DVD: Taste of Killing / Per il gusto di uccidere (1966)

June 14, 2015 | By


TasteOfKilling_sFilm: Weak

Transfer:  Good

Extras: Standard

Label: Wild East Productions

Region: 1 (NTSC)

Released:  May 23, 2006

Genre:  Spaghetti Western

Synopsis: A gunslinger for hire helps the town bank when the banditos plot to rob its stash of gold.

Special Features:  Publicity Stills Gallery / Italian and English Theatrical Trailers





It’s hard to believe Taste of Killing stems from the same director as Day of Anger (1967), but there’s a sense the film was hampered by a low budget and meddling producers which reduced the film to 85 mins. – a length that actually feels interminably long due to an absolutely dreadful screenplay by handful of novices.

Director Tonino Valerii is credited with the story, while Victor Cruz and Frank Gregory were the supposed authors of the respective Italian and English dub tracks which map out the familiar tale of Mexican bandits plotting a massive bank heist in a remote town, while a self-serving gunslinger exploits his skills for profit.

There’s a spastic nature to scenes and use of lesser characters – a old man muttering incessantly about ‘his gold’ spends much of the film in his rooftop bunker, raising a mirror and explaining to audiences who’s who, who’s where, and what’s up – but what really kills the film is the amateurish dialogue where characters incessantly point out the obvious.

There’s really no effort to create any characters in Taste of Killing, and if the women in Tonino’s second film were fairly disposable, they’re treated like smacking dolls here, with Rada Rassimov (Cat o’ Nine Tails) stuck in a really awful role as the girlfriend and mother to the ringleader’s child. Gus (George Martin) loves her, but belts her for allowing the child to be snatched, then suddenly comforts her out of worry for her safety and emotional state, then wallops her again in a later scene.

There’s also a burgeoning romance between a kidnapped woman (an unbilled Olga Karlatos in her film debut) and a gang member that’s barely acknowledged, which seems to infer any prior scenes tracing the seeds of their relationship may have been removed to reduce the film to characters moving back and forth between bouts of gunfire.

Anti-hero Hank ‘Lanky’ Fellows (Craig Hill) is wooden, while his nemesis Gus is excessively verbose. Lesser characters are just plain stupid. When a Mexican bandito spots Hank camping outside of an old shack, the bandit leader shrugs off any suspicion in spite of the group possessing $10,000 in freshly stolen cash. The town’s rifle-bearing men are stationed throughout the town in wait for the banditos in the film’s climax, and use the same hand and rifle waves to signal each other in secret silence in spite of being plainly visible on rooftops and street corners to any incoming bandits.

Director Valerii seems to be juggling nascent story ideas and filmmaking skills, trying out handheld shots and lap dissolves he’d later abandon in Day of Anger for more refined, classical direction, but there’s also action coverage that’s a bit awkward, and some blatant running time filler: prior to the main titles, (presumably) the film’s producers slapped on a prologue in which a silhouetted Hank rides across the screen during a sunrise while the title song plays in full, and the song is repeated in full again, running long past the quick End Title card.

Nico Fidenco’s mostly orchestral themes are fine, but the suspense cues sound like horror tracks culled from a no-budget quickie, and several cues are dialed down in the mix or end on abrupt cuts, again suggesting Valerii’s film went through some severe tightening before its release.

One can argue Taste of Killing is worth a peek for the director’s fans – not everyone’s feature film debut after toiling as a writer is stellar – but this is really sub-par material, which at best is of interest to genre connoisseurs. The bouts of violence are quite graphic, but even the action scenes are less refined than the smooth choreography in Valerii’s next film. The main attraction here is footage of the stunning Spanish mountains which serve as backdrops for the convoy raid, and the township which rests in a valley.

Wild East’s transfer stems from an okay PAL-to-NSTC transfer of a somewhat worn print that’s still quite watchable but rather soft in detail, much like a laserdisc bumped up to DVD. Extras include a publicity / stills gallery set to Fidenco’s theme song, and Italian and English trailers which feature action, gunfire, and music but zero dialogue. (The main differences between the trailers are primarily Italian and English credits.)



© 2015 Mark R. Hasan



External References:
Editor’s Blog — IMDB  —  Soundtrack Album — Composer Filmography
Vendor Search Links:
Amazon.ca —  Amazon.com —  Amazon.co.uk

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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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