The Hills Run Red Review
One of the more praised films in the Spaghetti Western canon is Carlo Lizzani's Kill and Pray. It is a political and poetic western that features Pier Paolo Pasolini and draws parallels between the politics of the late sixties with times of liberation and revolution. Allegory and politics would also mark Lizzani's attempts at exploitations movies like Teenage Prostitution Racket, but of his earlier directorial jobs his work is much more straightforward.
Any subtext in The Hills Run Red passes me by. Two confederate army buddies are carrying a shedload of money to help the cause at the end of the civil war when they are set upon by Yankees. One gets away and uses the money to build his own fiefdom, and the other gets five years in chokey away from his loving wife and daughter. Once Brewster is freed, he discovers that Milton has let his wife die in despair and poverty and he plans with the help of an old timer to get even.
It's wholly possible that you can equate the post war reconstruction of Italy with this story. Milton is the gangster whose got rich on illicit money and trade, and Brewster is the avenging angel sent to punish his betrayal of his roots and cause. Its possible but this kind of reading seems to be about giving too much attention to what is a rather generic revenge tale. This seems to be a simple case of brothers in war becoming enemies in peacetime.
From my perspective, the elements of this particular spaghetti that make it intriguing are those scattered around its outside. The central characters are fairly obvious, stock decent hero and lying villain, although their class diference is given more thought than in more ordinary examples of the western. The people around them are far more interesting though. Milton's henchman is a wonderfully instinctual, and surprisingly effervescent creation from Henry Silva. Silva is a partying Mexican sadist who enjoys the fear he instils in others and enjoys his status as the man who gets things done. Dan Duryea appears in an underwritten role as a beacon of decency who will help Brewster fight for his family and right and wrong.
The writing allows little for Silva and Duryea to work with but their performances and presence lend interest to a flick which would otherwise be a little predictable. The gun fights and roustabouts are here in spades and they do their job in keeping you entertained, but the plot is rather too simple and the approach to it rather too straightforward to guarantee anything of excellence. Violence is of the bang bang kind and there is little in terms of photography, editing or ideas to set this film apart from many others.
The Hills Run Red is competent but a little dull with none of the complexity that Lizzani would later bring to his work.
The film comes on a barebones region locked single layer disc. The menu is very basic with the two options of "play" and "scene select", and the background used is static poster art. It is though a lovely transfer at times, exquisitely detailed with excellent saturation and faithful colour balance. It is very sharp throughout and my only quibbles have to be that contrast is sometimes too dark and that edge enhancement is more visible than I would choose at times. A very small number of scenes seem to have come from an inferior print.
The sound comes via a mono English dub which is subject to some distortion and a few pops and cracks, but some cues seem mistimed during the film and the mixing of the main film to the opening and closing titles seems a little awkward. Voices are clear and this is a solid audio effort backing up a very good transfer.
One for the completists and genre junkies as this is an interesting diversion but nothing more.