Man of the East Review
Enzo Barboni's Trinity films made a shedload of dosh and established the double act of the anglicized duo known as Terence Hill and Bud Spencer (original names Mario Girotti and Carlo Perdersoli). Hill was the handsome, acrobatic one and Spencer was the hulking beef, a kind of little and large with Hill outsmarting Spencer throughout their on-screen partnerships. Both would make films with others, Spencer appeared in three Argento penned flicks, and Hill got courted by Leone in an attempt to cash in on his profile as well as earlier roles with Risi and Visconti, but their on screen partnership spanned 30 years.
30 years of good clean family fun making movies that were a bit of a giggle, but if you do watch their movies I believe you may become annoyed at their minor mirth and lack of dramatic teeth. Man of the East doesn't star Spencer, but Hill does find himself alongside a hulking partner with impossible strength and the elements of this long movie are very similar to those that the director found such success with in his Trinity films. Violence is of the unreal and family safe kind, the children in the story are removed from the action whenever it starts, and the romance is strictly pure with clothes on and decency preserved.
I suppose the story is a bit like Three Godfathers with Hill's character swapped for the baby in that movie. Hill plays an English fop who follows his late father out west in 1880, and finds himself befriended by his father's old gang of crooks and thieves. The opening of the film establishes the death of his father and the introduction of Monkey, Bull and Joe. All four meet and the old gang take on their duty of making their fallen comrade's son a man.
This then switches into a fish out of water comedy with Hill receiving an education in western manners. He learns to fight, to spit, to romance and to shoot. The effete well dressed dandy becomes a confirmed heterosexual who can sort out his problems by using his fists in comedy fights. I guess you know this schtick as it was Hill's stock in trade and the movie is very definitely a central vehicle for him.
If there's one thing I find hard to take in either comedy or a western, it's propriety. Niceness, neatness and good clean fun really tick me off and Terence Hill's films are full of it. I find it to be steaming hypocrisy to say that violence is harmful to the audience so we'll only allow it to be shown if it doesn't really hurt anyone. I also find it less than funny to constantly use the same jokes over and over as they are the family friendly ones and you can't dare to improvise into more adult territory. The problem is that in Hill's films he thinks this kind of entertainment is what is best.
I suppose therefore that I am not the intended audience so bear in mind that when I say that I found Man of the East far too long, far too safe and often humour free. It is best in the sequences which begin the movie in the prison when the old gang spring Monkey, and, for all of Hill's charm and athletic prowess, I can't pretend that the film improved when he entered the scene. Being fair to the film's age perhaps the jokes seem old because they have been repeated so much since but in its core objective, I found that the movie failed - I didn't laugh, I may have smiled but I was chuckle free.
I would say that I liked the cheeky score from the De Angelis brothers and admired the skill of the composition of the photography. Still, apart from it's rampant inoffensiveness there is little of substance or of a memorable nature here. If you're looking for a western without cussing or a comedy without laughs than I can recommend Man of the East. If you can't get enough of Hill's usual fare then you will certainly get more of what you like here.
As per their other recent releases in their western collection, Optimum give the film a barebones release. The menu is static and rather dry poster art with the two options of "play" and "scene select". This is a single layer release.
This is possibly the best looking of the recent Spaghettis from the label bar a few sequences of a train that form part of the title sequence. The train sequence looks far from clean, soft and the orange exterior looks colour boosted, but the rest of the transfer is far far better with almost no edge enhancement and strong contrast throughout. Flesh tones seem very lifelike, colours are strong and the level of detail is extensive. The sound comes in a simple English dub with a very strong bass but a more hollow tone in the treble heavy sequences. It is in very good nick though and it would be wrong to state that this is anything other than a fine transfer with very good mono sound.
If you have been holding your breath for this release then I suppose you will be very happy with this transfer. Personally, the movie itself made me want to find some gratuitous sex and violence as quickly as I could.