In the Spaghetti Western/Italian spirit of this film, my friend and I went to Saraghina Pizza & Restaurant in Bed Stuy for a feast. First, I ordered the Margarita Italiano cocktail, which I highly recommend. It is so fresh, but still strong and vibrant. Next, we split a carafe of the house red, which was the Dolcetto D’ Alba, Deforville. It was light and airy, but not without flavor. For the main course, we decided to split the Cacio e Pepe and the Steak which comes pre-sliced into bite sized pieces. The serving sizes were fairly small, so it was perfect for tapas style sharing where you are able to enjoy many different dishes. Lastly, the atmosphere (even during COVID) was outdoors, strung with twinkle lights and greenery, which was charming and moody. Highly recommend.
Western Film Series #9:
“The Return of Ringo” (1965) is an official sequel to “A Pistol for Ringo” which came out earlier the same year, directed by Duccio Tessari and starring Giuliano Gemma. It is a masterful rendition of the ancient Greek story of The Odyssey, in that its hero, who is treated as a dead man, must rediscover his identity.
Somewhat confusingly, as it is considered an official sequel and has much of the same cast, it is crucial to note that the story is different, with different characters and plot. It is merely a sequel in its themes and style. Also, complicating things more, Italian filmmakers used to bill themselves under pseudo-names for the International/American audience, and therefore, Giuliano Gemma was billed as “Montgomery Wood” and Lorella De Luca as “Hally Hammond” mimicking their characters names in “The Return of Ringo,” Montgomery Brown and Hally Fitzgerald Brown, respectively.
In the first film, a gun-toting mercenary known as “Angel Face” or Ringo (Gemma) attempts to save a wealthy Texan family from a Mexican bandit who lives on their plantation, while falling in love with a young woman who lives on the plantation named Miss Ruby (Lorella De Luca).
In the second film, the narrative follows a man named Captain Montgomery Brown/Ringo (as mentioned above, played by Giuliano Gemma) who returns home after the Civil War to discover that his land has been overrun by Mexican bandits (Fernando Sancho, George Martin). Initially, he infiltrates the gang to restore order and determine if his wife has been faithful to him, but he soon discovers that she has been chosen as the bride-to-be by the leader of the troupe against her will. But he also, to his great delight, discovers that he has a daughter with her. Bent on revenge and intent on saving his family, Montgomery Brown disguises himself and takes on the vicious ring.
There are several aspects to this film that make it truly unforgettable. The cinematography, by Francisco Marín, and the general direction by Tessari to compose shots, is outstanding. They consistently utilize the rule of thirds in terms of position and color elevating every single scene. Tessari smartly incorporates the use of floral arrangements, hanging gardens and casual greenery to add color, brightening and softening the dustier desert atmosphere. Further, by placing the story in the Southwestern location and incorporating the Mexican influence on that space, Tessari makes sure to fashion an appropriate cultural set with vibrant colored serape blankets, huipil dresses and orange hued textiles.
The theme song of this film is one of its most astonishing and brilliant pieces. It carries the same name as the title (“Il ritorno di Ringo“), was composed by Ennio Morricone, and is delightfully similar to “Django Unchained” (2012), also by Morricone – a clear demonstration of Quentin Tarantino’s love for Spaghetti Westerns. Tarantino places subtle shout-outs to this genre of film throughout all of his movies, including his most recent “Once Upon A Time in Hollywood” (2019) where washed up Western TV star, Rick Dalton, embarks across the pond to partake in many a Spaghetti Western (Italian Western) to revamp his film career.
There are several moments throughout “The Return of Ringo” that propel this Western above others of its time, often due to Tessari’s cinamtic choices. During the scene where Montgomery and Hally reunite, the characters are kept in resounding silence, creeping around a room of the house, when they unexpectedly find themselves in a face to face reconciliation. Forced to remain noiseless, the overwhelming emotion of the moment must be captured through their expressions, the score and the cinematography. Through portrait style close-ups obscured by a seductive orange coloration, in candle light, their discovery of each other is felt viscerally and magnanimously. These are the choices that lead certain films to stand the test of time, and re-emerge in conversation decades later.
“To be afraid means dying every day,” says one man to another. Fear is not an option when your home, your family, everything you hold dear is on the line. It is a tale of bravery, for certain. It is a story of reclaiming ones sense of self after the ennui that follows a major war. It is a solid, action packed Western with impressive stunts and effects. “The Return of Ringo” is one of the best of its genre and its time, and must not be missed.