Heads or Tails (Tails You Lose) (1969)
Heads or Tails (Tails You Lose) (1969)

Genre: Spaghetti Western Running Time: 1 hr. 35 min.

Release Date: June 4th, 1969 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Piero Pierotti Actors: John Ericson, Sheyla Rosin, Franco Lantieri, Daniela Surina, Dada Gallotti, Loris Gizzi, Maria Teresa Piaggio, Pinuccio Ardia, Isarco Ravaioli, Edwige Fenech

 


 

I

n Texas in 1892, a $10,000 reward is posted for William Huston, alias Black Talisman, a notorious robber and murderer. And he’s wanted dead or alive. The introduction of the badman segues to the title tune of “Arizona is Waiting,” sung by Raoul, which doesn’t have anything to do with the initial setting – yet, anyway – let alone the fact that this is a Spaghetti Western full of Italian actors and it’s filmed in Tuscany.

“There’s just too many women in town.” When frisky Plata City saloon girl Shanda Lee (Sheyla Rosin) toys with the wrong customer, causing a minor ruckus, two gunslingers end up dead. This provides extra work for undertaker Miserere (Pinuccio Ardia), who also doubles as the barber, and angst for bar owner Rosebud. But it enrages the local, religious shrew Minna and her ilk, who disapprove of the temptations that sultry redhead Shanda and her girls represent. Wishing for these devils to be run out of the small Arizona town, the gang of pious women get their opportunity when Shanda is accused of murdering a client (the banker, whose wife Sybille Burton [Daniela Surina] is up to no good), stirring up a crowd at the Crazy Horse Saloon intent on organizing a lynching (and a slapstick tar-and-feathering). Two deputies are tasked by the sheriff (Isarco Ravaioli) to ferry Shanda to Phoenix, for her own protection, but they’re quick to take the opportunity of isolation to rape her and leave her for dead instead.

Taking revenge against the saloon girls proves to be a practically comical affair, especially when the angry horde of women strips a young Edwige Fenech and whips her, while the camera ensures that she rolls over a few times to take in the sights. Shanda’s assault brings things back into the realm of severer Western violence, though her eventual discovery and rescue by William Huston (John Ericson) results in further play-fighting that lacks the sincerity needed for a genuine sense of adventure. Joining the flip-flopping tone are the expected components of Spaghetti Westerns, including shootouts, bank robberies, Indians (here, the Hopi), torture, ghost towns, poisonous women, corrupt authorities, and vengeance, along with the technical elements of bad dubbing, worse sound effects, and sensationally chirpy, trumpet-heavy music.

This foray, in particular, sets aside plenty of time for romance, which strengthens the significance of the vindication plot that follows. Unfortunately, once William (using the alias Abilene) journeys back to Plata City to track down Shanda’s attackers, she doesn’t get to participate in the comeuppance; instead, the skillful bandit orchestrates mysterious deaths for the culprits (Rett, Holt, and Buck, who joined in afterwards), like the Count of Monte Cristo, which create a mystery for the sheriff despite excluding viewers. It’s difficult to find consistent entertainment value in a puzzler that doesn’t bother to involve the audience.

“Now I’m getting tired of figuring things out.” The timeline is also mixed up, chiefly during the third act, which makes what could have been a straightforward thriller a bit more muddled. And then, rather than using dialogue to explain away a few of the motives, full flashbacks are employed, dragging out unsurprising revelations. Nevertheless, some of the action is enjoyable and some of the chivalry is amusing, even though the execution of this tale is woefully inadequate.

– Mike Massie

  • 6/10