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With: Joseph Cotten, Norma Bengell, Julián Mateos, Gino Pernice, Ángel Aranda, María Martín, Claudio Gora, Enio Girolami, Julio Peña
Written by: Albert Band, Ugo Liberatore, José Gutiérrez Maesso, based on a story by Virgil C. Gerlach
Directed by: Sergio Corbucci
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 92
Date: 02/02/1967

The Hellbenders (1967)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Coffin Drop

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Joseph Cotten stars in one of Sergio Corbucci's best, and most violent, "spaghetti Westerns," as Colonel Jonas, an evil, former Confederate who cooks up a villainous scheme. He steals a batch of money and hides it inside a coffin. He travels with his three grown sons — Ben (Julián Mateos), Jeff (Gino Pernice), and Nat (Ángel Aranda) — and hires a prostitute, Kitty (María Martín), to pose as the widow of the "dead man" in the coffin. Unfortunately, she drinks too much and becomes a danger, so the Colonel brutally kills her and sends Ben into town to find a new girl. He comes back with the cunning Claire (Norma Bengell) who falls for Ben (the good one) and cooks up her own plans for the money. However, few characters stand a chance in Corbucci's world, which consists of either vicious acts of cruelty (one of the movie's alternate titles was The Cruel Ones), or simple, random blasts of unfairness. The Hellbenders is compact and ferocious, taking place largely on the open trail, with only a few cursory stops in town; these sequences feel constantly threatening and off-balance. Ennio Morricone provides another of his excellent scores, although, for some reason, he used a pseudonym, "Leo Nichols." Kino Lorber released this on a high-quality Blu-ray, complete with an essential commentary track by director (and Italian Western expert) Alex Cox.

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