The Ruthless Four – A Trustworthy Man Is Hard To Find

Country: Italy
Genre: Spaghetti Western/ Action/ Suspense
Director: Giorgio Capitani
Year: 1968

Rating: ★★★☆☆


Pity aging prospector Sam Cooper (Van Heflin). He’s been looking for gold all his life and when he finally gets a decent strike, his partner tries to dry gulch him. Cooper barely makes it back to town alive, but he’s determined to return to the mine and bring back the gold. But to do that he’s going to need a partner, this time someone he can absolutely trust.

The only person Cooper can come up with is his ex-girlfriend’s son Manolo (the execrable George Hilton), who used to go prospecting with him, but got bored by the hard work and lack of results and drifted away. The only trouble is that Manolo is followed by Brent the Blonde (Klaus Kinski), who has a strange hold on Manolo. Brent muscles in on the action. Cooper knows he can’t trust Brent, so he brings along Mason, who used to be Cooper’s friend, but now hates him, blaming Cooper for a three year stint in prison. Cooper doesn’t really trust Mason either, but he figures he will act as a balancing force.

The Ruthless Four is solidly written by Augusto Caminito and Fernando Di Leo (responsible for many a terrific spaghetti western and Poliziotteschi flick) and crisply directed by Giorgio Capitani.

But don’t expect a lot of creative action. None of the characters is a particularly good shot and the strategies in the gunfights are fairly pedestrian. The filmmakers focus on character and suspense. Most of the time, that works out fine. Van Heflin is appropriately world weary, but tougher than his downtrodden appearance would suggest. As is often the case, Klaus Kinski barely needs to do anything — his visage, that of a corrupted angel, says everything that needs to be said. As Mason, Gilbert Roland is workmanlike, but good enough. The turd in the punchbowl is George Hilton, who ruins yet another Spaghetti Western with his wretched emoting. This guy is incapable of making a convincing utterance or expression.

Although I’ve given The Ruthless Four three stars for overall professionalism, in this case it isn’t quite a clear cut recommendation, almost entirely due to George Hilton’s dreadful performance. The mood is also spoiled by Carlo Rustichelli’s score, which is overly intrusive and blunt. And for me, the fact that I had to watch it dubbed in English might have influenced my rating adversely. Part of the fun of Spaghetti Westerns for me is hearing Italian in a Western setting.

Your move.

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