Kill and Pray (1967) – “A polished approach to the Spaghetti Western”
Kill and Pray, or to give it its proper title, Requiescant, is a Spaghetti Western that not too many people remember. I obviously don’t remember it given that not even my parents were born upon its release in 1967. Coming right from the heart of the Spanish shlock that litters the 60s Western outputs, Kill and Pray is a marvellous film that highlights just how great the genre can be. Following a preacher known merely as Requiescant, Kill and Pray looks to travel the great unknown in a western that sees an adopted child and survivor of a massacre search for his step sister after she flees her family. A basic plot of discovery and subsequent revenge, Kill and Pray certainly falls into the B-Movie tier, but manages to outshine others in the genre simply by feeling and appearing to be a crisp take on a tried and tested formula. Maybe it was my personal gripes and write off of the genre that made me think this would be a mediocre escapade in what is essentially a genre I have yet to look into. Kill and Pray quickly throws my low expectations out of the window with a thrillingly high octane opening, a beautiful score from Riz Ortolani and some strong, synced up dubbing for good measure. Everything feels very nicely rounded, a more polished approach to the genre that feels more like For a Few Dollars More levels of competency than anything else.
Our protagonists only characteristic is that he’s a crack shot and that he survived a shootout as a child. Instead of delving deeper into his thought process or his mission in reclaiming the life of his step-sister, we instead spend our time focusing on the villains. We don’t get developments in the protagonist; we aren’t meant to really connect with him either. Director Carlo Lizzani relies on us despising the antagonists so much that we just end up naturally siding with the hero. It would’ve worked too if it weren’t for the damned good performance from Mark Damon.
Portraying the crooked ring leader of a typical group of bandits, Damon’s portrayal of George Bellow Ferguson brings us many of the film’s finest moments. Kill and Pray manages to blend campy western tropes with the B-Movie energy of many of its contemporaries, but does so in an almost juvenile and senseless manner. It works rather well, oddly enough jumping from comedic scenes of Requiescant (Lou Castel) slapping his horse with a frying pan to shootout scenes that look to paint a larger picture of the righteous preacher we follow.
Perhaps it’s that B-Movie energy that carries Lizzani’s film over the finish line, with the ending being so out of nowhere and unexpectedly creative that it gains marks for sheer unbelievability. Castel and Damon prove a worthy match for one another in the acting department, with Castel’s physical acting overtaking what is, in essence, a very lacking script for our hero. Most of the enjoyable lines or engaging speeches are given to Damon. Rightly so, in a sense that’s the charm of the movie. The creation of such a villainous character is one thing, but making him oddly charming and charismatic makes him hard to hate, but easy to disagree with.
A definite treat for those wanting a nice slice of introductory pie, or at least that’s what Kill and Pray is to me. Certainly a film worth revisiting, sheerly for its intense opening, sporadic scenes of invention and its chilling Damon performance. Outside of that, though, the film begins to tank, and as you move away from its heart and core you can see the rougher edges start to appear. Its supporting characters aren’t always the most fleshed out or intriguing individuals, nor is our leading performance anything to write home about. A good blend of the best and worst aspects of the genre, all neatly tied into a comfortably fun viewing.