The war turning against the Confederate States of America, southern officer Captain Lynch has plans for a dangerous mission into the territory of the enemy, a Union powder magazine at Todos Santos where gold worth a million dollars is held alongside the munitions; requiring deniability, he engages mercenary Clyde McKay and his men, giving another instruction before they depart to increase the profitability of the foray: “Kill them all and come back alone.”
An unlikely band of brigands, there is Deker, the dynamite expert, the ape Bogard, Blade who likes to cut, “strange boy” Hoagy and Kid, a killer who moves like a monkey, their skills diverse and their loyalty only guaranteed until the payoff, the impossible target an armed encampment on a mountain range which can only be taken if they can penetrate the defences or infiltrate unseen.
Director Enzo G Castellari having broken into Spaghetti Westerns with A Few Dollars for Django and Any Gun Can Play, Kill Them All and Come Back Alone (Ammazzali tutti e torna solo) was one of his last before he moved to the thriller and poliziottesco genres, but in 1968 the trend was at its height with American star Chuck Connors engaged as Clyde McKay, towering over his co-stars and causing difficulty in finding a stunt double to match his stature.
With The Great Silence‘s Frank Wolff as the duplicitous Captain Lynch, double-crosses and inventive action drive the plot, cinematographer Alejandro Ulloa placing his camera in the thick of it as bullets fly and bodies fall, the gang using diversions, acrobatics and bespoke weaponry to gain entry, perhaps helped by the apparent inability of the Union ranks to actually aim their weapons.
Half the power of the film the locations of Almería using sets left behind by previous productions, with shocking white teeth (and unconvincing brownface) the cast lacks a single woman, making their way across rugged valleys and plains of dry scrub under endless blue skies from one bloody showdown to the next, the action sequences always technically impressive but somewhat repetitive after the opening scenes showcase all that is to come later.
Kill Them All and Come Back Alone presented on Blu-ray from a 4K restoration to launch StudioCanal’s Cult Classics range, the always-informative Alex Cox provides a commentary, director Castellari discusses his influences and offers recollections of the production and his goal to make it “violent and cynical” while his uncle Romolo Guerrieri discusses the family links to the Italian film business, and there is also an overview of Castellari’s career and a substantial gallery of stills.
Kill Them All and Come Back Alone will be released on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital by StudioCanal on Monday 6th June