Condenados a vivir
Joaquin Luis Romero Marchent's Cutthroats Nine is a rather infamous film in the Eurowestern genre, due to its use of gory scenes that would seem more at home in a Lucio Fulci zombie film than this paella western. Infamy aside, it's a pretty solid film about a sheriff and his daughter who are transporting a group of prisoners through a snowy mountain wilderness. And of course, every thing that could go wrong, does.
As the group of ruffians are in route, the wagon is held up by an outlaw family that is convinced that there's a shipment of gold on the wagon. When they can't find it, they kill some of the soldier guards, keep one hostage, and send another back to tell them to send the gold. They also smack the horses, so the wagon takes off at breakeneck speed, where it eventually crashes, breaking the leg of one of the prisoners. Sgt. Brown (Hundar) is not deterred, and plans on completing the trek by foot. We also learn that one of the prisoners was responsible for the death of his wife (although it's unclear how he could know this and not know which one it was). As things get worse, the prisoners kill the prisoner with the broken leg, and later, they discover that the chains that bind them together are made of gold. This makes them angry, as well as that much more determined to get free. Sgt. Brown will have none of that, however, and shoots one in the eye at point blank range to let him know he means business.
However, the tables turn when the weather gets worse, and they find a cabin, where the criminals get the upper hand on the seargeant, rape his daughter right in front of him, and then burn the place down with him inside. Alas, greed is the ultimate enemy here, as one by one, they start to turn on each other, culminating in the ultimate destruction at the end, thanks to the vengeful daughter.
Now, about the gore. As you can see from the above picture, as well as these below, the movie is excessively gory, with limbs being hacked off, bodies burned to a crisp, and even a few disembowelings.
And the gore is the one major failing of the film, in that it's not necessary at all. The behaviors exhibited by these ruffians is quite brutal, and wholly immoral. They rape and kill with reckless abandon, with no loyalties to anyone other than themselves. One even decieves the daughter into trusting him. One could argue that the gore is there to really drive this point home even further, but we already get how bad these people are, as the direction and the acting conveys that quite well, so instead, one can't help but think the gore was put in for nothing more than shock value. It just doesn't seem to fit, and tarishes what is an otherwise thoroughly watchable film. If you look at the trailer for the film below, it seems like they're trying to sell it as a crass, exploitative grindhouse filck, but the film does not live up to the trailer in that regard. Seeing how it was presented in the trailer adds to the "shock value for marketing purposes" vibe that I outlined above.
The acting is pretty good all around. There are several spaghetti veterans in here, such as Hundar and Jose Manuel Martin. At times, its breathtaking wintry backdrop (filmed in the Pyrenees) evokes the landscape of Corbucci's The Great Silence. As I watched it, I couldn't help but think that this must have been a very phyiscally demanding film for the actors and crew. It's not fake snow, and there's a lot of time outdoors rolling in snow with no gloves, so it couldn't have been very fun to make. Also worth noting is Emma Cohen, who plays the Sargeant's daughter, who did a fine job of acting, looking much younger than she actually is. Even though she is miserable throughout the film for obvious reasons, the fact that she is an incredibly beautiful woman still was quite apparent. It seems that every so often in the genre, there's an actress in a film that you can't take your eyes off of; for me Cohen was one of those.
I liked this film. Its brutality of the villians made me uncomfortable at times, but that's okay, as good filmmaking should get a reaction from the viewer, even if it's not a positive one. Unfortunately, the hype surrounding this film sort of gave me some sort of expectation going into it. I was pleasantly surprised when, aside from those few scenes, it turned out not to be a crass explotiation flick. If you can stomach the gore, and not let it distract you from the film, this one's worth a watch.
(for another take on this film, check out Western Guru's review, here)