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John Nudge
RAMON THE MEXICAN/CALIFORNIA from Wild East - review
Tue May 2, 2017 9:32pm
174.19.135.83

RAMON THE MEXICAN-CALIFORNIA

From Wild East

Ramon the Mexican / California
Directors: Maurizio Pradeaux / Michele Lupo
Starring: Robert Hundar, Wilma Lindama, Jean Louis / Giuliano Gemma, William Berger, Raimund Harmstorf
Country: U.S.A.
Region: 0
Aspect Ratio: 16x9, Anamorphic, widescreen, NTSC
Audio: English
Extras: Robert Hundar trailers; picture gallery


Standing just over 6'5 " tall, with broad shoulders and a face like an angry bird of prey, hulking Sicilian actor Claudio Undari (aka Robert Hundar) (1935-2008) was tailor made for villainy. As such he played the villain in quite a few Spaghetti Westerns, including the two presented here.

RAMON THE MEXICAN (1966)

As Juan Morales attempts to rape the beautiful Esmeralda (Vilma Lindamar), he is shot and killed by Slim Baxter (Jean Louis). Slim escapes to the mountains to avoid retribution. Juan's brother, Ramon (Robert Hundar), vows revenge - he takes his gang to the Baxter ranch, kills Slim's father, John Baxter, and kidnaps and rapes Esmeralda. When Ramon and Slim meet to settle their differences, Ramon outdraws Slim, mortally wounding him, and rides off. Esmeralda prays to the Virgin Mary, promising to marry Ramon if she would only let Slim live. Slim lives, forms an outlaw gang to rob and harass Ramon's criminal enterprises. Ramon, in the meantime, kills just about everyone on Slim's side, including slim's brother Jack, and the sheriff on his payroll calls it all self defense. On Ramon's and Esmeralda's wedding day, Slim arrives in town disguised as the priest. Taken by surprise, Ramon and his men meet their fates.

RAMON THE MEXICAN is a good-looking oater from writer/director Maurizio Pradeaux whose only other Western was THE SONS OF WHITE FANG. But Pardeux's direction is problematic. We are treated to long sequences of horsemen riding here and there to apparently just ride here and there, and to a long flamenco dance, among other things, all to take up screen time without advancing the plot. In other words, he didn't seem to know what to do with his own meager script. Still, the film remains coherent and its meatier set pieces keep it from dying in midstream.

Rather than film in the gravel pits around Rome, like most low-budget Italian Westerns were, Pradeaus used mountainous locations to the south and west in Collepardo, Frosinone and Lazio. giving this film a better look than its budget would dictate. Cinematographer Oberdan Troiani makes good use of these locations.

Felice Di Stefano provides an appropriate score with Mexican-flavored trumpets and twangy guitar riding music. This is one score deserving of a decent CD release.

Bottom line is, this is a relatively entertaining film worth the effort to watch. Yeah, it has issues, but the cinematography, music and cast (which includes genre veterans Aldo Berti, Luciano Rossi and Jose Torres) make up for its shortcomings.

Kudos to Wild East for managing to find a beautiful widescreen English print of this hard-to-find-in-English film. The print is sharp, with strong colors and consistent sound throughout.

CALIFORNIA (1977)

Director Michele Lupo made a total of five Westerns, including his masterwork, ARIZONA COLT (aka THE MAN FROM NOWHERE), three of them with actor Giuliano Gemma.

At the end of the Civil War, two recently released Confederate soldiers, Michael "California" Random (Giuliano Gemma) and Willy Preston (Miquel Bose), head West to start a new life. Along the way they run into bounty hunters looking for wanted Confederate criminals, and extreme bias against Confederate soldiers in general. After a confrontation with a Northern family whose son never came home, Willy is murdered. Michael changes his mind and heads to Georgia to deliver the bad news to Willy's family. Once at the Preston farm, Michael is taken in and treated like one of the family. Willy's sister, Helen (Paola Bose), begins to fall in love with Michael and a romance begins. While in town to pick up supplies, Michael and Helen are caught in the middle of a shootout between three wanted Confederate outlaws, and the bounty hunters, led by Rope Whittaker (Raymond Harmstorff). The outlaws are killed, but the bounty hunters, who are now themselves wanted, escape by kidnapping Helen and forcing an army of lawmen to let them go. Michael goes after the bounty hunters and, after killing two of them (Robert Hundar and Romano Puppo), he strikes a deal with Whittaker to become parthers in crime (Michael just wants to find Helen who is being kept at Whittaker's secret outlaw hideout). After one robbery, Michael makes a deal with the army of lawmen to lead them to the hideout while he rescues Helen. Michael kills Whittaker in a fight, rescues Helen and the army of lawmen lets him go.

Coming after the end of the Spaghetti Western boom (1964-1975), CALIFORNIA is a solid actioner. It has a lot going for it, not the least of which is a strong cast loaded with genre regulars, including Berger, Robert Hundar, Romanno Puppo, Franco Ressel, Enzo Fiermonte, Tom Felleghy, Nazzareno Zamperla, and Alberto Dell'Aqua (in a cameo with his brothers Roberto and Ottavio). The action is well-played and the movie moves along quite well.. Director Lupo knows his craft and delivers an entertaining, if flawed, effort, with the right combination of pathos, romance and action. Gemma plays his patented persecuted hero well, and the rest of the cast delivers with a surprising amount of energy.

Two errors in this film (for me, at least) are the locations and the guns. Much of the film is supposed to take place in Georgia, around the Preston family farm, and yet outside the farm it seems to be all arid desert (Almeria, Spain). I found this jarring since nowhere in the state of Georgia does such expansive desert exist. As for the guns, everyone seems to carry Colt Peacemakers, with nary a Civil War era weapon in sight. I understand the concept of suspension of disbelief, but these errors never should have been allowed to happen.

As expected, Allejandro Ulloa's cinematography is superb, but Gianni Ferrio's score just doesn't seem to fit into such a somber and gritty film. I can't place my finger on the problem, but I don't much care for it. Too pop-orientated, I suppose. In all fairness, Ferrio also wrote some of the genre's finest music (FORT YUMA GOLD, A MAN CALLED SLEDGE, etc). One of my least favorite Spaghetti Western scores.

As expected from Wild East, the quality of the disc is first-rate. The prints are clean, with great clarity, color and sound. It also includes the usual photo gallery, as well as a number of trailers for Robert Hundar films.


    • Re: Review of RAMON THE MEXICAN/CALIFORNIAIndio, Tue May 16 2:17pm
      Just watched them both. I agree John, Ramon the Mexican had a lot of riding from here to there, probably to fill up screen time. And it did appear to borrow the plot loosely from Fistful of Dollars.... more
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