New to Blu-ray from Blue Underground, the 1966 picture begins with a grand set piece in which revolutionaries halt a train via an army captain chained alive to the tracks. The bandits, led by Volonté’s El Chucho, say they only want the rifles and ammo aboard the locomotive, but take plenty of lives, too.
It’s a fantastic start that director Damiano Damiani (the underrated and misunderstood Amityville II: The Possession) is able to sustain for almost all of two hours as El Chucho and pals traverse the desert en route to deliver the weapons to their general. Joining them from the train robbery is token American Bill Tate (Lou Castel, The Killer Nun), a dapper dresser and skinny young fellow that El Chucho grants the nickname of El Niño. (At some angels, Castel heavily resembles Neil Patrick Harris.)
El Niño may harbor an ulterior motive, and El Chucho may bang drums in battle, but the show is stolen out from under their saddles by Kinski (The Cats) as El Santo, a deeply religious man who nonetheless gleefully kills innocents in the name of the father, the son and the holy ghost. So much for the Golden Rule!
With a dash of sauciness provided by early Bond girl Martine Beswick, and many cries of “You sons of whores!,” A Bullet for the General plays strongly as a free-spirited adventure, aided greatly by the intentionally funny bits, most courtesy of Volonté, whose belly laughs belie his character’s inherent evil. Only the length, resulting in a second-half lag, keeps the film from being a jumping-in point for the genre.
Volonté is the subject of a two-hour tribute documentary made after his death in 1994; it comprises the second disc of this special edition. Making the Blu-ray release even more special than readily apparent is that Bullet comes in two flavors: the U.S. cut and an international one that runs for a few minutes more. —Rod Lott