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Requiescant: Descanse en paz
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Escapando de una matanza ocurrida en un pequeño pueblo mejicano a manos del ejército confederado, un niño es adoptado por un pastor protestante que lo educa junto con su hija Princy. De adulto, con el nombre de Requiescant, el mejicano se convertirá en un hábil pistolero que, una vez elegido jefe del pueblo, tendrá que seguir la pista de Princy, que ha escapado de su casa y de Ferguson, el sangriento terrateniente americano causante de la matanza.
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Also known as “Kill and Prey,” the film starts well but soon gets bogged down with its political message. Speeches about aristocrats and the proletarian classes and several scenes used as metaphors for contemporary issues reflect the director’s interest in leftist causes. Despite being occasionally longwinded, the film contains all the traditional elements of the spaghetti Western: violence, vengeance, the evil villain, and an often murky sense of morality. The audacity and fearlessness of the screenplay may have served as model for such later Hollywood revenge Westerns as “Hang ‘Em High” and “True Grit.”
Bonus extras on the 2-disc Blu-ray release include an illustrated collector’s booklet containing new writing on the film; reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork; optional English subtitles; archive interview with director Carlo Lizzani; and a new interview with Lou Castel.
For the majority of movie goers out there westerns made by the Italians in the sixties, affectionately called “spaghetti westerns”, were limited to the films directed by Sergio Leone and starring Clint Eastwood. But the genre was much bigger than that. While the western genre in the U.S. had dwindled down to mostly TV series and an occasional John Wayne movie, Italy took hold of the genre and made it its own. It’s only now, years later, that many have discovered these past works with their emergence on DVD. Thank Arrow Video for offering some of the best and treating these releases like gold.
REQUIESCANT opens with the slaughter of a group of Mexican villagers slaughtered at the hands of ex-Confederate soldier George Bellow Ferguson (Mark Damon) and his men. Among the group is a young boy who receives a head wound that leaves him unconscious but quite alive. Picked up a day or so later by a religious family, he travels with them growing up side by side with their daughter Princy. Of course the two fall in love but as they grow up Princy is attracted to the bright lights, colorful costumes and attention she sees the saloon hall girls getting. She leaves with one of these troupes and Requiescat sets out to find her.
Here is where the story gets a twist of sorts. The now grown up boy chooses the name Requiescant (Lou Castel) and finds himself on the street after a holdup. Picking up the gun of one of the fallen robbers, he accidentally shoots the other two off of their horses. While watching this I wondered if we were going to get a comedy of errors in the mode of the Trinity westerns. Fortunately that’s not the case. Requiescant takes the gun for his own and begins to learn how to use it. He continues on his way in search of Princy until he comes to San Antonio, the city where the opening scene took place.
The town is now owned by Ferguson. This includes the local cathouse where Requiescat finds Princy, tossed aside by the dance hall troupe she took off with and forced to work here not to make a living. The innocent Requiescat attempts to reason with Ferguson to get Princy’s release but the odds of that actually happening are pretty slim. An eventual faceoff between Requiescat and Ferguson with his men is bound to happen. Add to that Requiescat being reminded of where he came from and what happened and a blood feud is sure to erupt.
The movie has all the hallmarks of a spaghetti western with a score filled with the vocals stylings common to the genre. The land is desolate like these westerns were, usually shot in Spain. You can feel the rising dust in your nostril with each footstep taken down a dirt road. The bad guys are bad and the good guys are just.
A number of reviews I’ve read about the film discuss the political implications behind the story and the subtle suggestions that were being made in various scenes. Not being aware of most of that I didn’t notice it but will do so with subsequent viewings. And that’s the thing. I will be watching this again. It was that entertaining that I feel I can watch it again and enjoy it just as much as I did the first time. For me that’s a determining factor as to how I rate a movie, is it worth watching more than once or is one time more than enough. For me I feel like I could watch this several times with no problem.
As with all Arrow Video releases they have outdone themselves with this release. Not only do you get a spectacularly clean edition of the film in blu-ray format but the extras, as always seems the case with their releases, are perhaps the best out there. For me they outshine Criterion films with their quality and much more accessible pricing. Included in this release are an all-new 14 minute interview with Lou Castel, a 28 minute archive interview with director Carlo Lizzani, a booklet offering a ton of information and the film in both English and original Italian.
If you enjoy spaghetti westerns then by all means seek this one out. It is one of the better examples of the genre and as I keep saying, Arrow Video has outdone themselves with this release. I know it’s a keeper on my shelf.