Tuesday, August 4, 2020
RINGO FROM NEBRASKA (AKA SAVAGE GRINGO)
RINGO FROM NEBRASKA (also known as SAVAGE GRINGO, NEBRASKA JIM, RINGO DEL NEBRASKA, and a few other titles) is a 1966 Italian-Spanish Western. The movie's direction is credited to Antonio Roman, but according to Troy Howarth's book THE HAUNTED WORLD OF MARIO BAVA, Roman was removed from the production after only about one week of filming. Producer Fulvio Lucisano then hired Mario Bava to finish the film. Bava did not receive any official credit on it whatsoever, but many other sources state that he did work on the picture.
So RINGO FROM NEBRASKA (or whatever you choose to call it) can be considered, for the most part, a Mario Bava film. Bava had already made a Euro Western before this--the mediocre THE ROAD TO FORT ALAMO--and he would make one later--the truly bizarre ROY COLT & WINCHESTER JACK. RINGO FROM NEBRASKA, while certainly not a great film, is the best entry in Bava's Western output.
The movie stars American actor and Eurocult veteran Ken Clark as a mysterious stranger named Nebraska. (Clark also played the lead role in THE ROAD TO FORT ALAMO.) Nebraska happens to arrive at a remote ranch owned by a man named Marty Hillmann. Marty hires Nebraska to help him defend his spread against Bill Carter, a vicious fellow who happens to be Hillmann's archenemy. Complicating matters is Marty's wife Kay, a young, buxom redhead who is desired by Carter. Kay is also tired of being with the middle-aged Hillmann, and she makes a play for Nebraska. The stranger, however, feels a sense of loyalty to Marty....so he rejects Kay's advances while doing his utmost to stop Carter from killing Hillmann.
RINGO FROM NEBRASKA is not one of the wild & wooly entries in Spaghetti Western cinema. The story is very basic, and the characters are one dimensional. Nebraska is quite proficient in the use of firearms, but he's nowhere near as amoral as most Euro Western lone gunmen. One expects Nebraska to give some background on himself or his situation, but that scene never happens (at least it didn't in the version of the movie I watched). Ken Clark definitely looks heroic, and he handles himself well in the action sequences, but he has a stoic, almost bland presence.
Yvonne Bastien as Kay is able to get the viewer's attention, mainly due to the fact that she has the only major female role, and also because her cleavage is one of the film's biggest highlights. Piero Lulli is very effective as the villainous Bill Carter. A few of the supporting players I recognized from their work in other spaghetti westerns, such as those from Sergio Leone.
RINGO FROM NEBRASKA is enlivened by a major plot twist near the end, which reveals that the relationship between Marty, Kay, and Carter is far more complicated than Nebraska was led to believe. This is followed by another twist which actually caught me by surprise. These twists enable the movie to be a bit more than an average Western tale.
One has to wonder, though, how different the film would have been if Mario Bava had been involved in the script from the beginning. (I have a feeling that Bava would have spiced up the character of Nebraska somewhat.) RINGO FROM NEBRASKA is competently made, and it isn't a slog to get through...but it lacks that certain creative spark that Mario Bava brought to almost all of the films he worked on. There's nothing here that automatically marks it as a Bava entry, except for a few striking shot compositions. The action scenes (although there isn't a lot of them) are well done, particularly two drag-out knock down brawls between Nebraska and Bill Carter. Nino Oliviero contributes an effective music score, which I would describe as "Morricone Lite".
I viewed this movie on YouTube (the actual title on-screen was RINGO DEL NEBRASKA). The version I saw was dubbed in English, and it had a running time of 83 minutes (IMDB lists multiple running times for this film). The print was in widescreen, and it was in decent shape.
The most notable thing about RINGO FROM NEBRASKA is Mario Bava's involvement in it. The movie lacks the over-the-top flourishes that one associates with the most notable Euro Westerns, and it has very little in common with Bava's most renowned films. (If you didn't know that Bava had worked on it, you wouldn't have come to that conclusion on your own just by watching it.) In the end this film is more of a curiosity than an entertaining story.