CUT-THROATS NINE (1972) Blu-ray
Director: Joaquín Luis Romero Marchent
Code Red DVD

A Spanish-made western which no doubt had a big influence on Quentin Tarantino’s recent THE HATEFUL EIGHT, the tagline for CUT-THROATS NINE reads, “Violence is their way of life” and that's certainly appropriate for what happens within this unruly, semi-gothic export.

CUT-THROATS NINE involves a sergeant (Italian actor Claudio Undari, here using his proverbial “Robert Hundar” billing) escorting a gang of degenerate criminals through the snowy mountains, on their way to be executed. Their wagon is soon ambushed by road bandits, and the seven cut-throats (not nine as the American title implies), the sergeant, and his daughter have to now move on foot. The criminals are all chained together, and it is then discovered that the chains are actually made of gold. Naturally, the criminals behave very rebellious, especially when they realize the heavy fortune that bounds them together. When one of them refuses to keep moving, he is shot right in the eye by the sergeant. The sergeant and his daughter begin to grow very weary during the trek, and in a moment of weakness, their prisoners overcome them. One of the criminals (the nice but dangerous pretty boy played by Manuel Tejada, THE ULTIMATE KAMIKAZEE) falls in love with the daughter and tries to protect her. She is raped, and the sergeant is tied up and burnt to a crisp. They continue on their journey with the fatherless girl, deciding to evenly split the gold, but they get on each other's nerves and behave like animals every inch of the way.

CUT-THROATS NINE is positively one of the goriest westerns ever made. It's not heavy on gunfire in the Peckinpah sense, but it's packed with throat cuttings, charcoaled corpses, disembodiments, and a generous number of stomach stabbings complete with blood flowing uncontrollably, and at one point you see mushy entrails leaking out! It has been discovered that the abundance of gore was inserted by the American distributor, who picked up the film several years after it was made, re-shot and inserted gimmicky violence to bring in audiences, and a cardboard “Terror Mask” was given out to patrons to cover their faces with when such scenes occurred. The characters and situations are very dark and gloomy, and the director uses slow motion photography to illustrate various traumatic or divergent past experiences of the cast members. Sergio Leone also employed this technique for several of his spaghetti westerns, so it's no surprise to see it imitated here.

There's also a bizarre scene where one of the cut-throats (Antonio Iranzo, WHO CAN KILL A CHILD?) — obviously going mad — envisions the sergeant coming back to life as a zombie and stalking him! Fans of Spanish horror (for whom this film is easily a must) will easily recognize many of the eccentric faces of familiar character actors, especially the late Alberto Dalbés who was the nutty doctor in THE HUNCHBACK OF THE MORGUE (1972), as well as being the hero of Jess Franco’s DRACULA, THE PRISONER OF FRANKENSTEIN (1972). Pretty Emma Cohen plays the daughter, and she was also in lots of Spanish horror films (and no stranger to nudity), including CANNIBAL MAN (1971), HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB (1972) and NIGHT OF THE WALKING DEAD (1975) among others.

CUT-THROATS NINE was once available as a limited edition non-anamorphic DVD from an independent label called Eurovista, and then Code Red released it on DVD several years ago as a double feature with the Fred Williamson western JOSHUA. Code Red’s new HD telecine transfer is taken from the same 35mm print source as their DVD, with the transfer and presentation being a definite improvement. Presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio in 1080p (and fully uncut), colors are well saturated (even when they are on the warmer side), detail is distinct and sharp and grain structure looks perfectly filmic. The print source is actually very clean, with only some minor speckling at the reel changes, and on a whole, it’s a consistently handsome presentation of the film. The English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track also fairs well, with the right amount of punch, especially to Carmelo Bernaola’s unforgettable score. An original U.S. trailer is also included. (George R. Reis)