Friday, January 19, 2018

FEATURE FRIDAY: THE BRUTE AND THE BEAST (1968)

     As we're probably doubtless all aware, this weekend is gearing up to be a politically-charged orgy of anti-male demonstrations. So we thought: why not instead watch a first-class action film instead? And one whose deeper meaning explores the meaning and bonds of true brotherhood, at that. 

     This weekend's feature is an Italian-produced Western, The Brute and the Beast. It was released in Europe in 1966 and made into an English version for American theaters in 1968. It stars not one, but two, legendary Western stars, Franco Nero and George Hilton. 

     Nero plays the part of Tom Corbett, a soldier of fortune who left his father's estate in the capable hands of his younger brother, Slim (played by Hilton). Tom has gone in on a gold-mining expedition and just discovered a rich vein when a messenger arrives urging him to come back home. Tom promptly answers the summons and finds his ranch---and the town in general under the thumb of a pair of father-and-son thugs, the Scotts. 

      As ruthless as Papa Scott is, Junior is a full-blown homicidal maniac. Among his past-times are releasing some drifter in the woods and assembling his cronies for a 'hunt'. Junior is probably one of the most vicious of Western villains---and that is saying a lot. 

      At any rate, Tom finds that Slim and the family servant, Mercedes, have been evicted from the ranch to a small adobe hut. Tom's hopes of joining forces with his brother are dashed when he learns that Slim has become a hopeless alcoholic with no will to fight back at all. Now Tom is faced with the double problem of ridding the town of the Scotts and helping his brother recover his lost manhood. Tom learns as the story progresses that Slim holds knowledge of a certain secret that led to his breakdown. Unveiling that secret puts Tom in a moral dilemma. 

       The Brute and the Beast lives up to exactly the quality we'd expect from a Nero-Hilton team-up. I always especially liked this film because---unlike a lot of other Spaghetti Western heroes---Tom Corbett is a man with a strong moral code. This comes out strongly when he discovers his brother's secret and a temptation to betray his brother for money arises. 

        And there are no shortages of gunfights and fisticuffs along the way to the surprising conclusion 92 minutes away. It's very clearly a film directed to a male audience: dealing with both men's themes and men's issues. Most other men who've seen the film say that they can relate to the Corbett Brothers' characters quite well.

       This film was also marketed in English under the title Massacre Time. Parts of the film definitely live up to that alternative name. 

The Brute and the Beast gets a perfect score: ⍟⍟⍟⍟ 



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