A BULLET FOR SANDOVAL (Desesperados, Los)

(director/writer: Julio Buchs; screenwriter: Ugo Guerra/Federico De Urrutia/José Luis Martínez Mollá/from the story by Julio Buchs, Federico De Urrutia and José Luis Martínez Mollá; cinematographer: Francisco Sempere; editor: Magdalena Pulido; music: Gianni Ferrio; cast: Ernest Borgnine (Don Pedro Sandoval), George Hilton (John Warner), Alberto de Mendoza (Lucky), Antonio Pica (Sam), Leo Anchóriz (Monk), Manuel Miranda (Francisco), José Manuel Martín (Cross-Eyed Guy), Gustavo Rojo (Guadalupano); Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Ugo Guerra/Elio Scardamaglia; VCI Home Video; 1969-dubbed in English)


“It was pretty to look at, even if everything about the spaghetti western was as ugly as sin.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Spanish filmmaker Julio Buchs (“The Man Who Killed Billy the Kid”/”Vengeance Is Mine”) directs and co-writes this deeply flawed spaghetti western that features good production values but a gratuitously violent revenge story. It’s based on the story by Julio Buchs, Federico De Urrutia and José Luis Martínez Mollá.

It’s set at the Texas border with Mexico during the Civil War.

On the eve of battle, Confederate Corporal John Warner (George Hilton, Uruguayan actor) receives word from his girlfriend Rosa’s Mexican brother Francisco that she’s dying and gave birth to the couple’s child. John deserts with Francisco, hoping to get to the village in time to marry the disgraced woman before she dies. But he’s captured on the way by some bitter Rebs, who treat him rough during a burial detail of Yankees and accuse him of being a coward–not even fit for the burial detail. When John refuses to kill an unarmed Yankee about to be buried, the Reb sergeant attacks him. But John overcomes him and chokes him to death. He then flees with his hometown boy Sam (Antonio Pica) and the unsuitable soldier Lucky (Alberto de Mendoza). At his village, John finds out there’s a cholera epidemic and Rosa died. Her hostile wealthy rancher father Don Pedro Sandoval (Ernest Borgnine) treats John coldly as a gold digger gringo and sends him away with his child, telling him to never show his face again. On the way to Mexico John hooks up with a lay brother (Leo Anchóriz) running away from a monastery and someone who is no stranger with gunplay. At the next village they are refused milk for the cholera-stricken baby. When the baby soon dies, John returns to kill the man who refused the baby milk by drowning him in a bucket of milk in front of his wife and the villagers. Soon a few more outlaw misfits join John’s gang, and they develop a big rep as looters and raiders (seemingly the Confederates forgot about him, even though he’s not just a deserter but wanted for murder). The obsessed John is determined to get even with the hateful Don Pedro Sandoval for not allowing him to marry Rosa and treating him with such contempt and indirectly causing the baby’s death, and the two unsympathetic parties go to war. It leads to an action-packed showdown climax, where Sandoval and John fight to the finish with knives in a bull ring.

Not much about this film made much sense, and it quickly moved into the incoherent stage from which it never recovered. But it was pretty to look at, even if everything about the spaghetti western was as ugly as sin. The poor English dubbing was the least of the film’s problems.

REVIEWED ON 2/9/2009 GRADE: C-  https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/