Wednesday, March 27, 2019
DAMNED HOT DAY OF FIRE
My last post concerned FORT YUMA GOLD, which is included on a Spaghetti Western double feature blu-ray just released by Mill Creek. Today I'll discuss the other film on the disc, DAMNED HOT DAY OF FIRE.
DAMNED HOT DAY OF FIRE (1968) isn't even the title used on the print featured on this Blu-ray. The movie goes by the name GATLING GUN, which is a far more appropriate moniker. (The original Italian title was QUEL CALDO MALEDETTO GIORNO DI FUOCO.) Near the end of the Civil War, Richard Gatling gives a demonstration of his newly invented machine gun to a group of Union representatives at a secret Western location. One of the group, however, is a traitor, and Gatling and his gun are soon spirited away and hidden. A Captain Chris Tanner (Robert Woods), who has been working as a Pinkerton agent, is blamed and arrested. Alan Pinkerton himself arranges for Tanner to be given a false identity so he can be released and go after the people responsible for Gatling's abduction. The agent goes West and deals with mistrust and deceit at every turn.
DAMNED HOT DAY OF FIRE plays more like a spy story instead of a Western (one could also compare it to an episode of THE WILD, WILD, WEST). Because Pinkerton arranged Chris Tanner's false identity and escape from jail in secret, no one takes the agent's word during his investigations concerning Gatling's disappearance. Tanner has to fight off as many Union supporters as he does bad guys. The agent has a bit of James Bond in him--he beds two different women to get information, and he infiltrates a villain's stronghold by taking out the guards with darts from a blow gun. Tanner, like 007, is almost indestructible--he's beaten up and shot multiple times during the story. Robert Woods was actually an American actor who appeared in a number of European productions during the 1960s and 70s. He's adequate in the role of Chris Tanner, but he underplays it (was he trying to give off a Clint Eastwood-type of vibe?). The role of Tanner needed someone with more heroic vitality--Giuliano Gemma, who starred in FORT YUMA GOLD, would have been a good choice for the part.
The performer who makes the biggest impression by far is Hollywood character actor John Ireland in the role of main villain Tarpas. The Native-American-Mexican bandit Tarpas isn't interested in Civil War politics--he just wants the huge ransom demanded for Gatling and his gun. Ireland plays the role to the hilt, showing how the man's ancestry has given him a huge chip on his shoulder. (Nearly everyone who comes into contact with Tarpas--even his fellow bad guys--refer to him as "half-breed" and look down on him.) Tarpas's anger at his social standing gives him a more solid foundation than the typical over-the-top Euro Western villain. There's a sub-plot about how Tarpas wants to use the ransom money to convince a beautiful saloon girl to go away with him--but the woman is disgusted by the man, even though the bandit has bought an entire saloon for her. Tarpas's travails make him far more interesting to watch than the hero of the film.
The supporting cast features a couple of faces familiar to fans of Euro Cult cinema--Gerard Herter, who appeared in THE BIG GUNDOWN, and Jorge Rigaud, who played in HORROR EXPRESS.
DAMNED HOT DAY OF FIRE was co-written and directed by Paolo Bianchi, who made a few other minor Spaghetti Westerns around this period. The movie isn't a fantastic example of the genre, but I give Bianchi credit for trying to inject some out-of-the-way ideas such as the spy angle and Tarpas' attitude over his background. The movie certainly isn't boring.
Before the movie starts on this disc, Mill Creek has inserted one of those "We did the best we could with the best available elements" screen texts. Actually this film is somewhat better looking than FORT YUMA GOLD, and the sound quality is much improved. Once again the only audio track offered is an English dub, but there is a point in the movie where for about a minute or so the track is in Italian with English subtitles. The movie is in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and the print used on this Blu-ray runs about 100 minutes.
As I mentioned in my post on FORT YUMA GOLD, the movies on this Blu-ray are not spectacular, but they will entertain fans of Euro Westerns--and this disc can be had for a very cheap price.