And God Said to Cain / E Dio disse a Caino... (1970)

4.0 out of 5

Vengeful spirit Klaus Kinski rides into town upon a brisk gale and a ghostly horse; brandishing a double barrelled shotgun and a chip on his shoulder, Kinski seeks retribution with the man who sent him to the chain gang for a crime he didn't commit. Drenched in shadow, he silently creeps through the town's catacombs, efficiently dispatching the 30 mercenaries employed to protect his quarry - the doting but ultimately corrupt father of an innocent, blue eyed, blonde haired confederate son...

If Vengeance was his dress rehearsal, Antonio Margheriti truly nailed the Gothic EuroWestern second time around with And God Said to Cain. Entrusting long term collaborator Riccardo Pallattini with the moody, chiascuro tinted photography and allowing baroque interpretations of sound design to underline the atmospheric dread, the film is a stylistic feast for the senses.

Less a Western, more a dust-bowl exercise in stalk and slash, And God Said to Cain shrink-wraps the by-now-on-the-wane-spaghetti, repackaging it as a near perfect post-Django, pre- Fulci expression of frontier horror. Near perfect that is, because Carlo Savina's Tom Jones-esque title theme is somewhat out of place in this otherwise simmering, windswept essay in revenge.

Strike Commando 2 / Trappola diabolica (1988)

1.0 out of 5

Bruno Mattei's enjoyably inept Manilla Macaroni, Strike Commando, had shit for brains for sure, but at least it had a bit of fire in the old belly. Its sequel, a lazy "Braddock" clone penned, surprise surprise by Claudio Fragrasso, underlines the reductive tendencies of Flora Films' Filipino productions and the depressingly dystrophic state of Italian genre film come the end of the 80s.

Gone are the steroidal inflections of Reb Brown, replaced by cardboard cutout stand-in, Brent Huff. Here is truly a man incapable of acting, even if his flimsy career depended upon it. Instead, the production's payroll budget appears to have been thrown wholeheartedly at Richard Harris who manages to stay sober for just about long enough to solemnly do, well, nothing in particular actually.

The ubiquitous explosions inherent to Mattei's other and far superior Vietnam actioners are sadly nothing more here than damp squib-farts interrupted only by the awkward exchanges of dialogue better executed in the very worst excesses of a bargain basement Teddy Page effort. A ridiculous belching competition early on in the film says it all - Strike Commando 2 is a fizzy burp of movie.

Salvo (2013)

4.0 out of 5

Squealing tires and bursts of automatic fire introduce Salvo, a Mafia warrior who saves his boss from ambush and hunts down the failed assassin at home. Ear-witness to the revenge killing is the victim’s blind sister, who Salvo roughly steals away and locks up at a secret location. But despite this violent opener, Salvo is a story told in mood, not action. The setting is no postcard Sicily but rather a chiaroscuro of dark interiors and sun-blasted wastelands.

Saleh Bakri’s title character is silent, brutal and fearsome enough to keep his groveling landlord aquiver. Few words pass between Salvo and his sightless captive Rita, played by Sara Serraiocco with a nuanced blend of helplessness and aggression Both lead cloistered lives, making these opposites two of a kind. Like all gangster films, a template of violent acts is enforced, but these are practically relegated to subplot as the relationship of Salvo and Rita evolves in unexpected ways. The larger dilemma is whether either of these impaired loners will ultimately see the light.

Women's Prison Massacre / Blade Violent - I violenti (1983)

2.5 out of 5

While this house invasion style film occasionally goes under the name of Emanuelle in Prison, director Bruno Mattei and writer Claudio Fragasso seem to show little interest in making something that fits easily within the whole Black Emanuelle franchise. Despite Laura Gemser's high profile billing, it seems as though the Snuff Trap and Strike Commando director was more interested in the potential for action scenes than for the presence of Emanuelle herself. So, instead of the usual hose-downs, hair pulling and extended shower scenes, there's a Zombie Creeping Flesh style S.W.A.T siege, a blistering car chase and more gun-play than would be typically found within the genre.

Among a fairly generous helping of gore is an I Spit On Your Grave style razor castration and Iris from Beyond the Darkness, Franca Stoppi, gets her throat chomped. Carlo De Mejo, who had briefly become a fixture in Lucio Fulci splatter movies, gets shot.

Lorraine De Selle from Cannibal Ferox plays the warden. She gets to strip down to her standard, prison issue, stockings and suspenders. However it is all pretty tame compared to where Joe D'amato would take the series.

Maurizio Merli header graphic courtesy of Paddy O'Neill of Foxyfide Graphics