Koch Media Western Collection #3: Arizona Colt Returns R2 DVD Review
Arizona Colt Returns, or, as it is known in Germany, Der Tod Sagt Amen, was intended and marketed as a sequel to Michele Lupo's Arizona Colt released in 1966, but in reality, the cast & crew overlap between the two films is slim, with the notable exception of Roberto Camardiel (who reprises his role as WhiskeyI). Instead of Giualino Gemma, Anthony Steffen now plays the titular hero, and Sergio Martino directs. Even so, don't expect a huge leap in terms of quality: We're talking about thoroughly mediocre C-list westerns here, where the most striking consequence of a main actor's replacement inbetween sequels is a difference in facial hair density. Acting, ha! We've got guns, women and horses. Isn't that enough already?
It's still worth talking a bit about this film, however, because it not only marks Sergio Martino's first step in the spaghetti western landscape, but in feature filmmaking in general. He would go on to cover a dozen genres from giallo to poliziesco, but simply came too late to have any success with horse operas. Only when Enzo G. Castellari directed Keoma in 1976, Martino made his final attempt at the genre with Mannaja - a film far superior to this one. Arizona Colt Returns is a typical example of an Italian director's early craftsmanship: Technically solid and decently paced, but so bland and unoriginal that you could freely switch reels in the middle of the film and no one would notice.
Arizona Colt (Steffen) and his comical sidekick Whiskey (Camardiel) are on the run from the law, having been accused of robbing a number of stagecoaches. They are thrown into prison after a saloon brawl, but manage to escape shortly afterwards. Turns out that bandit leader Chico (Aldo Sambrell) was really behind the robberies. What follows is the usual hotpot of vengeance, betrayal and snarky comments - mostly from Whiskey. And it's really those lines which manage to inject a little life into an otherwise dull experience. While we've all come to expect similar storylines from our spaghetti adventures, the better ones at least sport interesting cinematography, exciting shootouts or unusually creative torture sequences. As a late entry into the genre, Arizona Colt Returns cannot even hold up with the second-tier titles.
Anthony Steffen's more serious screen persona is supposed to offset Camardiel's character, but it doesn't really work. The film was apparently made at a time when serious westerns were being replaced by comedic romps of the Spencer/Hill variety; as a result, there is a constant, awkward shift between tones, as if producers and writers couldn't really decide in which direction to take their picture. Steffen's stiff acting doesn't really help in that regard and rather complements the equally uninspired direction.
Watching Arizona Colt Returns more than 30 years after its release, we can obviously take comfort in knowing that Martino would continue to make far better films later on. There is worse out there, but with so many great spaghetti westerns around on DVD these days, spending an afternoon on this one is, frankly, a waste of time.