Sunday, June 5, 2016

Review: Comin’ at Ya!

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2016
Images from the Internet

Comin’ at Ya!
Directed by Fernando Baldi
CAU Productions / Universum Film (UFA) /
Sternco ED Films / MVD Visual
88 minutes, 1981 / 2015

Arguably, there were three people that set off the whole Spaghetti Western genre: director Sergio Leone, actor Clint Eastwood and composer Ennio Morricone. Once created, the synergy kept the style going, and was often copied. Other big ones at the time included the likes of the They Call Me… / My Name Is… series starring Terrance Stamp, but even as late as 1995, Sam Raimi used the style for his The Quick and the Dead, and there is a lot of it in Quentin Tarantino’s 2004 release Kill Bill: Vol. 2, even though the setting is more contemporary.

By the mid-to-late ‘70s, the style was becoming somewhat passé, but then Fernando Baldi was bold enough to use the most up-to-date technology for colorization and 3D to bring something unique to the field. This was a big hit at the time, and set in motion a wave of 3D releases, including involving and also updating the Jaws and Friday the 13th franchises. The movement toward 3D was actually fronted by a guy named Tony Anthony (aka Roger Pettito, born in West Virginia), who is also the male lead of this film.

Right from the beginning of this cine, you can spot both the familiar and the new. For the old, it’s both the hint of similar but not quite as memorable music with high operatic vocals, and a copious mixing of distant landscape shots with beautiful sunsets and vistas, and extreme close-ups of faces. Many of the medium views are of people being shot, often in slo-mo, of course.

Tony Anthony and Victoria Abril
For the new, there is the 3D, but I’ll get to that later. The quality this film brings to the table is the use of both color and black and white. Why is this so unusual? Well, sometimes scenes will switch from one to the other between edits, others within its own shot, seemingly random change from color to monochrome. But even more interestingly, occasionally it will be black and white with color elements (blood, a dress, a snake), or the scene will be it color, and one person or persons will be in black and white; this is often used to symbolize death, both real and spiritual.

Often, this mixing of hues is just part of the intermingling of both beauty and cheese. The landscape shots are gorgeous, with golden hour sun or spectacular clouds against the background mountains. Even the broken down ghost towns look lovely in their own, decrepit way (I have always had a hankering for taking pictures of falling down barns, abandoned towns and other structures). As for cheese, it comes in two varieties, though both for the same purpose. An example is in one scene where a group of women are attacked by very obvious rubber bats on strings, which are there merely for the purpose of flying into the camera for the 3D.

Abril in 3D
Ah, yes, the 3D. This is your father’s 3D one must remember, even though at the time it was cutting edge. It wasn’t like they could digitally have the background look further than the foreground as they do now, but rather objects needed to be thrust into the camera, and then the color was separated so that it would be effective with two-tone glasses. They do that a lot in this film. Previous ones during the first generation, such as House of Wax (1953) or 13 Ghosts (1960), had specific scenes that were 3D rather than the whole film, and we were told when to put on the glasses. Usually it was about 10 minutes in total in the whole film, though we wore the green (or blue) / red glasses throughout. If you lost the glasses, the film seemed blurry; usually you left the theater with a headache.

Techniques had improved greatly by the time of this film, so they take every chance they can to point guns at the camera, throw objects (such as spears and arrows), and have things crawling or flying at it (the fake bats or real rats – but no cats). Many times the cast looks right at the camera as they flick playing cards, yo-yos (there were no yo-yos in the old west, by the way, as the first factory to produce the toy opened in the late 1920s). They definitely overdo it though, taking every single opportunity, even when not in the promotion of the story, to have things either fly into the camera, or just as often dangle over it as the camera looks up. My favorite shot is of a baby’s bare behind being lowered into the camera. I literally said out loud, “Really? You’re going there?”

But what about the story? Oh, yeah, the story… On their wedding day (a scene that would be borrowed from quite liberally – I mean honored – in Kill Bill: Vol. 2) of H.H. Hart (Tony Anthony) and the lovely Abilene (Spanish born Victoria Abril, who would go on to star in many telenovas), he is wounded and she is kidnapped by two brothers, Poke (Richard Palacios, d. 2015), who is self-conscious about his weight, and the ringleader Pike (Gene Quintano, who also co-wrote the film, as well as a couple of the Police Academy sequels). Abilene is just one of a couple of dozen women who are held Boko Haram style to be sold at auction and sent to Mexico for the sex trade.

Anthony in 2D
While the women are mistreated, natch (I’m taking about the genre, not a preference), so is just about everyone else in the film, including the hero and the brothers. They all get the tar scraped off of ‘em, if’n ya know what I mean. They’re definitely going for the gritty end of the stick (which will eventually be shoved at the camea). Hart goes to get his wife back, no matter what, and there is a tug of war for power among Hart and the brothers, as the women slip in and out of their hands, so to speak.

Even though it was filmed in English, in some cases it’s pretty obvious that it was overdubbed with (better) English-speaking voice actors. That means that even though there is still a difference between the lips and the words spoken, it is much closer than when dubbed from another language. This is a very emotionally charged film, so the women tend to be hysterical and the men get to be mucho angry and violent. A nice touch, though, is that unlike the Man with No Name (Eastwood) or Trinity (Stamp), rather than just squinting to show emotion, Anthony shows his fear, his anger, and pain when he’s beaten. I think it makes for a great hero that is easy for the audience to identify.
One question I have is that many of the villains in the piece, including the gang and one of the brothers, wear Union uniforms (that’s why I know the yo-yos are anachronistic). In the States, usually the bad guys would wear the gray, Reb garb, but not being filmed in North America, it leaves it more open to being either side (i.e., perhaps the costume one could find). I could go into the whole cultural racism of Native Americans and Mexican, who are portrayed  in stereotypical dress, but considering the time period this was film, it was pre-Enlightenment for European filmmaking – and most of North America, as this still goes on; for example, many First Nations actors refused to be in The Revenant (2015) for this reason.

Now, the 3D effects are definitely cool, albeit overdone to the point of (as I said) being a bit cheesy. Though I saw the 2D version, honestly, it’s enjoyable either way. Especially impressive were the opening credits are revealed. The look of the film is spectacular, especially in Blu-Ray HD.

No comments:

Post a Comment