November 15, 2023

A BULLET FOR SANDOVAL: The Good, the Bad and the Borgnine

1969 / 101 min
Review by Tiger the Terrible😼

Quite a few iconic American actors used to find additional work overseas, often popping up in action flicks and spaghetti westerns. For some of them, it was out of necessity, but for others, it was either for the love of acting or, perhaps more likely, a hefty paycheck. Whatever the case, producers of these films certainly knew the marquee value of a big name in the cast, even if they weren't the actual star.

The late, great Ernest Borgnine once made the trip, appearing in 1969’s A Bullet for Sandoval as the main antagonist. Speaking of which, watching this film (for the first time) was another reminder how good Borgnine was at playing both guys and bad guys without really changing gears too much. Whether lending his talents to a classic or a crapfest, his indelible presence makes a lot of films just a little bit better.

Borgnine’s not in the film nearly as much as the title or his billing suggest. The actual star is George Hilton (aka Jorge Hilton) as John Warner, a confederate soldier who goes AWOL to be there for the birth of his son, and then is pursued by his own superiors. John arrives home to find that his lover died after giving birth. Shunned by her powerful and resentful father, Sandoval (Borgnine), John takes the baby with him. However, since there’s also a cholera epidemic raging through town and no one is willing to help provide medical care or food, the child dies as well.

"High five, buddy...or else!"
This sets John on a path of revenge, leading a gang of outlaws who terrorize those responsible for his son’s death, with Sandoval being the ultimate target. Simply plotted and typically violent, A Bullet for Sandoval is neither the best nor worst of its kind, but overall, it’s a pretty satisfying revenge western. As with most slabs of spaghetti imported for English consumption, the dubbing is sort of a distraction, especially a couple of chuckleworthy moments where it’s obvious two different voice actors have been used to dub a single character (however, the original Spanish version, Los Desperados, is also included on this disc).

A Bullet for Sandoval won’t make anyone forget Sergio Leone, but spaghetti western lovers won’t regret giving it a go. Other than the lousy ending, this Italian-Spanish co-production is fast-paced, efficiently directed and features a good villainous turn by Borgnine (especially his final scene, which I won’t give away). VCI Entertainment has put out a Blu-ray that's fairly light on bonus material, but the overall 4K restoration is pretty decent.


LOS DESPERADOS - Spanish version.

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By Repo Man director Alex Cox.


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