Friday, November 28, 2014

Seen It: And God Said to Cain (1970)

Waking up at 5 a.m. this morning with nothing worth watching (as near as I could find) on Netflix, I dug back into the deep discount Spaghetti Western 44 Movie Collection I've been viewing my way through over the past two years. It's been a while since sampling, but I chose And God Said to Cain (1970) starring genre icon Klaus Kinski. This was mt second time veiwing the movie, but this time (there's that time-to-burn again) I decided to comment.

Given his uniquely angular facial structure, Kinski was most frequently cast as a villain or psychotic bit player in most Spaghetti Westerns. However, here Kinski takes center stage as Gray Hamilton, a wrongly convicted (and recently released) inmate out for revenge against the man who allowed for him to be sent up the river for a decade, Acombar (Peter Carsten). Direted by Antonio Margheriti, and credited as Anthony Dawson, And God Said to Cain is hot in a way that reflects its nontraditional lead, And God Said to Cain is atmospheric and understated--at least as understated as a bloody, European western can be said to be.

On its own merit Margheriti's film stands as something of a classic of the genre. God Said does demonstrates an understanding of the genre, offering the familiar tropes in a manner that is masterful. (This conclusion is better reached viewing a high quality transfers than many the inexpensive versions available as part of most collections.)  It's no secret that the aesthetic nature of the traditional Spaghetti Western played into the strengths of those European and American actors who helped define the genre.

Though less well know on American shores, Kinski, like Clint Eastwood in Sergio Leone's movies, capably breathes lief into his character with few lines and a lot of mileage out of his sullen eyes and somber facade. In terms of flat-out acting, Kinksi took Eastwood's wooden emoting with few lines of dialogue, to another level: even in the Italian and German movie trailers, Kinski reveals a hurt and depth to the role that Eastwood could never touch.

An entertaining movie (Spaghetti Western or otherwise), And God Said Cain also benefits from a higher degree of re-watchability, thanks in great part to Kinki's performance. While not quite on par with Gian Maria Volante's charismatic starring turn in A Bullet for the General (1966), Kinski's performance her further demonstrates that with the right story, direction, and actor, even those characters on the periphary of their traditionally more handsome Western star vehicles have story's that are worth telling, asepcially as is the case with these two films, if the story is told well.

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