A Bullet for Sandoval (1969) – Film Review
Director: Julio Buchs
Cast: George Hilton, Ernest Borgnine, Alberto de Mendoza
By Sarah Morgan
Clint Eastwood and Sergio Leone have a lot to answer for.
The success of the Dollar trilogy seems to have inspired many more directors to churn out a seemingly endless supply of Spaghetti Westerns during the 1960s and 1970s. And while some of them are genuine classics, others are best left forgotten.
A Bullet for Sandoval, originally released in 1969, shortly after The Good, the Bad and the Ugly became a global phenomenon, falls somewhere between the two. As is so often the case with this genre, it features an American star in the shape of Ernest Borgnine, whose presence was designed to make it appealing to international audiences. While some US actors headed to Europe to take leads after their careers at home had stalled, that was not the case for him. He was much in demand, having recently made the hits Ice Station Zebra and The Wild Bunch.
However, it’s the Uruguayan actor George Hilton who takes the lead role of John Warner, a soldier fighting for the Confederates during the American Civil War. On the eve of a major battle, he deserts so he can return home to be with his ill lover and their newborn son. He hopes to give the child a name by marrying her, but arrives too late – she died while he was still on the road.
Her father, the wealthy and powerful Don Pedro Sandoval (Borgnine), is disgusted by both Warner and the baby, so banishes them from the town; the child perishes soon afterwards, leaving Warner embittered. He turns into a feared outlaw as a result, forming a gang with numerous other desperadoes. Warner also becomes obsessed with bringing Sandoval down, eventually heading for a violent showdown.
Also known as Desperate Men and Los Desperados, the film has been praised for having a genuine storyline and character development, rather than simply being a vessel for stunt after stunt. Nevertheless, it’s still a pretty relentless rollercoaster ride.
For many years, it was thought to have been directed by horror movie maestro Lucio Fulci, but it’s the work of the far lesser-known Julio Buchs. He deserves some credit for keeping up the non-stop pace that never allows viewers to get bored.
And while it could never be described as either groundbreaking or a masterpiece, A Bullet for Sandoval is an excellent time-filler full of raw intensity.
• Commentary by Alex Cox, Actor, Director, Writer and expert on Spaghetti Westerns and director of Repo Man (1984) and Sid and Nancy (1986)
• Original US Theatrical Trailer
A Bullet For Sandoval is available from oldies.com