Cult Movie: Sergio Corbucci's lesser seen spaghetti western The Specialists still worth serving up

French superstar Johnny Hallyday stars in spaghetti western The Specialists
Ralph McLean

The Specialists

LOVERS of classic spaghetti westerns will know the name of Sergio Corbucci. As the director of such bloody gems as Django, Navajo Joe and The Mercenary, his status as one of the finest film makers of that genre is undeniable.

Watch those films today and you'll see a man who just knew intrinsically how to whip up a wild cinematic storm. Everything that makes the prospect of watching a spaghetti western appealing is there in that work. Colourful, moody, fast moving and shot through with plenty of cold hearted violence, they remain cult favourites to this day.

The Specialists (Gli Specialist) from 1969 may be one of his less acclaimed offerings but it's well worth seeking out all the same. Freshly reissued on Blu-ray in a new 4K restoration as part of the Eureka Classics range, it's a proper thrill ride from start to finish.

French music superstar and movie actor Johnny Hallyday plays notorious gunfighter Hud Dixon, who arrives in Blackstone, the town where his brother was wrongfully lynched for robbing a bank. As Hud sets out on his predictable path of revenge, he uncovers the real secret of what happened to the stolen money and faces off a whole raft of colourful characters from the town including a one armed Mexican bandit, a beautiful female banker and a seriously shady local businessman.

Sometimes known by the more colourful title of Drop Them Or I'll Shoot, it is a traditional genre piece that hits all the standard targets for a film of this kind – from the moody loner who rides into town to right a family wrong to the worlds of small town corruption and secrecy – but adds a sheen of real class all its very own.

It's slow burning at times and there are enough shots of shifty eyes constantly scanning the horizon to satisfy the most hardcore of western lover, but when the violence does arrive it's delivered with sudden, almost shocking intensity.

Hallyday, a megastar in France but a mystery to most, smoulders through every shot with a smoke dangling perpetually from his lips; his performance as the revenge seeking central figure these films require is hugely impressive.

There are also memorable supporting roles for the likes of Francoise Fabian (Belle de Jour, My Night At Maud's) and Gastone Moschin (The Conformist, Caliber 9) to get their teeth into and the cinematography from Dario Di Palma is glorious throughout.

Add to that the bright and breezy look that Corbucci delivers here – hugely enhanced by the restoration – and a clattering soundtrack that only adds to the viewing experience and you have a classic spaghetti western worthy of sitting alongside the better known offerings of Sergio Leone.

This beautiful reissue from Eureka delivers a variety of audio options from the restored Italian and French tracks to a rarely heard English dub that sometimes disappears since not all the audio was available during the restoration process. There's even an audio commentary from Moviedrome man Alex Cox to savour for those who really want to enjoy the film in all its moody glory.

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