Friday, October 16, 2009


Original Title: Las viboras cambian de piel
Year: 1974
Director: René Cardona Jr.
Writer: Fernando Galiana
Genre: Western

Two bearded drifters are both searching for the same man, a man they each want dead for their own reasons. While tracking him, they come across El Pistolero, who agrees to kill the man for them. Eventually, they find that their target is now sheriff of Santa Fe and is holed up in a fortress-like hacienda surrounded by hired guns. Now all they have to do is get to him.

I've not seen a ton of westerns, but Cardona's Guns & Guts felt weird to me. I have never seen a Western with exposed tits, men pissing, kicks in the balls, and loads of fist fights all before a gun is fired. This ultimately is telling of how this movie rolls. At times the film feels like it's trying to be a comedy. At other times a drama. Something was missing for me that had it feeling like a true western.

Outside of the main plot that is... you know, the whole posse out to get the fucker than dome em wrong kinda thing.

The film opens with a chase as we are introduced to our first character, an escaped prisoner (Rogelio Guerra) who after beating the shit out of everyone in town presumably to get information, promptly meets our second character, the abandoned husband (Pedro Armendáriz Jr.) who deduce that they are both after the same man, although it does not seem they know his name. Did I miss something for real? Escaped Prisoner used to be the guy's partner, and Abandoned Husband has his wife stolen by the guy. I'm so confused.

Anyway, the two wander into a nondescript Western town where they come across a good looking douchebag gun for hire (Jorge Rivero) who uses assloads of money to bang 5 prostitutes at a time. And he makes sure to tell us multiple times that he loves prostitutes, that he wants to retire with prostitutes on a big whore ranch, that he likes prostitutes, and that he likes prostitutes. Did I mention he likes the ho's?

His fist fight with escaped prisoner is pretty funny and probably a high point in the film.

Rivero is very charismatic and has a great look. (He had a very long acting career from the 60s until 2001 - there looks to be some real gems in there!) His on screen presence and decent acting makes his character by far the most interesting one in the film.

I liked initially what was done with the characters. As they are introduced, they are separate persons. The escaped prisoner is a bit of a wildcard and has a violent streak. The abandoned husband on the other hand is the cool cat of the crew. He has a violent streak as well, but is happy staying on the sidelines and watching things happen. He has one mission and that is really his focus. Then El Pistolero is arrogant, suave, and apparently is a master killer at cheating at cards. He has the playboy side that everyone sees, but a softer side just for one individual.

But as the story moves along, the two bearded anti-heroes begin to just blend together. Their story is largely lost I thought as Cardona shifts focus to El Pistolero's character. They still play a part, but their individuality has all but vanished by the film's conclusion. While I did just say that I liked Rivero's character and found him the most interesting, I would like to have had some further development of the two men with the actual vendetta.

The villain is finally introduced well into the film, and he plays a nice role. He also could have played a bigger part I felt, but that may be a minor gripe as he is really more of a driving force for our protagonists as opposed to a character developed in any way.

His fort (yes this lucky bastard has a fort) is pretty fucking awesome though.

Cardona's story has an odd feel in the way it is portrayed, especially for a western. First and foremost, you will probably notice a lack of sprawling, dusty landscapes and broken down locales that gave spaghetti westerns their grit and mood so nicely. Maybe this was a budgetary concern, but men largely sitting around indoors talking about "getting that guy" in a western is not what I want to see. I want to see them GOING to get that guy... and maybe getting that guy too. While there are some nicely framed shots and some playful elements, it's not enough for me to get that tone I'm looking for.

And to only be an hour and a half long, I just felt like this movie was paced way too slowly. The story is simple enough, but with a film this short, you'd expect a little more action and particularly gunplay. It isn't until 30 minutes in that a shot is even fired. It's a spurty blood scene shot in Pekinpah slo-mo, and really makes for a brutal looking death... it just happens so late.

There is of course a big shootout in the film, (I don't think I am giving anything away by saying this) which also has lots of blood which is a bit abnormal for a western I think (I love Mexican cinema) and more slo-mo. Again, though, I just think it is too little, too late. The pace just needed to be a lot brisker for the limited runtime of the film.

Cardona's entry into the western genre looks rather nice but was ultimately a failure for me. The parts that are good, are lots of fun and bloody and funny.

But this film is too straightforward for its own good. The talking talking talking which ultimately leads nowhere and to one of the more depressing endings I've seen in this genre, killed it for me.

These issues just made the film an average experience for me. Without the nudity, blood, and camera tricks, my score would be lower I think.

Recommended for Cardona completionists, or those wanting to see tits spurting, slo-mo blood in a Western, but there are much better examples in the genre out there.

Mexican westerns? I need to do more digging for that answer...

Score: 5 / 10

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