Cutthroats Nine (1972)

Condenados a vivir

poster for Cutthroats Nine

Plot:  A sergeant and his young daughter have to make their way through the mountains with a chain gang of hardened criminals after the rest of a cavalry troop is slaughtered in a robbery. The violent shit hits the fan pretty quick.

(The Wisdom of the Western Guru): 

“If Psycho made you scared of the shower, Jaws made you scared of the water, and Saturday Night Fever made you scared to show off your dance moves in public, Cut-Throats Nine will make you  never want to eat carbohydrates again!”*

….Now back from that quote that they should totally put on the poster (hint, hint; nudge, nudge) to the actual review:

Whether one calls this 1972 Spanish film, directed by Joaquín Luis Romero Marchent, the Big Bad Wolf of Westerns or a nihilistic and bleak slice of detestable cinema, a thought occurred in my feeble mind: What was in the pasta back then?

As finishing and then digesting this sickie may not have lead me to the answer, but it did make me look at tomato sauce and pasta and get queasy to my stomach picturing it to be a mixture of blood and guts. However, calling it a mere splatter film would sell its accomplishments quite short.

Cut-Throats Nine has one of those simple plots that could easily be a very literate exercise --and hopefully will if Rodrigo Gudiño makes the remake-- but instead pulls from grindhouse tactics in not just the extreme violence and the downbeat eeriness, but contains that styles flair for awkward drama and odd, nearly pretentious, editing techniques in which the viewer is shown at characters’ moment of death the evil infraction that has brought them to this point.

Echoing back to the horror film dynamics of the slasher film with one character often meeting their grisly end one at a time, and even having the dire and ominous atmosphere of a Lucio Fulci splatter film, Cut-Throats Nine is low both on story and character dimension, yet is rather intriguing in the simple setup due to its sense of impending doom and the often reluctance to go the clichéd route. It is also a film in which no character, heroic or not, is sacred, and this is a form of true subversion: an element that is often held in the best type of cinema.

… And playing with conventions is at the heart of this movie. In this film there is no climatic showdown, no tumbleweeds (hell, it’s set in the snow for cripes sake,) and there is not an actual bogeyman going around doing the killings. All the murders are often done for reasons that may seem despicable, but they are often for earthbound reasons that truthfully really can happen. This is also why many people can’t stomach  realistically disturbing art because it reminds them that the world can be a cruel and harsh place. However, people do sometimes need a wakeup call.

When the climax comes it feels rushed, but it exceeds expectations by not giving viewers a drawn-out ending. There is no absolution and no one is spared. At this point in the film, your soul has reached the breaking point before spiraling into an empty vortex in its last frame: it’ll both fuck you up emotionally and you will feel numb to the world as if hungover for some time.

Despite it lagging slightly due to the thinness and editing dissonance imitating art house, there is no denying the film has a unique flavor all its own. There may be a good share of anti-westerns both before and since that are just as downbeat and much more artistic (1968’s The Great Silence and the 2005 Australian flick The Proposition are both excellent examples of this), yet Cut-Throats Nine is still an experience that is akin to getting your front tooth knocked out in a bar fight and just sitting there laughing with your toothless smile knowing that bad shit just happens sometimes. It’s a part of life that we take for granted.

Moreover, Cut-Throats Nine is the type of  film that may not be worthy of much heavy analysis, but it’s that rare melodrama that also is hard to knock on because it triggers pure emotion in the viewer not by cliché, but by defying their expectations of the genre.

8.0 / 10 ( in 0.5 increments.)

* It is uncertain if this film is FDA approved.

- Nick Schwab

(for another take on this film, check out JD's review, here)

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