Monday, 2 April 2012

The Specialist (1969)

One of the last Sergio Corbucci's spaghetti plates and one of these few gigs with Franco Nero being absent. A role of the gunslinger from nowhere is commissioned instead to Johnny Hallyday – a French Elvis Presley, who's been storming the European charts in the 60's, dubbed the hottest voice on the continent! However, his performance doesn't strike with the same charisma... or maybe the style of acting itself is subpar. Johnny Hallyday has been everything, but a method actor and this is detectable as far as his screen presence is concerned. Usually tensious and emotionaly rich Corbucci's close-ups do not sparkle with the same cool as Halliday offers a very haughty facade and lacks this quirky lick of Nero's affiliation. As far as director's ouevre is concerned, screenplay of "The Specialist" coins an intrigue picking the bits from "Big Silence" and "The Mercenary" (both screened a year before), crossing them both in a way.

Therefore the dude named Hud enters a corrupted, western town – where he had lived in the past – in order to track down a stashed cash of his recently murdered brother, clear up what really happened... and kill the malevolent ones, who pull the strings. But not an easy job to do while local sheriff is nagging him about checking the guns in and the crooks around the corner only wait to rip his heart open. He'll need to figure how to keep the guns and sling 'em fast to protect his life while digging out the dirt from underneath the porch. In the meantime a high-rolling, local female banker is gonna feel the heat crawling up her ass, hence will use all the paid manforce to terminate an old homie, who's getting too close to discovering the truth. She teams with another scumbag and together they jump on Hud's balls with a pure intention to scramble them once and for all!

While for my money "The Specialist" remains a secondary job of Corbucci, it does have some unusual elements. This is probably a first spaghetti western ever, breaking the ground by introducing smoking weed, western hippies. They are brought right up in the first scene exposing Hud's character and raise the action, being a closing bracket as well. A movie kicks off when they're down and out, crawling in the mud, pestered by a patrol of the Mexican brute – El Diablo, and fades when they finally raise to power, scraping the havoc leftovers to fill their end. Not without a reason they describe themselves as a "revolutionary group" in the movie. This particularly interesting element of late 60's Corbucci's works (it's gonna come back in "Companeros") serves as an off-beat commentary on the social change of the time. Countercultural dropouts/revolutionaries raising their hands in act of violence against the system charge up Corbucci's vibrant, alternative world and become a satirical teasing – in the same time coming through as a significant, social statement!

Usual triangle is used to stimulate the plot in "The Specialist". An outlaw gunfighter (Hud), a Mexican bandito (El Diablo) and corrupted powermonger (Madame Virginia) will play it out mostly against each other driving action full of treachery, back-stabbing and raunchy twists, which perk up the experience. If you like Corbucci and wanna go down the completist line, this is definitely a valuable proposition, especially as a precedence to "Companeros", which features few ideas outlined here, but circling back to "The Mercenary" structure. A really good movie after all, with tight secondary performances and plenty of amusing dialogue lines. It should be checked out if only for few weird scenes like town folks terrorized by the hippies to strip naked and crawl down the dirt road en masse or the sheriff getting smashed on a bottle of Champagne – probably a must put in a French co-production. A solid and entertaining genre flick!

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