Friday, April 14, 2006

GUNS & GUTS

VCI Entertainment has, over the last couple of years, released a whole bunch of movies by René Cardona Jr. (TINTOERA), one of Mexico's most prolific directors of exploitation films. One of their most recent Cardona titles is GUNS & GUTS (a/k/a LAS VIBORAS CAMBIAN DE PIEL, 1974), Rene's Central American take on the Spaghetti Western genre.

Two bearded drifters (Pedro Armendariz Jr. and Rogelio Guerra) are both searching for the same man, a man they each want dead for their own reasons. While tracking him, they come across El Pistolero (Jorge Rivero, DEATH MATCH), who agrees to kill the man for them. Eventually, they find that their target is now sheriff of Santa Fe and is holed up in a fortress-like hacienda surrounded by hired guns. Now all they have to do is get to him.

Handsomely produced, this saddle saga is clearly inspired by the Euro-Westerns of the times, with ample naked bosoms and plenty of gouting blood in the gunfights. While not bad, it is slow and talky, with only a few standout scenes to make up for the sometimes glacial pace of the rest of the film. These include a couple of well-staged fist fights, a strip-poker scene with three sexy prostitutes, the longest death scene ever filmed, and a great, Peckinpah-WILD BUNCH-styled climax, with geysers of blood and artsy slo-mo.

VCI's presentation is very nice, with a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer culled from a decent print. There are only a few instances of obvious print damage (including a momentary "snowstorm" of white spots midway through), but otherwise the picture is very good, with bright colors and sharp detail. The English-dubbed soundtrack (and it's a surprisingly good dub) is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 and is clear and free of hiss and distortion.

VCI's extras include the theatrical trailer, trailers for their other Cardona titles (TREASURES OF THE AMAZON, CYCLONE, ISLAND OF LOST SOULS and THE BERMUDA TRIANGLE), and text bios for the director and leads (although the Armendariz bio is actually that of his much more famous father, who died ten years before this film was made!).

For fans of obscure Westerns or the Cardona canon, it might be worth a look.

BUY: Guns and Guts