When the stunning Italian horror film Suspiria was released in 1977, audiences and critics cheered the arrival of a new genre stylist in director-writer Dario Argento. Argento was the mad genius of horror (1975’s Deep Red, 1987’s Opera), but with all the praise for those films, few critics look back on his career in Euro-Westerns.
Argento’s first costory credit was for 1968’s Once Upon a Time in the West, after which he wrote Cemetery Without Crosses (also known as The Rope and the Colt), Today We Kill, Tomorrow We Die! and The 5-Man Army. With the exception of the Sergio Leone masterpiece, few of Argento’s Westerns have seen official release…until now.
Warner Archives has made available a beautiful 1:85 transfer of The 5-Man Army, Argento’s “caper Western,” starring Peter Graves and directed by Don Taylor. Set during the Mexican Revolution, Graves leads a group of highly-trained rebel misfits (including a samurai and an acrobat) on a mission to hijack a train carrying Federale gold. Of course, things don’t go as planned, and the body count (along with everything else) explodes sky high.
Argento’s script is kept amazingly light, thanks to Taylor’s direction, the cast (Graves, James Daly, Bud Spencer) and Ennio Morricone’s score. Cofinanced by MGM, The 5-Man Army is no impoverished Euro production, but a slick, well made Adventure Western that actually has something to say within its enormously entertaining wrapping.
C. Courtney Joyner is a screenwriter and director with more than 25 produced movies to his credit. He is the author of The Westerners: Interviews with Actors, Directors and Writers.