CHINA 9, LIBERTY 37 (Amore, piombo e furore)
(director/writer: Monte Hellman; screenwriter: Ennio De Concini/from the story by Ennio De Concini; cinematographer: Giuseppe Rotunno; editor: Cesare D’Amico; music: Pino Donaggio/John Rubinstein ; cast: Warren Oates (Matthew Sebanek), Fabio Testi (Clayton Drum), Jenny Agutter (Catherine Sebanek), Sam Peckinpah (Wilbur Olsen, Dime Novelist), Isabel Mestres (Barbara, Virgil’s Wife), Gianrico Tondinelli (Johnny Sebanek), Franco Interlenghi (Hank Sebanek), Paco Benlloch (Virgil Sebanek), Franco Interlenghi (Hank Sebanek), Gianrico Tondinelli (Johnny Sebanek); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Gianni Bozzacchi/Valerio De Paolis/Monte Hellman; Reel Media International; 1978-Italy/Spain-in English)
“Lacks the rigors of Hellman’s other brilliant westerns, sharing the brilliance only in a tight minimalist narrative and in a created humorous absurdist world.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The title refers to a signpost seen in the film with an arrow leading to “China 9” and another in the opposite direction to “Liberty 37,” in one of those directions is the ranch of Matthew Sebanek (Warren Oates). It marked the last western from both director Monte Hellman (“The Shooting”/”Ride in the Whirlwind”) and actor Warren Oates. Hellman’s idol Sam Peckinpah has a cameo as a writer selling the legend of the West. It’s a Spanish-Italian co-production and was shot in Spain by cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno. It borrows its style from both the Hollywood and spaghetti western, as Hellman delights in playing havoc with the traditional Western characters and plotline. Though not without its moments this feature lacks the rigors of Hellman’s other brilliant westerns, sharing the brilliance only in a tight minimalist narrative and in a created humorous absurdist world.
Clayton Drum (Fabio Testi) is the gunfighter, donning a Tom Mix lid, given a last second pardon before being hanged on the condition he kills retired railroad gunslinger and now rancher/miner Matthew Sebanek (Warren Oates), whose valuable land the railroad heads want for their railroad expansion. Instead Clayton befriends Matthew and refuses to kill him, but when Matthew’s attractive younger wife Catherine (Jenny Agutter) sleeps with him they run off together. The lovers are pursued by Matthew and his unstable hillbilly brothers, and the railroad’s hired thugs who are ordered to kill both Matthew and Clayton.
REVIEWED ON 3/15/2006 GRADE: B