massacre Time (Italian: Le colt cantarono la morte e fu... tempo di massacro, 1966) and a number of Franco & Ciccio movies. His direction here is consistently above average, sometimes even brilliant. With help from cinematographer Federico Zanni, he conjures a collection of truly evocative images and even the most mundane sequence is infused with creative energy. The dreamy slow-motion flashbacks in particular recall what Sergio Leone did years later with a much bigger budget for Duck, You Sucker! (Italian: Giù la testa; aka: A Fistful of Dynamite, 1971) and the surprisingly violent set-pieces set the pace, overcoming boilerplate plot and character elements on the way to the nihilistic third act. Zanni, who also shot $10,000 Blood Money, went on to photograph most of Umberto Lenzi’s poliziotteschi, as well as Sergio Martino’s foggy, gothy western Mannaja (aka: A Man Called Blade, 1977).
Speaking of Martino, who was only a couple of years from his directorial debut (an erotic Mondo movie called Wages of Sin [Italian: Mille peccati... nessuna virtù, 1969]), he co-wrote Vengeance is Mine with Ernesto Gastaldi. Gastaldi worked on a number of westerns, including a story-by credit on Tonino Valerii’s Day of Anger (Italian: I giorni dell'ira, 1967), but he’s better known as one of the godfathers of both the Italian gothic horror and giallo fads. He scripted countless early and late stage entries in each genre, from Horrible Dr. Hichcock, Mario Bava’s The Whip and the Body (Italian: La frusta e il corpo, 1963), and Margheriti’s The Long Hair of Death (Italian: I Lunghi Capelli della Morte, 1964), to Vittorio Salerno’s Libido (1965), Luigi Bazzoni & Franco Rossellini’s The Possessed (Italian: La donna del lago, 1965), and Guerrieri’s The Sweet Body of Deborah (Itaian: Il dolce corpo di Deborah, 1968). Given its small place in Garko’s filmography and small scale of Fago’s work, Vengeance is Mine’s continued relevance (as well as $10,000 Blood Money, for that matter) is tied to Gastaldi more than anything, which is too bad, because, despite the strength of the sibling rivalry theming and the gutpunch of the aforementioned nihilism, it’s Fago’s direction that makes this particular script work.
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)
I can’t find much evidence that Vengeance is Mine had a theatrical or VHS release in the US, but it did get a decent-looking anamorphic DVD release in Germany from Koch Media as part of an ‘Italo-western’ box set. That disc didn’t have English subtitle or dub options, so it was up to fans to put together an English-friendly bootleg, which was shared via the usual means. Arrow’s Blu-ray is, of course, a substantial upgrade, featuring multiple language options (see below) and a 2K remaster of original 35mm negatives (I don’t have the retail set on hand, so I don’t have access to Arrow’s official description of the remastering process). The transfer is, again, typical for what it is. The original print is good, but not without its artifacts, mostly of the streaking line and white dot variety, and the 2K scan brings out substantial texture and decent grain levels. Details are as clean as can be expected without notable haloes or other oversharpening effects. This is a more colorful film than you’d first expect, because Fago and Zanni use color to contrast vivid optimism and dusty, dirt and blood-caked cynicism. They also produce some very blue day-for-night shots.
Vengeance is Mine 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 dub tracks. This particular disc comes with a warning that there is a pitch difference between the tracks, which isn’t actually that unusual, but it’s nice to get a warning, anyway. The more notable difference to my ear is the depth of sound. The English track is slightly richer, especially in terms of its music, while the Italian dub performances fit better this time around. Composer, choir director, and soloist Nora Orlandi returns to score another Garko, Camaso, and Gastaldi joint. Her title track is an especially uncanny mix of Morricone-esque melodies set to an unusual, circular time signature and Gothic organ that really springs to life when sung by a chorus later in the film, while her sweeping romantic themes continue the task of differentiating the flashbacks from the current timeline.
Commentary by critics Adrian J. Smith and David Flint – The Italian genre connoisseurs, Smith (horrorpedia.com/moviesandmania.com) and Flint (editor of Sheer Filth!: Bizarre Cinema, Weird Literature, Strange Music, Extreme Art; FAB Press, 2014) discuss the careers of the cast & crew – with emphasis on Garko, Camaso, Gastaldi, Orlandi, and Fago – Vengeance is Mine’s use of common spaghetti western iconography and Spanish locations, the Civil War backdrop, international distribution, and the ways the Italian westerns inspired American westerns in the late-’60s and onward.
Crime and Punishment (13:05, HD) – A new introduction from Professor of History of Italian Cinema at the University for Foreigners of Perugia (Italy), journalist, and film critic, Fabio Melelli, who chats about the connections between Vengeance is Mine and $10,000 Blood Money, Camaso’s tumultuous and controversial life (look it up some time, it’s wild), the careers of other cast & crew members, and Fago’s stylistic choices.
Cain and Abel (25:03, HD) – This newly re-edited featurette includes archival interviews with Garko and Gastaldi, who look back on their careers, the rapid ascension and bad reputation of spaghetti westerns, the Sartana character, and working with Fago, Camaso, and producer Luciano Martino.
In Conversation with Nora Orlandi (15:34, HD) – In this archival interview, Orlandi contextualizes her career as a composer and breaks down her writing style and the process of recording with the orchestra and editing music to film.
Movie After Movie (16:42, HD) – In the final interview, co-producer Mino Loy discusses the ins and outs of the Italian film industry in the 1960s, financing, subsidies, and general production processes.
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.