The Hellbenders

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An ex-Confederate and his sons plan to use stolen money as a way to revive the Confederacy.

ACTORS :  Joseph Cotten, Norma Bengell, Julián Mateos

YEAR OF RELEASE :  1967

POSTAGE : Free postage within Australia

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Description

Storyline

The Civil War has ended, but not for Jonas, a ruthless Confederate officer who wants to continue the fight by reorganizing Confederate troops in the Southwest with the support of a large sum of stolen money. He devises an elaborate ruse to allow his small party to travel with minimal scrutiny through hostile territory, for the money is hidden in a coffin said to contain the body of his dead son. Jonas’ other sons travel with him along with a hired “widow”, as they proceed to what they hope to be a new start to the War between the States. However, while en route, they face severe, ongoing strife among themselves and successive threats from Union soldiers, a posse of cowboys, and an Indian war party.

Who is hero and who is villain, depends on who’s the viewer.

This film (which I saw as “The Hellbenders”) is not much like the average western. As you watch, it is not easy to decide if we are supposed to be rooting for or against the main characters. Even when it becomes apparent which side of the good/evil line most of them stand on, Jonas (the real focus of the story) remains in a grey area. In the end, wether he is a hero or villain depends on the ideals of the audience. That is what I found most refreshing about this film. It lets you make up your own mind, rather than forcing one opinion of what is virtuous on you.
Solid Spaghetti Western
 
Under the pretense of escorting a body back east for burial, ex-Confederate Joseph Cotten and his sons transport a coffin full of stolen cash meant to be used to re-start the Confederacy and begin the second Civil War. However, robbing and killing a military transport was the easy part for Cotten and sons.

There’s lots of great moments of suspense and double-crossing treachery in this slightly offbeat, above average spaghetti western, featuring director Sergio Corbucci’s usual flair for excessive violence (for the 60’s) and a good, more subtle than usual music score by the great Ennio Morricone.

Cotten, (who’s great) in an appropriately cruel and domineering performance, heads a cast of familiar European faces, including a great cameo appearance by Spanish actor Aldo Sambrell as a sweaty Mexican bandit.

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