Wednesday, July 27, 2016


A BULLET FOR SANDOVAL (1969) is a Spanish-Italian Spaghetti Western that plays fast and loose with American history. Not that anyone expects one of these films to be completely accurate from a historical standpoint (after all, they are meant to entertain not educate), but the filmmakers take great liberties here with the American Civil War. For instance, who knew that Confederate Army troops fought in South Texas and Northern Mexico during the war?

John Warner (George Hilton), deserts the Confederate Army to return to a small village where his lover and infant son reside. The town is threatened by a cholera epidemic. The town is only a short ride into far South Texas/Northern Mexico from the Confederate lines. And it's set in a landscape that looks more like Spain than the Texas/Mexico border.

Once at the village, Warner finds his lover dead. He takes possession of the child and rides out. This invokes the wrath of his father-in-law to be, Don Pedro Sandoval (Ernest Borgnine). When the baby dies, Warner swears revenge on Sandoval. He forms a gang of four outlaws (including another deserter from the CSA army and a defrocked priest). Together, they raise havoc across the area. A final showdown between Sandoval and Warner occurs in which Sandoval is killed. Finally, the four gunmen face a small army of Mexican soldiers in a deserted bullfighting arena where they go out in a blaze of glory.

The film has echoes of Sam Peckinpah's THE WILD BUNCH (1969), with the presence of Borgnine and the final showdown (which ends much more abruptly than the epic climax of WILD BUNCH). Everyone but Borgnine is badly dubbed into English. The locations are good but the film takes a while to really gel. You keep thinking it's going to be about one thing, then that plot thread gets dropped, another one picked up, dropped, etc. The smash cut editing can be a bit jarring at times as it propels the narrative ahead with sudden stops and starts. The music, by Gianni Ferrio, is nowhere near as good as the scores by Ennio Morricone and Ferrio doesn't even try to replicate the master's touch.

In short, A BULLET FOR SANDOVAL is a strictly average Spaghetti Western. I've seen worse but I've also seen much, much better films in this sub-genre. 

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