Sunday, June 9, 2024



LONG LIVE YOUR DEATH! is a 1971 Euro Western starring Franco Nero and Eli Wallach, and directed by Duccio Tessari, the man behind the original Ringo films. The movie's Italian title is VIVA LA MUERTE...TUA! and it is also known as DON"T TURN THE OTHER CHEEK! 

The movie is part of a sub-genre of spaghetti westerns that deal with the Mexican Revolution of the 1910s. It is reminiscent of such films as THE MERCENARY and COMPANEROS, and it has elements of THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY (the character that Eli Wallach plays is essentially an alternate version of Tuco) and A FISTFUL OF DYNAMITE. 

Franco Nero is a Russian Prince named Orlowsky, who for some reason roams the American West making his living as a bandit. The Prince stumbles across some information about a buried treasure in Mexico, and he springs from jail another bandit called Lozoya (Eli Wallach). Lozoya knows the rest of the info about where the treasure is at, so he and the Prince form the typical Euro Western back and forth uneasy partnership to get the money. Along the way Lozoya is mistaken for a legendary Mexican revolutionary called El Salvador, and an Irish reporter named Mary O'Donnell (Lynn Redgrave) wants to use this situation to inspire the peasants to fight the Federal troops, and get a story she can use. The Prince, Lozoya, and Mary spend plenty of time double-crossing one another, while the Federal authorities and a determined sheriff (Horst Janson) are hot on their trail. 

LONG LIVE YOUR DEATH! is an entertaining story, but it has a very inconsistent tone. Much of the movie is quite comedic, with Eli Wallach and even Franco Nero hamming it up and acting silly. Much of the action has an almost Three Stooges feel to it (if you've ever wanted to see a member of the Redgrave acting family engage in a slapstick fistfight with multiple soldiers, here's your chance). A main plot point is that directions to the buried treasure are written on the rear ends of different men (this explains the DON'T TURN THE OTHER CHEEK! title). Among all the goofiness, however, is a sub-plot dealing with Lozoya's sister and nephew, who suffer a horrid fate from Federal troops. This element sits very uneasily with all the other antics, and because of that doesn't make the impact that it should. The climatic battle between the rebels and the Federals has some resemblance to the final sequence to TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA, and an attempt is made to have Lozoya temporarily change his greedy ways, but Nero and Wallach remain con artists all the way to the end. 

The character played by Lynn Redgrave deserves some discussion. She's supposedly all about helping the common folk overcome their cruel masters, but she's also made out to be an annoying fool (the fact that she's a journalist also causes most people in the film to mistrust her). Redgrave broadly overplays Mary, and she and the handsome Nero do not wind up together. Ironically, in real life Franco was involved in a relationship with Lynn Redgrave's sister Vanessa, a woman known for her left-wing political activism. Maybe I'm reading too much into the casting, but I wonder if the character of Mary was meant to be a satire of celebrities of the time like Redgrave and Jane Fonda who took an interest in Third World problems. 

There's always a very strange character (or more) in most Euro Westerns, and the one that sticks out in this picture is the corrupt sheriff played by Horst Janson (CAPTAIN KRONOS). The sheriff is apparently a cousin to Nero's Russian Prince (a backstory that isn't explained), and he wears a steel corset strapped around his torso. Eduardo Fajardo, the main villain of DJANGO, plays a Mexican general, but here he's more silly than dangerous. 

LONG LIVE YOUR DEATH! is worth watching--Duccio Tessari keeps things hopping--but the Trinity-style elements keep it from being one of the better spaghetti westerns dealing with the Mexican revolution. A bit more attention should have been paid to the idea of outsiders involving themselves in foreign revolutions and what "help" these interlopers actually offer. 

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