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A Bullet For The General
cast: Gian Maria Volonté, Klaus Kinski, Lou Castel, and Martine Beswick

director: Damiano Damiani

113 minutes (15) 1966
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Argent DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Christopher Geary
Among other things, this film is based on actual events and is an effective tribute to Pancho Villa. It's a violent melodrama that starts as it means to go on with an execution by firing squad of some political prisoners, and the storyline assumes a defiantly pro-revolutionary stance throughout. The director, perhaps best known for accomplished horror chiller Amityville II: The Possession (1982), asserts that A Bullet For The General (aka: Quién Sabe?) is not really a western at all, let alone one that follows the familiar Leonesque conventions of spaghetti westerns, but a war movie, specifically concerned with revolutionary conflict. It's well worth mentioning here that the dialogue scripting is by Oscar nominee Franco Solinas, writer of the highly acclaimed The Battle Of Algiers.

Blond gringo Bill Tate (Lou Castel) aids Mexican bandits in their robberies of a train, a government fort, and a Mexican army garrison. However, he's really an undercover US agent with a mission to infiltrate the marauding gang of assorted thieves and killers led by the wily El Chuncho (Gian Maria Volonté), in order to get within shooting distance of his assassination objective, rebel leader 'General' Elias. Bill secretly carries a golden bullet with his closely guarded target's name on it. The charismatic Chuncho is not entirely satisfied with all of the standard-issue rifles that he's stolen, because what he most desires is a machine-gun ("It's beautiful, lovelier than any woman"), as both a war trophy, and his personal gift to Elias...

Little else needs to be said about the plot. The supporting cast is top class though, and deserving of praise. Klaus Kinski is superb as the sermon-spitting, grenade-throwing priest El Santo. Also helping with the heists is sultry Adelita (the British actress Martine Beswick, fine in decorative roles as a Bond girl, and most notable for playing the sex-change psycho-killer in Hammer's camp classic Dr Jekyll And Sister Hyde, 1971), who acts as both alluring decoy and eager gun-toting warrior, despite her apparent impatience for domesticity and the security of marriage to her outlaw beau. Of course, she also looks better in a sombrero than any of those fiercely moustachioed Mexicans.

Also released under title Viva Bandito, and previously only available cut to a length of 102 minutes, A Bullet For The General is here presented in the most complete version possible, fully restored with a fine anamorphic transfer from the original negative. DVD extras: you get an exclusive filmed interview with the director that offers fascinating details on his aesthetics and ambitious intentions, and a lively video introduction by Alex Cox - who expands upon his earlier comments for this film's Moviedrome screening on BBC TV. There's also a five-minute trailer reel for other Argent DVD westerns.

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