Written by: Michael Den Boer on April 19th, 2007
Theatrical Release Dates: Italy, 1967
Director: Sergio Corbucci
Cast: Angel Aranda, Norma Bengell, Joseph Cotten, Julian Mateos, Gino Perince
DVD released: March 13th, 2007
Approximate running time: 92 minutes
Aspect ratio: Anamorphic 1.85:1 Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: Anchor Bay
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.99
Synopsis: Jonas (Joseph Cotton) an ex-confederate patriot and his sons steal money that the government has decided to destroy. After they rob and massacre the convoy carrying the cash they hide the money in a coffin. Will the law be able to catch them before they are able to return home safely with the money or will greed tear them apart?
The Hellbender’s was directed by Sergio Corbucci who like many Italian directors in the 1960’s rose to fame by directing Spaghetti Westerns. Many of Corbucci’s westerns like Django, The Mercenary, The Great Silence, Companeros and Navajo Joe have had a lasting impact and are considered some of the best the Spaghetti Western genre has to offer. Corbucci’s westerns are also known for their excessive violence and brutality.
The Hellbender’s has all the right elements that make a great Spaghetti Western. It has a solid plot that builds in tension as the film progresses. The film bookends two of its most violent scenes the opening massacre of thirty plus soldiers and a bloody final shoot out the will leave you breath less. All the characters are intriguing as they are giving personalities and are not just there to further the story.
Hellbenders was shot by Cinematographer Enzo Barboni would make his own mark as a director with They Call Me Trinity and Trinity Is STILL My Name! Corbucci often gets overshadow by Sergio Leone whose Spaghetti Westerns are consider the best ever made and the comparison is unfair because Corbucci more then any other Spaghetti Western director followed his own path and any similarities between the two filmmakers most likely is due to coincidence. No one films violence and impending doom in westerns like Sergio Corbucci.
The cast for this film is lead by veteran Hollywood actor Joseph Cotton who at this point was in the twilight of his career. In the 1940’s Cotton rose to fame with roles in the first two Orson Welles film’s Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons. These two films along with films like Shadow of a Doubt, Gaslight and The Third Man solidified Cotton’s place as one of the greatest actors in cinema history. In the Hellbenders Joseph Cotton gives a larger then life performance that is almost too big for the character he is playing.
The best performance in the film is actress Norma Bengell as Claire. Most Euro-cult fans will recognize her from the Mario Bava film Planet of the Vampires. She does a very good job of conveying and balancing her characters emotions. Another familiar face in the film is that of Al Mulock as the beggar he has appeared in such films like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Day of Anger and Once Upon a Time in the West. The score for Hellbenders was composed by the infallible Ennio Morricone whose name seems to be on just about every Spaghetti Western film during the height of the genre. Morriocone’s score is tension filled and at times meloncally.
Ultimately The Hellbender is a tense and action filled adventure that rightfully deserves its place as one of the genres stronger entries.
The Hellbenders is presented in an anamorphic widescreen which retains the films original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Having only previously seen this title via washed out cropped budget labels DVD releases this new release is simply stunning. Colors are vibrant and details crisp and sharp through out. My only minor complaint is the lack of detail during some of the darker/nighttime moments. Overall The Hellbender’s has never looked better on home video.
This release comes with one audio option a Dolby Digital mono mix in English. The audio is in great shape as dialog is clear and there are no problems with distortion or any other audio defects.
Extras for this release consist of the films English language trailer and a bio for the films director Sergio Corbucci.
Despite the lack of extras fans of this film and the Spaghetti Western genre will want to pick up this release which comes with a solid audio/video presentation, recommended.