Spanish title: La muerte busca un hombre
Country: Spain | Italy
Director: José Luis Merino
Produced by Prodimex Film (Rome), Órbita Films (Madrid)
Story and screenplay: José Luis Merino, Enrico Colombo
Music: Augusto Martelli
Cinematographer: Emanuele Di Cola
Editor: José Antonio Rojo
Art director: Francesco Di Stefano, Luis Vázquez
Cast: Peter Lee Lawrence (Robert McGregor / Blondie), Carlos Quiney (George Forsyte), Malisa Longo (Yuma), Stelvio Rosi (Ross Steward), Mariano Vidal Molina (Joe Saxon), María Salerno (Maticha), María Mahor (Gladys McGregor), Luis Marín (Pancho), Antonio Mayans (Sturgess, Young Man after Saxon), Dan van Husen (Frank Landon), Antonio Jiménez Escribano (Old Tradesman), José Jaspe (Sheriff of Jonesville), José Marco (Debuty sheriff), Stefano Caprioti, Enrique Ávila, Giancarlo Fantini, Enzo Fisichella, Renato Paracchi, Santiago Rivero, Claudio Trionfi
George Forsyte (Carlos Quiney) is a notorious bounty killer who is doing his best to earn a grand total of half a million dollars before retiring. He specialises in setting traps for his victims, drawing them in by using his wife Gladys (María Mahor) as bait, pretending that she’s an innocent on the road carrying plenty of easily purloinable cash; and when he catches them, he shows no mercy, killing them with his trademark technique of a bullet in the forehead. Things go badly wrong, however, when he tries to bring in vicious killer Joe Saxon (Vidal Molina). Distracted momentarily by a poisonous snake, he allows Saxon to escape and Gladys is murdered as a result. Naturally enough, he wants to have revenge, but this doesn’t work out either: before he can get to him Saxon is killed – and the reward on his head is collected – by another bounty hunter called Robert MacGregor (Peter Lee Lawrence).
While Forsyte spends time licking his wounds, MacGregor sets off to capture another villain, Ross Steward (Stan Cooper). Steward and his men are hiding out in the hills, where they’re forcing the local Indians to mine salt, but MacGregor’s initial efforts to locate him result in him being badly beaten and left for dead. Nursed back to health by tasty squaw Yuma (Malisa Longo), he finds his work has become further complicated by the reappearance of Forsyte, whose motivations have become even less clear following his wife’s death.
Despite the cheeky title, this wasn’t really an attempt to rip off Franco Giraldi’s box office smashes Seven Guns for the MacGregors (66) and Up the MacGregors (67). Whereas they were light-hearted romps this is a moody, cynical western with an almost total absence of humour and a rather dark, somber atmosphere. It actually belongs more to the dual protagonist school of Spaghetti Westerns, in which two very different characters form an uneasy alliance in order to defeat a particularly dastardly varmint; most particularly For a Few Dollars More, which also revolved around a partnership between a blond, handsome bounty hunter and his older rival (and which also featured a sub plot involving a dead sibling).
More Dollars for the MacGregors is a flawed but surprisingly enjoyable Spaghetti Western. As with many of the primarily Spanish westerns, it’s a surprisingly cruel affair, but it has higher production values and is put together with more skill than genre films made by the likes of Ignacio Iquino or Juan Bosch. The script has some good ideas, not least the character of Forsyte, a seriously ambiguous figure who becomes increasingly deranged as the running time progresses.
In fact, for the first forty minutes or so it all works very well, but then it shifts focus with the death of Joe Saxon at about the forty minute mark. At this point Forsyte fades rather into the background – until the final stages of the film at least – and the less defined Macgregor, who had hardly featured previously, takes centre stage. Several new characters are also introduced, including the erratic Steward and the Indians (who look like nothing so much as escapees from a hippie festival), which acts to defuse the mood and ambience which had developed so nicely. In effect it plays like two parts of a TV series joined together into a feature length production, which raises the question as to whether this was intentional or whether one of the stars was perhaps unavailable for some of the filming and the script had to be adapted at the last moment.
Despite this, it’s reasonably made and although the budget wasn’t huge the production values are more than adequate. Jose Luis Merino was a competent director who worked in a variety of genres, and he definitely stands as one of the more capable directors working in Spanish popular cinema at the time. He’s greatly aided by some decent work from his regular cinematographer Emmanuele Di Cola and editor José Antonio Rojo (who all worked on and off together almost a dozen times), and the whole production has a curious, counter-cultural, mystical feel which is something of a surprise given that Merino’s other work was rather standard B-movie stuff.
As for the performances, Peter Lee Lawrence makes for a solid lead despite the flimsiness of his character and Carlos Quiney, who appeared almost exclusively in films for Merino and was known as ‘the Spanish Errol Flynn’, is good as the ambiguous Forsyte. But the most entertaining performance comes from Stan Cooper – generally a rather wooden actor – who seems to be having fun as the spliff smoking, whiskey drinking nutter Steward (a character who seems to have been intended as a cross between Gian Maria Volonte’s Indio from For a Few Dollars More and, bizarrely, William S Burroughs). He also gets to wear the same famously incongruous leopard skin poncho as Lang Jeffries in Duel in the Eclipse (which was also co-directed by Merino and written by the same team of Arrigo and Enrico Columbo and María del Carmen Martínez Román). Not at all bad.
Review by Matt Blake, 2012