Price of Death (1971)

Il Venditore di morte

Gianni Garko

Lorenzo Gicca Palli's Price of Death is a bit different than others in the genre in that it's a murder mystery, which is what piqued my interest in seeing it. Gianni Garko stars as a rather Sartana-like character who is quite the playboy, who wears ruffled shirts and smoking jackets when relaxing, while he has beautiful women give him manicures. Quite the life, eh?

Murder!

As the film opens, we see, from the killer's point of view, his assault of a young Mexican girl. We really don't know why he's doing it, but as she struggles with him, she ends up being killed with the knife she tried to defend herself with. Shortly thereafter, we see a trio of masked men rob a saloon, while killing a few people along the way. Apparently there's a guy in town who's not well liked and is always causing trouble, named Chester Conway (Klaus Kinski). He's an easy target, so he gets convicted for the robbery in a farce trial led by an unbelievably crooked judge..

Meanwhile, Garko's character, named Silver, gets hired by the town lawyer to find out who really did the robbery. This is complicated by the fact that it appears Conway was the murderer of the girl but we can't be sure of that, either. Now, I'm not going to reveal the guilty party here, but let's just say there's enough plot twists to keep you guessing for a while.

Kinski

Kinski as Chester Conway

So, the verdict? It's a somewhat flawed but thoroughly watchable film. Garko's great as usual, although not as good as when he's playing Sartana or Cemetery. He's still the wily character quick with a gun. Kinski does his phone-it-in-crazy-guy overacting thing we've seen him do many times before. That's what can be so frustrating about a talented man like Kinski. In this genre, he's given us excellent performances in The Great Silence as the main antagonist, Loco, or as Gary Hamilton in And God Said to Cain. He also has a number of performances like this one, where's he's just "doing that Kinski thing" and not really putting much into it. Although it wasn't something to kill the movie, it was disappointing, becuse when Kinski's good, he's really good.

There is a fine supporting cast, with Gely Genka as Polly, the feisty redhead who wants revenge on Conway, and Franco Abbiana as Jeff Plummer, the often drunk but determined lawyer who helps his friend Silver get to the bottom of things. The ending did catch me off guard, like a good murder mystery will.

Mario Migliardi composed the score for this one; I liked it a great deal. Migliardi's compositions are very different from other composers in that he fuses psychedelic rock and avant-garde elements into his music very effectively, in a way that sounds very unique. There was even a brief musical piece with some frantic acoustic guitars that I'm 99% certain was from his equally impressive Matalo soundtrack.

The film does suffer a bit from slow pacing and bad dialog from time to time. But overall, it's one of those pretty average spaghettis that you'll enjoy if you're already a fan of the genre.

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