The Specialists (1969 film)
The Specialists (Italian: Gli specialisti, also known as Drop Them or I'll Shoot) is a 1969 Spaghetti Western co-written and directed by Sergio Corbucci. It was an international co-production between Italy, France and West Germany. Retrospective critics and scholars of Corbucci's Westerns have deemed The Specialists to be the final film in the director's "Mud and Blood" trilogy, which also includes Django (1968) and The Great Silence (1968).
French film poster
|Directed by||Sergio Corbucci|
|Story by||Sergio Corbucci|
Lee Van Cleef
|Music by||Angelo Francesco Lavagnino|
|Cinematography||Dario Di Palma|
|Edited by||Elsa Armanni|
|Distributed by||Magna (Italy)|
A single stranger named Hud comes to Blackstone, a town where his brother had been falsely accused of robbing a bank. Hud is determined to avenge his brother, who has been hanged without a proper court hearing. Finally Hud finds out it was one of the town's most dignified citizens who really robbed the bank. That puts him in great danger.
- Johnny Hallyday as Hud Dixon
- Gastone Moschin as Sheriff Gideon Ring
- Françoise Fabian as Virginia Pollicut
- Mario Adorf as Francisco Rafael Pacorro/"El Diablo"
- Sylvie Fennec as Sheba
- Angela Luce as Valencia
- Serge Marquand as Boot
- Gino Pernice as Cabot
- Andrés José Cruz Soublette as Rosencrantz
- Gabriella Tavernese as Apache
- Stefano Cattarossi as Kit
- Christian Belegue as Buddy
- Renato Pinciroli as Lord
- Lucio Rosato as Deputy Sheriff
- Remo De Angelis as Romero
- Riccardo Domenici as Mac Lane
- Mario Castellani as Judge Ham
- Mimmo Poli as Barman
- Franco Castellani as Woodie
- Brizio Montinaro as Charlie Dixon
- Franco Marletta as Bill
Sergio Corbucci originally developed The Specialists as a starring vehicle for actor Lee Van Cleef; the original draft of the script, credited to both men, bore the title of Lo specialiste a mano armata ("The specialist with the armed hand"), but a later draft was titled Il ritorno del mercenario ("The return of the mercenary"), linking the project with Corbucci's earlier Western The Mercenary (1968). The project fell through after Corbucci and Van Cleef had a falling out, but it was retooled when French producer Edmond Tenoudji asked Corbucci to write and direct a film for singer Johnny Hallyday; the resulting film uses only a small amount of material from the Corbucci/Van Cleef drafts, such as the hero wearing a bulletproof chainmail vest.
The film credits the screenplay to Corbucci and Sabatino Ciuffini, with whom the director would later work with on Er Più – storia d'amore e di coltello (1971), Sonny & Jed (1972), What Am I Doing in the Middle of a Revolution? (1972), Di che segno sei? (1975), Odds and Evens (1978) and Super Fuzz (1980). To accommodate the primary cast members and ensure the film's marketability in France, most of the dialogue was performed in French; Hallyday also recalled that much of the film was improvised, with scenes being written as they were shot.
Principal photography on The Specialists took place entirely in Italy; most of the exteriors were shot in the Venetian Prealps and the Dolomites. Other sequences were filmed on the outskirts of Rome: the scenes taking place in El Diablo's lair were shot in Canale Monterano; Diablo's riverside ambush of Pollicut was filmed at Mazzano Romano, and the Western town set at Elios Films, which Corbucci had previously used in many of his films, stood in for Blackstone City. Morale among the cast and crew during the early stages of the shoot was positive, but tensions eventually rose between the Italian and French crew members, and Françoise Fabian argued with Corbucci against his intentions to include a rape scene for her character, prompting Corbucci's wife Nori to defend her husband's position. Because the Blackstone scenes were shot during a heatwave that had struck Rome, at one point Mario Adorf nearly suffocated under his heavy costume.
Like most of Corbucci's Westerns, The Specialists features prominent left-wing, anti-authoritarian themes and messages; in the documentary Sergio Corbucci: L'uomo che ride, the director stated that it "was a film about how the wealthy are oppressors". Unusually, the film also features presents an anti-hippie stance in the portrayal of several of its antagonists; in a 1971 interview with the French magazine Image et Son, Corbucci stated:
The idea was to show that I was against the hippies. Listen, at this time the Manson business hadn't happened... but there are too many real problems in the world for me to accept the disinterested passivity of these people. Yesterday, Jimi Hendrix died shooting up in London. I am against drugs and hippies. I wanted to denounce them in The Specialists... I'm really violently against their attitude, and I hate Easy Rider.
The Specialists premiered in Italy on November 26, 1969, where it grossed 309,936,000 Italian lira, making it the 17th highest-grossing Spaghetti Western of that year and making only marginally more money than Corbucci's earlier The Great Silence. It was released in West Germany on 10 April 1970 as Fahrt zur Hölle, ihr Halunken ("Go to Hell, you scoundrels") and in France as Le Spécialiste (highlighting Hallyday's appeal over Gastone Moschin and Adorf in the Italian version's plural title) on 22 April 1970. The film was Corbucci's most successful Western in the French market, garnering 1,252,173 cinema admissions and becoming the 30th most popular film released there in 1970. Most of the differences between the Italian and French versions of the film concern the climax: while dying, El Diablo orders his biographer Chico to falsify the outcome of his duel with Hud in the former version and tells him to write the truth in the latter, and the Italian prints feature a montage of close-ups of the townspeople's reaction to Hud burning the stolen money; these are missing from the French prints.
