Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Italian Exploitation Month, Spaghetti Western Wednesdays: And God Said to Cain (1970)

            “…see this movie, yo.”

            Seeing Klaus Kinski in a spaghetti western was not exactly a rare sight. Seeing him for more than five minutes total screen-time is a bit more rare, and playing anything but the villain almost an impossibility. Which makes And God Said to Cain all the more special: Kinski plays the lead hero Gary Hamilton, who is given a pardon from the prison work camp we’re introduced to him in and proceeds to go on into a meaningful life in dry good and farming equipment. Ha! No, he actually sets out for a small town where the men who framed him for the crime that put him in prison are currently residing, looking to settle some old scores once and for all.

            The main draw here is seeing Kinski play the hero, and he acquits himself rather well. He doesn’t inject any of the madness or quirk he was known for in his other, more famous roles, but it turns out that he could play a leading man with the best of them. He’s helped tremendously by director Antonio Margheriti (aka “Anthony Dawson”), perhaps the most solid and reliable of all the Italian exploitation directors. It didn’t matter what genre Margheriti found himself in; be it giallo, polizioteschi or spaghetti, the filmmaker worked within whatever confines he was placed and produced one solid effort after another.

            And God Said to Cain is definitely one of Margheriti’s best, and one of the bet of the entire subgenre. The film opens in mystery, as we meet each of the main characters but never really learn what they’re all about until the film goes on. We don’t even find out the reason Kinski’s character is after the men who wronged him until pretty late in the film, lending the film an almost horror-movie atmosphere in the process. Margheriti leans into the horror elements pretty heavily, as Kinski makes his way through the town over the course of one stormy night like a regular Jason Voorhees - my favorite being his tying of one of the corpses left in his wake to the end of a bell rope, causing the massive church bells to ring endlessly through the night. It all ramps up to the marvelous conclusion, where Kinski faces off against the main baddie Peter Carsten amidst a flaming mansion, and makes use of a hallway of mirrors in a scene that had to later be an inspiration on Enter the Dragon

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