Director: Mario Bava
Kino Lorber

Although Italian horror maestro Mario Bava had directed several westerns in the 1960s, the films had mainly gone ignored and not met with much critical acclaim. Bava's talents were better given to gothic tales and muscleman fantasies, but he did one final western with ROY COLT & WINCHESTER JACK. Obviously inspired by Sergio Leone's Clint Eastwood movies and George Roy Hill's then-recent smash BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID, ROY COLT & WINCHESTER JACK is passable entertainment but definitely not Bava at his best.

Scripted by Mario Di Nardo, the same writer on Bava's underrated giallo FIVE DOLLS FOR AN AUGUST MOON, the story involves two outlaws: blonde Winchester Jack (the cleverly named Charles Southwood, who was born Charles Allen) and dark-haired Roy Colt (Brett Halsey, also seen in Bava's FOUR TIMES THAT NIGHT). Always getting into fights with his pal, Roy Colt leaves the posse in search of a more honest life, and ends up being a town Sheriff and entrusted with the map of an Indian treasure. Other interested parties include a beautiful Native American prostitute (Marilù Tolo, KISS THE GIRLS AND MAKE THEM DIE) who is saved from a murder rap and becomes romantically involved with both Roy and Winchester, and an amusing villainous character named "The Reverend" (Teodoro Corrà, MEAN FRANK AND CRAZY TONY) and his corrupt gang of bandits.

With ROY COLT & WINCHESTER JACK, Bava goes for satire but the two American leads don't have the charm of Franco Nero or Tomas Milian to pull it off, and having their voices dubbed by Italian actors doesn't help much either. There is some fun slapstick, including a character being thrown across a brothel room and an old cripple having his crutches shot down by a gunslinger with Tourette’s. Marilù Tolo is charming as the Indian girl always extorting men for money, but her native getup and Italian looks make her resemble Cher during her 1970s variety series days. Not many of the director's trademark touches are on display here, but there are some clever matte shots blended with scenic beaches, and a shot of the sun shining through the eye socket of a skull is classic Bava. Southwood also used that Clintish moniker to appear in a number of other spaghetti westerns including THREE SILVER DOLLARS, CALL ME HALLELUJAH and I AM SARTANA, TRADE YOUR GUNS FOR A COFFIN. The film was not released theatrically in the U.S. until late 1975 (by Libert Films International), at a time when the Italian western cycle was pretty much dead in the water.

First released on DVD in the U.S. in 2001 through Image Entertainment and then in 2007 through Starz Home Entertainment/Anchor Bay, Kino Lorber is now giving new life to ROY COLT & WINCHESTER JACK as the latest Blu-ray installment of their "The Mario Bava Collection." The film is presented in 1080p HD in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The transfer on the 2K restoration here looks quite nice, though perhaps not as pristine as some of the other titles in the series. The original 35mm negative source is mostly free of significant blemishes and the colors are nicely saturated, though Bava's usual palette of color schemes are not best represented with this title. Grain is healthy and filmic throughout the presentation, with detail and black levels also being satisfactory. An Italian language track (with optional English subtitles) is included in LPCM 2.0, and unlike the previous DVD releases, an English track is included, well a “partial” English track. If you play the film with the “partial” LPCM 2.0 English language track, the audio doesn’t kick in until Chapter 5 (37:24) and cuts out around the 1:16:37 mark, about nine minutes before the movie ends. Both tracks may not have great dynamic range, but sound fine, with the jovial score by Piero Umiliani coming through nicely even if the film’s original mix is rather flat.

Tim Lucas, author of Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark, is on for a new audio commentary, as he starts by admitting it’s not one Bava’s more popular films and gives info about the opening English-language pop song and the musicians behind it. As less is known about this film than most of Bava’s other ventures (we learn that Bava actually hated Westerns and was purposely lampooning Sergio Leone here), it’s nice to have Lucas here filling the cracks, and he manages to cover everything about it as he legitimizes its place in Italian Western cinema, something he does eloquently. Lucas also mentions how the English language track was thought to be lost, with the discovered portion of it recently found by producer Alfred Leone. The other extra on the disc are the original “intermission” cards (35 seconds) for when the film played in Italian cinemas. (George R. Reis)