In the UK, the film was released in June 1973 by Golden Era Film Distributors in an English-dubbed version titled Drop Them or I'll Shoot. This version, given an X-rating by the BBFC, ran 92 minutes compared to the 104 minute runtime of uncut European prints and deleted several scenes, such as the entire pre-credits sequence.
The Specialists was screened as part of the Cinéma de la Plage program during the 2018 Cannes Film Festival. Presented by TF1 and Carlotta Films, the film had undergone a 4K restoration of the original Technicolor-Techniscope camera negative and the French and Italian-language magnetic tapes, which was carried out by the laboratories L'Image Retrouvée, Paris, and L'Immagine Ritrovata, Bologna.
The 4K restoration of The Specialists was released on DVD, Blu-ray and Ultra HD Blu-ray by TF1 on June 5, 2018, featuring both the French and Italian audio tracks (with French subtitles for the latter), with accompanying special features consisting of the French and Italian theatrical trailers, an interview about the film with Cinémathèque Française director of programming Jean-François Rauger, and a 32-page booklet containing a reprinting of the Pilote comic Le Guitariste ("The Guitarist"), a parody of the film created by Pascal Guichard and Jean–Claude Morchoisne.
In 2020, the restoration saw two further releases: the first, released on January 7, was distributed by Kino Lorber Studio Classics on DVD and Blu-ray for the US market, featuring English subtitles for the Italian track, an audio commentary by filmmaker Alex Cox, and the Italian trailer. The second, released on May 18, was handled in the UK by Eureka Entertainment for Blu-ray. Aside from the French and Italian tracks (for which English subtitles are provided for each), the disc also presents what is known to exist of the film's English dub track, which was found to have suffered irreparable damage and large segments missing (which play in subtitled French on the disc). The disc's special features include the French and Italian trailers, Cox's commentary, an interview with Radical Frontiers in the Spaghetti Western author Austin Fisher about the film and its historical context, the complete script of the English dub (presented as both a slideshow and a PDF file on the disc), and a booklet containing essays about the film and French-produced Westerns by Once Upon a Time in the Italian West author Howard Hughes.
From contemporary reviews, Tony Rayns reviewed the Drop Them or I'll Shoot version of the film in the Monthly Film Bulletin. Rayns described the film as Corbucci "dourly going through the motions of the Continental revenge Western." Rayns commented that Corbucci's film did have "a spendid finale-after the excellently shot and edited massacre of El Diablo's gang" while concluding that otherwise, all "the film offers are the stereotyped bickering cowards, the stoic Sheriff, the secretly scheming villainess and the cheroot-chewing avenger: all precisedly stage-managed by Corbucci, but without much enthusiasm and to little point."
- "Fahrt zur Hölle, ihr Halunken". Filmportal.de. Retrieved September 19, 2018.
- Cox, Alex (2020). Commentary by Alex Cox (Blu-ray). Eureka Entertainment. Event occurs at 0:25:55. EKA70382.
- "Gli specialisti (1969)" (in Italian). Archiviodelcinemaitaliano.it. Retrieved September 19, 2018.
- Cox, p. 267–268
- Hughes, Howard (2020). Western Excess: Sergio Corbucci and The Specialists (booklet). Eureka Entertainment. p. 8. EKA70382.
- Giusti, p. 497–499
- Hughes, Howard (2020). Western Excess: Sergio Corbucci and The Specialists (booklet). Eureka Entertainment. p. 11. EKA70382.
- Hughes, Howard (2020). Western Excess: Sergio Corbucci and The Specialists (booklet). Eureka Entertainment. p. 12. EKA70382.
- Hughes, Howard (2020). Western Excess: Sergio Corbucci and The Specialists (booklet). Eureka Entertainment. p. 14. EKA70382.
- Fisher, Austin (2020). Austin Fisher on The Specialists (Blu-ray). Eureka Entertainment. EKA70382.
- "Spaghetti Western Box-Office Stats". Austin Fisher. Retrieved June 13, 2020.
- "Gli Specialisti". Bifi.fr (in French). Retrieved September 19, 2018.
- Cox, Alex (2020). Commentary by Alex Cox (Blu-ray). Eureka Entertainment. Event occurs at 1:31:14. EKA70382.
- Hughes, Howard (2020). Western Excess: Sergio Corbucci and The Specialists (booklet). Eureka Entertainment. p. 15. EKA70382.
- "Canes Classics 2018". Cannes Film Festival. Retrieved June 13, 2020.
- "Test Blu-ray : Le spécialiste". critique-film. Retrieved June 14, 2020.
- "The Specialists (Blu-ray)". DVD Talk. Retrieved June 14, 2020.
- "The Specialists [Gli Specialisti] (Blu-ray)". Eureka Entertainment. Retrieved June 14, 2020.
- Rayns, Tony (October 1973). "Specialiste, Le (Drop Them or I'll Shoot)". Monthly Film Bulletin. Vol. 40 no. 477. British Film Institute. p. 214.
- Cox, Alex (2009). 10,000 Ways to Die: A Director's Take on the Spaghetti Western. Oldcastle Books. ISBN 9781843447474.
- Giusti, Marco (2007). Dizionario del western all'italiana. Mondadori. ISBN 978-88-04-57277-0.
- Grant, Kevin (2011). Any Gun Can Play. Fab Press. ISBN 9781903254615.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)