Written by: Michael Den Boer on July 20th, 2015
Theatrical Release Date: France / Italy / Spain, 1969
Director: Robert Hossein
Writers: Claude Desailly, Robert Hossein
Cast: Michèle Mercier, Robert Hossein, Guido Lollobrigida, Daniele Vargas, Serge Marquand, Pierre Hatet, Philippe Baronnet, Pierre Collet, Ivano Staccioli, Béatrice Altariba, Michel Lemoine, Anne-Marie Balin
BluRay released: July 20th, 2015 (UK) / July 21st, 2015 (USA)
Approximate running times: 90 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 15 (UK), NR (USA)
Sound: LPCM Mono English, LPCM Mono Italian
Subtitles: English SDH, English (Italian Language)
BluRay Release: Arrow Video USA
Region Coding: Region A,B / Region 1,2 NTSC
Retail Price: $39.95 (USA) / £17.99 (UK)
Cemetery without Crosses was co-written and directed by Robert Hossein who also notable films as a director include, Night is not for Sleep, The Taste of Violence and The Secret Killer. And besides directing Hossein has been over one hundred films as an actor with a few of his more notable film performances coming from these films, Rififi, Vice and Virtue and Don Juan (Or If Don Juan Were a Woman). Other titles that Cemetery without a Cross is also known under include, The Rope and the Colt and Death Valley Gunfighters.
This French take on the western genre utilizes familiar themes and scenarios that have long since become staples of the western / spaghetti western genre. Most notably a protagonist who uses both sides equally to get his ultimate goal achieved. And just like the westerns which this film is paying homage to, this film’s meticulously constructed narrative has a deliberate pacing which drives the mounting tension. Also to further set the mood is an evocative score that was composed by André Hossein.
Though this film was clearly inspired by the spaghetti western genre, more specifically by Sergio Leone. The end result is a visual feast for the eyes that captures the essence of those who have inspired this film, instead of just trying to create an exact forgery. A few of this film’s visual moments that standout include, a scene at a bar where the protagonists gun fighting skills are finally shown as he saves the life off one of the men that he will eventually kill himself. And of course the film’s finale which features one of the most unforgettable endings to ever appear in a western.
Another area where this film excels is its sparse use of dialog. And though this is not exactly a new addition to since this has long since been a staple in the spaghetti western genre. The way that it is employed in this film transcends all other similar themed films. There literally comes a point in the film when characters communicate via nothing more than eyes exchanging glances between each other.
When it comes to westerns there almost always is clear distinction between good versus evil. And though the protagonist is acting on behalf of a widow who feels her husband was wrongfully killed. These two characters walk that fine line between good and evil. From the moment that the widow buries her husband she is always dressed in black and every time the protagonist is about to kill someone he puts on one black glove. Is she just morning her loss or does her attire suggest that she is actually a black widow, while his use of only one glove represent that we all have two sides to us, good and evil.
Performance wise the entire cast are great in their respective roles. With this film’s standout performance coming from its director / leading man Robert Hossein. He creates a character that is equally iconic to the character that Cline Eastwood created for The Man with no Name Trilogy. Another extraordinary performance comes from Michèle Mercier (Black Sabbath, Casanova 70) in the role of the Maria Caine the woman who hires the protagonist to avenge her murdered husband. Also her character is able to draw in the protagonist due to her previous relationship with him.
Cemetery without Crosses comes on a 50 GB dual layer (29.3 GB) BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. A brand new 2k transfer was created for this release sourced from original film elements. And though there is print debris that varies in degree throughout this transfer, it never becomes intrusive. Grain remains intact, there are no issues with compression and DNR is kept in check. Also when compared to previous home video releases there are a marked improvement in regards to image clarity and black levels. It should be noted that the opening and closing moments of the film are shown in black and white.
This release comes with two audio options, a LPCM mono mix in English and a LPCM mono mix in Italian. This film like the Italian westerns which it is paying homage to was shot without sound and though the majority of the cats are actually speaking French. There is no French language option offered for this release. Quality wise both audio tracks which come with this release are in very good shape with the film’s score sounding appropriately robust. Dialog comes through clearly and everything sounds balanced. Also there are no issues with distortion or background noise. English SDH subtitles for the English language track and English subtitles for the Italian language track.
Extras for this release include, a trailer for the film (3 minutes 51 seconds, in Italian with English subtitles), an archive interview with actor / director Robert Hossein that was first broadcasted on April 17th, 1968 (2 minutes 27 seconds, in French with English subtitles), an extract from a French television show that originally aired February 29th, 1968 Mercier (7 minutes 57 seconds, in French with English subtitles) with comments from Robert Hossein, actor Serge Marquand and actress Michèle Mercier and a brand new interview with Robert Hossein titled ‘Remembering Sergio’ (5 minutes 19 seconds, in French with English subtitles).
Topics discussed in the archive interview with Hossein include, how he had just finished four months of filming and was in post-production for Cemetery without Crosses, how the film was the first French western, Sergio Leone influence on westerns.
Topics discussed in the French T.V. show extract include, Hossein explain why he wanted to make a western, while the other two participants discuss the films plot. The bulk of this extra is made up of onset footage.
Topics discussed in the brand new interview with Hossein include, how working in Italian cinema during the heyday of Spaghetti westerns influenced him to make a western, Sergio Leone’s influence on him as a filmmaker and how Leone even shot one scene for Cemetery without Crosses and the critical reaction to the film.
Rounding out the extras is a reversible cover art option and a twenty four page booklet with cast & crew information, two essays – the first essay titled ‘Western Without Americans’ written by Ginette Vincendeau and the second essay titled ‘The Movie Going Scott Walker’ written by Rob Young and information about the transfer. Also included with this release is a DVD that has the same content included on the Blu-Ray included as part of this combo release. Overall Cemetery without Crosses gets a first rate release from Arrow Video.