Requiescant (1967)- By Roger Carpenter

 

A group of confederate soldiers led by Officer George Ferguson (Mark Damon) betray a group of Mexican peasants, massacring them just outside Fort Hernandez, near San Antonio. One young boy survives and is rescued from slow death in the desert by a traveling minister, his wife, and his small daughter, Princy. They look after the boy who becomes a pious young man. One day the young man accidentally becomes involved in a shootout and discovers he’s a natural with a gun as he takes out two thugs in short order, scaring the rest of the group off. After offering a quick word to the corpses, “Requiescat in pace” (Latin for “rest in peace”), he goes back to his adoptive family’s covered wagon, fully intending on resuming his life of devotion to The Lord. But when he discovers that Princy (Barbara Frey) has left the fold to spread her wings, he goes in search of her. Along the way, Requiescant (Lou Castel) runs into many characters such as a group of wandering Mexicans led by Don Juan (Pier Paolo Pasolini) as well as plenty of bad guys, including George Ferguson and his head henchman Dean Light (Carlo Palmucci), who has forced Princy into a life of prostitution. It isn’t long before Requiescant not only discovers he has met Ferguson before, but also discovers that he prefers the Old Testament version of the Savior—the version who is vengeful and seeks “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” Thus we find Requiescant on the path of vengeance for the death of his family at the hands of Ferguson.

While I’m a huge fan of spaghetti westerns, I had not heard of Requiescant before. A quick search of the Internet shows that the film typically doesn’t make many “top spaghetti western” lists, although it is identified a couple of times. But this is why I’m such a fan of Arrow Films. These guys release many films that otherwise might not see a huge release. And they ensure the film gets special treatment no matter the level of obscurity or lack of prestige.

Not that Requiescant is terribly obscure—it’s just difficult to stand out amongst so many more famous films within a very rich genre. Lou Castel plays a very quiet, gentle Requiescant, at least until he realizes who he is and what happened during the early part of his life. Wandering the dusty towns of south Texas in a black, wide-brimmed preacher’s hat, he seems far too naïve to be a gunslinger. However, many a fool will die underestimating the preacher boy and the gun that sits in his low-slung homemade belt of rope. Mark Damon shines as Ferguson, an arrogant, greedy and generally nasty aristocrat who has no problem using violence to curtail anyone else’s intentions on his property. As any spaghetti western fan likely knows, many of these films have a strong political or social undercurrent, and this film is no different. Director Carlo Lizzani seems to be taking on class struggle as well as commenting on how violence changes a person. But even with the undercurrents of social commentary, Requiescant is still an enjoyable film to watch. It is punctuated with some very beautiful cinematography and Riz Ortolani’s score is excellent.

There are certainly some obvious plot holes—Requiescant’s divine ability for shooting accuracy is one of them. Despite never holding a gun before, he manages to gun down two very seasoned gunslingers. This talent is never sufficiently addressed and the viewer is simply left with no explanation as to how these skills developed. But the viewer really won’t mind these plot deficiencies as the film moves at a brisk enough pace to overlook these problems.

Not the best spaghetti western, but still a solid entry into the genre, with enough production value and talent to keep one entertained. The film itself looks and sounds great, with Arrow giving it a 2K restoration using the original camera negative and presenting the film in standard definition as well as hi-def Blu-ray. Optional English and Italian soundtracks are offered with optional English subtitles included for both English and Italian versions. The special features a bit slim for an Arrow package, but include an all-new interview with an elderly Lou Castel as well as an archival with director Lizzani. A theatrical trailer rounds out the special features.

If you are a fan of spaghetti westerns, this film is unique enough it’s definitely worth viewing and includes some pretty big names with the likes of Castel and Damon as well as Ortolani. The film is out now and is available through Amazon or directly from Arrow at: http://www.arrowfilms.co.uk/category/usa