One of the most memorable lines in 1968’s The Cats — aka The Bastard — is delivered by Rita Hayworth, whose hot-mess-of-a-mother character proclaims, “People are like whiskey: You gotta choose the best.” Neither she nor her two handsome sons follow that advice, and this nifty Eurocrime number examines sibling rivalry writ large.
When Jason (Guiliano Gemma, The Master Touch, Tenebre) pulls off a daring jewelry heist at the picture’s open, big brother Adam (Klaus Kinski, For a Few Dollars More) is proud, yet upset Jason doesn’t cut him on the deal.
So Adam offers a cut of his own, in the form of ordering the tendons of Jason’s shooting hand sliced. To add insult to injury, Adam also takes Jason’s sultry girlfriend (Margaret Lee, Slaughter Hotel). With the rehab help of a cute cowgirl (Claudine Auger, Thunderball), Jason vows revenge: “I must kill Adam.” If only their drunken, crazy, cat-lady mom (Hayworth, a Hollywood legend nearing the end of her career and overacting far past the hilt) would stop playing favorites, and just tell Jason where Adam is, the mission of vengeance would be so much easier.
Although Italian-made (the dead giveaway, in case you miss all the Italian names in the opening credits: all the dialogue being overdubbed in post), The Cats was lensed in New Mexico, USA, which lends the film some literal and metaphorical grit. All the Eurocrime elements are intact: bright-red blood, gratuitous gunplay, car chases, double-crossings, scorching-hot women, swinging theme song — heck, this one even throws in an earthquake!
Other than Eurocrime, the Italians also excel at the spaghetti Western. An acquired taste they may be, I find them infinitely more enjoyable than the dry, dull and dusty Westerns that America churned out. Ours were squeaky-clean and almost patriotic; theirs were morally ambiguous and, well, violent. Hell, Hate for Hate has it right there in the title.
This 1967 entry stars Antonio Sabato Sr. (Grand Prix) as Miguel, a Mexican who loses his savings to a no-good bank robber named Cooper (John Ireland, Spartacus, The Phantom of Hollywood). Cooper may have made his getaway by stagecoach, but a determined Miguel catches up with him. After all, he was going to use that money to pursue his dreams of being an artist in New York. Right away, this verge from the usual stereotyping the genre revels in sets Hate for Hate above the fray.
During this “refund,” however, Miguel is wrongly pegged as Cooper’s accomplice, which we know isn’t true, because the real one, Moxon (sword-and-sandal vet Mirko Ellis), tumbled off the cliff in a scuffle with Coop on that stagecoach one scene prior.
Out of necessity, enemies become friends, especially once Moxon returns, naturally clad in black. One of Hate‘s most inventive moves is having Miguel operate several guns at once, simply by yanking on a string-pull system he’s rigged, thus allowing him to shoot from numerous directions while never leaving the safety of his big rock.
I don’t know that I’ve ever seen Sabato so likable, and his character’s smile and spirit are infectious, making this plate of spaghetti more palatable than bland dishes. It also has more story than most of them. —Rod Lott