Alex Cox, who knows a thing or two about film, puts ¿Quién Sabe? in his top three of Spaghetti Westerns up there with Sam Peckinpah’s Wild Bunch. Shot in Almería at the tail end of the sixties, this is a tail of revolution, deception and redemption through violence. It is also a topical study of the less than altruistic adventures of some US citizens abroad.
Left-wing director Damiano Damiani tells the tale of how gringo mercenary Bill Tate (Lou Castel) ingratiates himself into a group of revolutionary bandits led by Chucho (Gian Maria Volonté). El Chucho, ruthless revolutionary and sentimental friend of the masses, takes a liking to the treacherous Bill Tate who passes himself off as a fellow outlaw. Tate’s mission is to assassinate the elusive head revolutionary inspired by Pancho Villa and Zapatero. He manipulates Chucho into taking him to his leader but not before helping him in an orgy of looting barracks and revolutionary deeds.
As ambiguous a figure of good and evil as Chucho is, his priest brother played by the wonderfully intense and insane Klaus Kinski manages to be even more of a contradiction. He celebrates the holy trinity with a grenade lobbed into a group of soldiers for each of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
With a great score, wonderful locations and a pro-revolutionary manifesto, this film is dynamite. And while the director does not like to call it a western, it has all the flaws of the genre to ensure its place: beautiful but two-dimensional women characters in too much make up, terrible accents and bad dubbing. But to give too much importance to these would be churlish and to miss the point.
If you like Spaghetti Westerns, this is essential viewing.
¿Quién Sabe? (A Bullet For The General) (15) was released on DVD (£19.99) by Argent Films on 23rd October 2004.
–Special Features include anamorphic widescreen (16:9) presentation, brand new exclusive interview with director Damiano Damiani, exclusive introduction by acclaimed filmmaker Alex Cox, theatrical trailer. Sadly, though, no choice of languages/subtitles.–