Poker with Pistols / Un poker di pistole (1967)

3.0 out of 5

Giuseppe Vari, the middling director behind The Last Killer, 1967 and Lady Dynamite, 1973 is also responsible for this mystery western, one of a handful akin to the likes of Brescia's .32 Caliber Killer, 1967 and Lorenzo Gicca Palli's Price Of Death from 1971. These Italo whodunit's generally lack the barrage of brainless shootouts that are the bread and butter of the genre, instead relying more on convoluted details and subterfuge aplenty. This is a good western, not overly memorable, but far better than most other obscure oaters.

George Eastman plays Lucas, a confident and accomplished card player who meets his match against Bronson, played by a subdued George Hilton. Embarrassed having lost this game, the arrogant Lucas, out of desperation, borrows money from Lazar, a mysterious Mexican watching nearby. Losing again, the well dressed and equally mysterious Bronson inexplicably offers to pay off Lucas' debt if he will bring a wagon load of paper to a town called Chamaco and gain $5,000 in the process. He agrees and meets up with Masters, the villainous businessman who runs the town. Upon reaching Chamaco, Lucas is sent after an escaped elder "artist" under the employ of Masters. Incidentally, Bronson and a local girl named Lola are after this "artist" as well. With five individuals all seeking the same old man, the truths and intentions are revealed at the end.

Low on action, the cast keeps things moving along with a surprisingly adept George Eastman in the lead. George Hilton played a variety of personae in his westerns and this is one of those variants, here playing a dapper, Ringo-ish, milk drinking gunman whose also good with a deck of cards. Mimmo Palmara, a star of countless Sword and Sandal epics, is disappointing as the underdeveloped main antagonist. With noted director Fernando Di Leo as a co-writer, that in itself warrants a viewing. Coriolano Gori's score is unmemorable.

Keep the stakes low and one is likely to enjoy their game of Poker With Pistols.

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