Monday 17 June 2013

God Does Not Pay on Saturday [1967]

GOD DOES NOT PAY ON SATURDAY is an Italian western that was directed by Tanio Boccia and originally released in August 1967 under the title Dio non paga il sabato.  It stars Larry Ward, Furio Meniconi, Daniela Igliozzi, Rod Dana, Massimo Righi, Maria Silva and Vivi Gioi.  For the most part it's a pretty unremarkable spaghetti western dealing with the fallout between a bunch of mean bandits and is distinguished mainly by its lovely widescreen photography and a mildly unusual ghost town setting.

Right from the get go any self-respecting spaghetti western fan will realise Boccia's film is highly unlikely to tread new ground, beginning as it does with an outlaw, Braddock (Furio Meniconi) - you can tell these guys are badasses because they go by just the one name, you know, like Dana - being rescued from the noose by his chums Randall (Rod Dana) and Lester (Massimo Righi) with the aid of some filthy bandidos.

From L to R: Massimo Righi, Daniela Igliozzi and Furio Meniconi
Within five minutes they've shot their way out of town, doublecrossed the bandidos and hooked up with Braddock's sultry squeeze Shelley (Daniela Igliozzi).  From there on it's very much a case of spaghetti western bingo as Boccia ticks off fist fight, stagecoach robbery, bath tub scene, pistol whipping, and ultimately the big shoot-out finale.

Furio Meniconi in a tight spot at the start of the film
One thing in its favour is the set design: the deserted town is beautifully realised, particularly the interiors which were clearly lovingly dressed with superb attention to detail.  This, together with the constant sound of howling wind and the interesting soundtrack score, creates a very eerie atmosphere to the extent that my mind started to wander as I considered the possibility of a cowboy ghost movie.  I can't think of many horror movies with a cowboy setting - there are some shonky 60s efforts, such as BILLY THE KID VS DRACULA and its sister movie JESSE JAMES MEETS FRANKENSTEIN'S DAUGHTER, and the rather more serious-minded THE BURROWERS [2009] as well as the anthology horror / western GRIM PRAIRIE TALES [1990].  There's a list on wikipedia which you can see here but as far as I can tell there weren't any Italian examples, which is something of a surprise because you'd have thought those masters of exploitation would have made a pretty good fist of it.  Mario Bava directed a couple of westerns in his time but I think I'm right in saying that they are straight spaghetti, if you'll pardon the expression.

Of course the movie looks terrific in 2.35:1, as most movies do and even more so when they're Italian.  You have to get pretty close to the bottom of the barrel before you find an Italian director who doesn't know how to make his film look gorgeous, although Joe D'Amato and Bruno Mattei are two good / bad examples.  In this film most of the locations aren't up to much and frankly look like they were shot in a quarry but there are a couple of sequences early on as the gang initially ride out of town into the hills that look expansively gorgeous.  When they hit the deserted town however the film paradoxically comes to life and you kind of wish the camera would stay indoors.

Furio Meniconi gets the best role as Braddock, the ruthless leader of the gang.  Meniconi was a prolific character actor racking up dozens of appearances in all manner of Italian genre movies; I note from his imdb that he is in Dario Argento's classic thriller PROFONDO ROSSO / DEEP RED [1975] although I couldn't immediately place him.  Thinking about it now, I suspect he plays the caretaker of the creepy old house that David Hemmings visits towards the end of the movie.  Anyway, I'm digressing; besides Argento, Meniconi worked with most of the famous names of Italian cult cinema: Sergio Leone, Bruno Corbucci, Enzo G. Castellari, Duccio Tessari, Enzo Barboni and Antonio Margheriti, among others.  I think it's fair to say though that mainly he got stuck with the second rank, like Giuliano Carmineo and Sergio Garrone.

Tanio Boccia (directing here under the glorious pseudonym Amerigo Anton) is probably in that second rank too, although I'd like to see a few more of his movies before I make a final judgement.  His handling of the narrative is perfunctory at best and although he's not best served by Mino Roli's script (Roli was more at home with crime thrillers) he can't quite make the set pieces come alive as they should.  Boccia was really from the generation before the likes of Leone and made this movie towards the end of his career; perhaps the spaghetti western was a younger man's game.

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