A chain-gang embarks on a bloody rampage in this gory Western from the swinging 1970s that arrives on DVD with a co-feature and some nasty trailers, thanks to the good folks at “Code Red” DVD and Video.
Like any Western worth its salt, this one begins with a stagecoach robbery. The bandits are none too happy when they find the wagon is hauling a chain gang, but no sacks of gold. Their disappointment leads to some anti-social behavior, which results in the deaths of all but one guard. The noisy gunfire spooks the horses and they bolt over a cliff. The resulting crash is painful to watch, as the carriage and horses come tumbling down the mountainside.
The surviving guard, Sgt. Brown, must now lead his seven prisoners to Fort Green. The challenges are many and include the fact that the mountain is covered in snow, the fort is five days away, and Brown picked the wrong day to bring his daughter, Sarah, to work.
The trek is doomed from the start. One of the prisoners fractured his leg in the crash and his fellows balk at carrying him. One even kills him in his sleep, but Brown states that they will still have to drag him along. They opt to toss him in their campfire and are shocked to learn that their shackles are actually gold. Turns out the robbers were right to rob the coach, but the army was anticipating that move and used the prisoners to smuggle the gold out.
Drama comes in the form of flashbacks to how most of them wound up on the chain gang. Sgt. Brown also has an axe to grind. One of these prisoners killed his wife, but he doesn’t know which one did the deed. Unfortunately, they kill the sergeant before he can find out the truth, thus robbing us of a dramatic payoff. The film seems to realize this error and really pours on the carnage now.
First, the men must break their chains and they do that with a scheme that never would have worked for Wyle E. Coyote. They drape the slack on railroad tracks and are overjoyed when they are all freed from each other. One of the guys decides to turn on the others and runs off with their food. Unfortunately, he bumps into the thieves from the opening scene and they deprive him of his bling.
Meanwhile, the others make their way to an inn and a massacre ensues when one of the prisoners realizes the bartender once took him for five bucks. I guess that was a lot of money back then, because the convict retaliates by stabbing the guy, yanking out his guts, and hanging him up like a slaughtered hog.
Meanwhile, the sergeant’s daughter, who has been through the wringer with these guys, decides to give the film a fiery finale. Let’s just say you should never take your eyes off your hostage. This is especially important when she is seated next to a bowl chockful of wax fruit and TNT.
This one gets points for being the first all-out gore Western. Lots of these characters have guts and that’s graphically proven when they are spilled. This flick has a great reputation in the horror community. The former editor of “Rue Morgue” magazine almost made a new version of the flick that would have starred Harvey Keitel. Unfortunately, the funding fell through.
The only bad news is that the film sounds like all of the voices are dubbed by the same guy. It is a minor complaint, as the dialogue is sporadic at best.
All this and the film comes with a bonus feature. It is another foreign western, only this time you get a standard vengeance tale somewhat uplifted by the presence of American tough guy, Fred “The Hammer” Williamson.
Best line: “He would have died anyway. Hand us the machete.”
1972, rated R.