-->
Film

If Not for the Terrifying, Sustained Threat of Sexual Assault, 'The Last Gun' Would Be Emotionless

This spaghetti western is clearly a prelude to Sergio Bergonzelli's later sexploitaiton films.


The Last Gun

Director: Sergio Bergonzelli
Cast: Cameron Mitchell, Carl Möhner, Célina Cély, Kitty Carver, Livio Lorenzon
Year: 1964

I'm sure there are others, but The Last Gun is the only Spaghetti Western I can think of that begins with voice-over narration. "The fast draw holds the law in its hands, and the big gun was boss," says a friendly cowboy voice that would be better suited for a Disney animation. "Now being boss wasn't just a matter of opinion. You had to be fast, real fast -- faster than Jim Hart's left hand."

We then see some washed-up old man who should be holding a pitchfork instead of gun challenge Jim Hart (Cameron Mitchell) to a duel. Hart fails to talk the guy out of it, so he has no choice but to use his left hand to draw a gun and shoot him down dead.

Although this brief introduction makes it clear that Hart is the fastest shot in the region, the hokey narration is not needed. It brings to mind some watered-down television western from the '50s. The spiel about how, to be the boss, you have to be faster than Hart's left hand is meaningless, since Hart spends the rest of the film trying to escape his reputation and take on the role of a pacifist shopkeeper rather than a 'boss'.

At least director Sergio Bergonzelli, who would later make a name for himself with a series of sexploitation films, realized the voice-over narration wasn't working and doesn't return to it. But by having the narration begin this film, yet it doesn't serve to guide or even conclude the story, Bergonzelli makes it evident that he doesn't know what he's doing with narration in The Last Gun. The entire film, in fact, is unfocused.

For example, he gives considerable screen-time to several unnecessary characters. It's nice to have fully developed minor characters in a film, but in the case of The Last Gun we aren't sure if they are minor. We wait for them to do something and when they don't, we wonder why we got to know them so well in the first place.

Guitar (Carl Mohner) is one of these characters. As his name suggests, he spends most of the film playing a guitar and singing songs. In fact, Jess Lindahl (Livio Lorenzon), the burley bald bastard who bullies himself to the head of a gang (and has plans to intercept a shipment of gold), recruits Guitar for this very purpose: to sing and play guitar. If all Guitar is going to do is make music, laugh, and hit on Dolores (Kitty Carver), the beautiful barmaid of the saloon Jess's gang hangs-out at while waiting for the gold shipment, why are we forced to spend so much time with him?

It's not like Hart needs help keeping our attention. Mitchell did okay in Minnesota Clay, which also came out in 1964. He's definitely limited in his range as an actor, but because for most of this film Mitchell, as Hart, plays the chump -- constantly getting laughed at and beaten by Jess's gang -- and only plays the badass in short scenes when wearing a mask. His guy-next-door persona works well in The Last Gun. His performance actually reminds me of Christopher Reeve's in Superman (1978). Although Reeves wasn't necessarily a convincing super-hero, he got the job done as the one-dimensional Clark Klent and the costume he wore as Superman was enough to distract from his acting. It's the same with Hart and the mask he wears when saving the damsels in distress of The Last Gun.

The main damsel in distress is the creamy-skinned, auburn-haired Janet (Celina Cely). She is to Hart what Lois Lane is to Superman. She's far from reaching the upper echelon of Spaghetti Western starlets, but she has a unique look and also a natural innocence that makes her an sympathetic victim. As Jess and his gang terrorize the town and eventually launch an all-out assault for the gold, Janet demeans Hart for refusing to make any attempt to stop them. She, of course, doesn't know that he is the masked man who saves her, as well as the rest of the women in the town, from the sexual assaults Jess's gang members are so eager to commit.

Indeed, every female character in the The Last Gun, no matter her age, faces a sustained threat of sexual assault. As demented as that sounds, it's through this unrelenting threat that Bergonzelli's uniquely perverted voice is heard and the film is almost redeemed for its many failures. If Jess's gang wasn't made-up of rapists who were always on the look out for female prey, The Last Gun would be emotionless and boring.

Since it was only the second of his 29 films and Sergio Leone had not yet popularized the genre, it seems that Bergonzelli was pressured by producers Luigi Gianni and Elio Sorrentino to model The Last Gun on the popular American westerns of the time; that is, more wholesome in its storytelling approach. But the intensity of the many attempted rapes is truly frightening in this film. A prelude, clearly, to Bergonzelli's later sexploitaiton films such as the minor cult-classic, In the Folds of the Flesh (1970).

4
Music

The Best Indie Rock of 2017

Photo courtesy of Matador Records

The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.

Indie rock may be one of the most fluid and intangible terms currently imposed upon musicians. It holds no real indication of what the music will sound like and many of the artists aren't even independent. But more than a sonic indicator, indie rock represents a spirit. It's a spirit found where folk songsters and punk rockers come together to dialogue about what they're fed up with in mainstream culture. In so doing they uplift each other and celebrate each other's unique qualities.

With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less
Music

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Keep reading... Show less

It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

Keep reading... Show less
7

Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image