Arrow Heads Vol 49: Duccio Tessari’s Spaghetti Duology A PISTOL FOR RINGO & THE RETURN OF RINGO…

Arrow Heads — Arrow Video, a subsidiary of Arrow Films, humbly describe themselves as merely a “Distributor of classic, world, cult and horror cinema on DVD & Blu-ray”. But we film geeks know them as the Britain-based bastion of the brutal and bizarre, boasting gorgeous Blu-ray releases with high quality artwork and packaging and bursting with extras, often of their own creation. This column is devoted to their weird and wonderful output.

Arrow’s double feature of A Pistol For Ringo and The Return of Ringo is available on Blu-ray. Both films were directed by Duccio Tessari and feature more or less the same casts and crew, starring Giuliano Gemma (aka Montgomery Wood) in the role of Ringo, and featuring scores by Ennio Morricone.

A Pistol for Ringo (1965)

A town’s bank is cleaned out by a gang of ruthless banditos, whose leader Sancho (sharing the name of actor Fernando Sancho) gets shot in the scuffle. Unable to flee with their leader in his injured condition, the gang invades the hacienda of wealthy businessman Major Clyde (Antonio Casas) just outside town, taking the household hostage in order to secure their escape.

The situation puts the Sheriff (George Martin) in a tight spot. While he doesn’t want to negotiate with the criminals, invading the compound would be suicide and also endanger the inhabitants — among them his own fiance Ruby (Hally Hammond), the Major’s daughter. Instead he settles on another plan, enlisting his own prisoner, the sharpshooting Ringo, aka “Angelface” as a wild card to infiltrate the gang and try to take down the bad guys from the inside. Ringo, awaiting trial for killing four aggressors in self defense, agrees in exchange for his freedom —and a hefty percentage of the recovered money.

Star Giuliano Gemma has a pleasing performance here as Ringo that’s cocky and charming, and in the English performance in particular (the disc offers the original Italian as well), he reminds me a bit of Chris Pratt. While the audience senses — and hopes — that he is a good guy, he’s constantly wheeling and dealing on both sides of the conflict — illustrating his cunning intelligence but also calling into question his motives.

The film is a kinetic mix of both action and character work. Most engagingly, the script delivers on multiple overlapping character interests that add layers of complexity to their interactions. The dapper Major treats the trespassing banditos as his esteemed guests rather than crooks, which has multiple benefits of maintaining his dignity, staving some of their wrath, and charming Sancho’s beautiful girlfriend Dolores (Nieves Navarro) — her handsome, rich, flirtatious bachelor captive starts to look much more appealing than the overweight, rough-mannered gang leader she rode in with. This is all much to the dismay and bafflement of Ruby, who can’t believe that her father is falling in love with a criminal (one closer to her age than his, no less). Meanwhile Ruby, who is engaged to the sheriff, has her own distraction — she’s captivated by the rascally Ringo as he works to rescue her and her father.

With an on-brand score by Ennio Morricone, the result is a fun and highly engaging spaghetti western tale with very enjoyable characters all dropped into a cleverly constructed situation with room for plenty of humor, action, and drama.

The Return of Ringo (1965)

While The Return of Ringo re-teams the director and star of A Pistol for Ringo, and most of the cast and crew, there’s not really anything in the movie that suggests the films are related — despite the sequelesque title. In the same way that Leone’s Dollars Trilogy is three unconnected stories, these two Ringo films stand on their own and I’m not sure that any continuity is implied — if anything, the differences in the stories make it seem unlikely.

“Ringo” in this tale is Captain Montgomery Brown, a soldier who returns home from the Civil War to find that his hometown has been overrun by a gang of ruthless bandits. Worse, their leader has abducted his wife to try to make her his mistress, and along with her, their daughter, whom Ringo has not met nor even knew existed.

Rather than announce his presence, Ringo hides his identity to investigate further. Most people assume he was killed in action, and he uses that anonymity to observe the gang’s activity.

Pretty much the entire cast of A Pistol for Ringo returns here, though in true spaghetti western style in different and unrelated roles (this arguably extends even to Gemma as “Ringo”). Sancho once again plays a bandit leader, along with George Martin switching sides to play a villain. Casas is the Sheriff this time around, while Hally Hammond, who had great chemistry with Gemma in Pistol, now plays his beleaguered wife who learns that he is alive.

Return is a darker and less mirthful story than Pistol, trading on an old classic literary conflict of a man returning home after a prolonged absence (his character faces a similar situation to Edmond Dantes in The Count Of Monte Cristo, or Ulysses of The Odyssey) and applying it to a spaghetti western template.

The Package

Arrow’s double feature features a reversible cover with both classic artwork and a new design by Gilles Vranckx. (This review was conducted using disc-only media so packaging details are not observed firsthand).

The transfers are 2K restorations from the original negatives, and both Italian and English versions soundtracks are included, not only with different audio languages but screen titles as well. Both translated and transcribed subtitles are included.

Both films look incredible. The soundtracks demonstrate a bit of their age, but the sweet Morricone scores come through just fine. Overall, this is an exceptional package.

Special Features & Extras

  • Audio commentaries for both films by Spaghetti Western experts C. Courtney Joyner and Henry Parke
  • They Called Him Ringo (21:52), archival featurette with stars Giuliano Gemma and Lorella de Luca
  • A Western Greek Tragedy (26:32), an archival featurette with Lorella de Luca and camera operator Sergio D’Offizi
  • Revisiting Ringo (37:54), a new video interview with critic Tony Rayns
  • Gallery of original promotional images from the Mike Siegel Archive
  • Original trailers
    A Pistol for Ringo German Trailer (3:12)
    A Pistol for Ringo English Trailer (3:24)
    The Return of Ringo Italian Trailer (3:24)
    The Return of Ringo English Trailer (3:23)
  • Gallery of original promotional images

A/V Out.

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Except where noted, all 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the disc(s) in question with no editing applied, but may have compression or resizing inherent to file formats and Medium’s image engine. All package photography was taken by the reviewer.

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