Friday, February 29, 2008

Movie Review: HIS NAME WAS HOLY GHOST



aka Uomo avvisato mezzo ammazzato... Parola di Spirito Santo; Forewarned, Half-Killed... the Word of the Holy Ghost; They Call Him Holy Ghost; Y le llamaban El Halcón
Directed by Giuliano Carnimeo (Anthony Ascott)
Italy/Spain; 1971

“Anybody hurt or killed?”
“Yep. All of you!”

The Mexican government has been overthrown.
The people’s beloved President is out and forced into hiding among them in Morelos while the pompous, self-appointed, cigar-chomping stand-in, General Ubarte, has sent out a search detail to Bring Him the Head of Don Firmino by any means necessary.
Soldiers storm local villages; people are questioned; people are shot; people are stabbed and beaten regardless of age or infirmity; a hungry little boy is the sole witness to his mother’s murder in cold blood.
And all this takes place during the opening credits!

In order to assert themselves among the peasants, and humiliate Firmino in the process, the military string him up alongside his daughter, Juana, in a crucifixion position and force all the villagers to spit in his face, one by one while the officers sit ringside, stuffing their sweaty faces with local rations. All who refuse get an honorable discharge from the Lieutenant’s revolver, right between the eyes.
And just as this salivary processional hits full swing, up jump the Holy Ghost with his trusted companion, Eagle (a white dove with an identity crisis!), and proceeds to mow down the soldiers with his automatic rifle leaving them slumped in a not-so-living portrait of “The Last Supper.”
Why has Holy Ghost (real name “Harold”) come here, of all places, and saved the day? Why, to get the prospecting rights renewed for a goldmine he recently ‘acquired’, of course. And as soon as he learns the President is unable to complete his request at this time, Holy Ghost politely loses interest and rides off to gain audience with the uncooperative Ubarte, who unsuccessfully tries to recruit Spirito Santo into his stable of nitwits.

Soon enough, Don Firmino and Juana are recaptured in the cellar of a saloon, but Holy Ghost (who again pops in out of the blue, this time wanting to ask Firmino directions to his new goldmine) offends the arresting officer by suggesting he fix lunch for everyone since he’s killed the saloon owner! After thwarting his own execution by blinding the firing squad with the mirrored lining of his cape (!), Juana has convinced Holy Ghost to join them in their revolution to take back the state in exchange for help with his goldmine. Holy Ghost agrees, and for additional revolutionary insurance, a one-time hustler and cohort, now a reborn servant of God, joins the party– the Bluto-esque mass of a man, Chicken Little!
Together, they take on the presiding military presence by way of projectile Bibles, fun with corpse animation, bird beak interrogation torture, dynamite-fed chickens which lay explosive eggs used to make OMELETTE BOMBS, tough-as-nails prostitutes, cross-dressing combat tactics (aka the Trojan Whores, with Garko looking like a member of the Cockettes!), angry farmers with machetes, and many a manner of traps, set-ups, and knock-down drag-outs!

This is the second in a brief series of “Holy Ghost” films teaming director Carnimeo with star Gianni Garko, who would also join forces for films in both the SARTANA and HALLELUJAH cycles.
An offbeat comedy-western of the finest variety, the action is horn-a-plenty with mucho gunplay and killings, seasoned with a pinch of acrobatics and crashing camera zooms, while the comedy is integrated in a way which works, but does not overpower nor distract. There are sequences during the big battle scene which perfectly embody a classic 3 Stooges brand of bizarre slapstick.
The ofttimes underrated Garko plays the role perfectly-- nonchalant, sarcastic, charismatic, focused, never missing his target even while not looking in the direction of the danger. The effective Bruno Nicolai score fuses familiar effects with the humble atmosphere of a 10-pew cathedral.
Despite the title’s inference, a supernatural slant to the character is not so prominent. The handful of instances which might qualify could easily be attributed to successfully suspending one’s disbelief. Your choice.

A very nice quality widescreen print exists on DVD in Spain (Spanish language only), but unfortunately it is incomplete. European Trash Cinema carries a good quality dubbed print which appears to be uncut.
Recommended!

Review by Scott "Jealous Pervert" Wallis!

6 comments:

Scott said...

If one goes looking, there are several religious references and connect-the-dots to be found in this fun little flick. The one I get the biggest kick out of is the satchels of symbolism packed into Holy Ghost's fine feathered companion. The literal translation of a white dove as the international symbol of peace; order out of chaos. She is also an embodiment of the collected Holy scriptures. "A dove who thinks she's an eagle"... on one hand, the dove represents the more analog, more hands-on approach to Divine metamorphosis in the Old Testament, not to mention being used by Noah to find out if the waters had 'abated from the face of the ground' after the Great Flood; on the other hand, the eagle can be representative of the more majestic, high flying, approach offered in the New Testament for getting into Heaven. She is the Christ figure-- a Prince of Peace who doesn't hesitate to pick up a sword in the threat of danger. A dove can only go so far, but through determination and a change in attitude can soar even higher.
Amen? Amen.

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