Giuliano Gemma, Germán Cobos, Teresa Gimpera, Serge Marquand, Daniele Vargas, Gia Sandri, Nello Pazzafini, Benito Stefanelli
Italy Release Date: 22 Mar 1967
With his elaborate stunts and lady killer smile, Giuliano Gemma ranks among the most popular spaghetti western stars. He’s not the greatest actor in the genre, but he’s one of the most fun to watch, easiest to root for, and most productive. While his films range in quality, which is only natural for a spaghetti western actor, his productivity has led fans of the genre to develop a familiarity with him that makes his presence a pleasure, regardless of how mediocre the film he stars in is.
Wanted (1967) is an example of a lackluster spaghetti western that is somewhat redeemed by the fact that Gemma is in nearly every frame of its relatively lengthy, and at times tiresome, 104 minute runtime. Gemma plays Sheriff Gary Ryan, who has been federally appointed sheriff to a town run by the corrupt Mayor Samuel Gold (Daniele Vargas), who wants one of his own henchmen, Fred Lloyd (Serge Marquand), for the position. To get what he wants, Mayor Gold frames Sheriff Ryan for murder by using his many connections, such as getting the local hotel keeper, Cherly (Gia Sandri), to use her place for the set-up and act as an eyewitness to the murder.
As the title implies, Sheriff Ryan goes on the run and becomes a wanted man. With the help of a suave gambler named Martin Heywood (Germán Cobos), a helpful widow named Eveyln Baker (Teresa Gimpera), a revolting priest named Padre Carmelo (Nello Pazzafini), and a truth-seeking judge named Morton Anderson (Carlo Hintermann), Sheriff Ryan eventually gets revenge and exposes the corrupt Mayor God for the scum he is.
This story has been told a thousand times, and the way Giorgio Ferroni, the director of Wanted, goes about telling it is entirely ineffective. All the plot points are slapped together like an outline and as the scenes go by you feel as though you’re watching a slide-show and are being lectured on information that you have no interest in.
The only worthwhile addition to this stale story that the film makes is its better than average acting. Gemma is, as always, overflowing with charm. Gimpera, whose character is both a comrade and lover to Gemma’s character, has great chemistry with our star. Serge Marquand pulls off the classy gambler with great skill. Benito Stefanelli, who plays the town drunk, is perfect. Although the rest of the cast is unmemorable, none of them stand out as distracting week spots, which is often the case in these lesser spaghetti westerns.
The rest of the film is a mixed bag. The theme song, though traditional in style, works just fine, but there is also a lot of overly sentimental songs dispersed throughout that reminds me of some cheesy American television western from the ‘50s. The dialogue, meanwhile, is unrealistic, unsavory, and generally unacceptable. The fist-fights, on the other hand, are damn solid, and Gemma’s stunt-devil experience comes out in spots. Unlike most actors, he seems to genuinely enjoy jumping and rolling around in front of the camera.
Wanted does seem to have a bigger budget than most spaghetti flicks of its stature, and the action benefits as a result. There’s a scene where Sheriff Ryan and Heywood the gambler try to escape a group of banditos ambushing their wagon that is a high-quality, thrilling good time. You could actually call it an army of banditos because there are so many of them, and each has a horse of his own. As the banditos on horseback pursue the wagon, Sheriff Ryan and the gambler take turns throwing sticks of dynamite at them that literally blow up under the horses and launch their riders to the ground—it’s impressive.
But in the end, Gemma’s charisma and the few spots of fun action are not enough to save Wanted. It’s a below average spaghetti that I’d only recommend to die-hard fans of its lead.