Director: Duccio Tessari
Alive or Preferably Dead is a comedy filled spaghetti western that never takes itself too seriously in giving the audience an entertaining thrill ride, packed with wacky antics and memorable moments. Directed by Italian filmmaker Duccio Tessari and performed by a cast of character actors who have frequently collaborated with Tessari on other various projects, the movie turns out to be a fun bit of escapism as we’re presented with the lighter side of the Wild West. With its slapstick style and outstanding production value, Alive or Preferably Dead is an interesting combination that doesn’t fail to amuse in every way possible.
The film follows two estranged brothers, Monty and Ted Mulligan, who must live together for six months in order to inherit a hefty sum of $300,000. What at first seems like a simple task turns out to be a catastrophe, because whenever these two brothers get together nothing but calamity follows. These polar opposite siblings go from one out of control situation to the next, taking up bank robbery and even kidnapping in order to pass the time and survive until their six months are up. Will they make it to the end before they kill each other or will something else come between the feuding brothers in the form of a beautiful young woman named Rossella Scott? Hold on to your butts you cow pokes; this is going to be a bumpy ride.
Giuliano Gemma plays one half of the dynamic duo, with the character of Monty Mulligan. He is the more refined of the brothers, as we get a great introduction to his lifestyle and personality in the beginning moments of the film. He is used to the hustle and bustle of city life and after hearing the news about his inheritance, he is thrown for a whirl-wind when relocating to the wild frontier in order to live with his down and dirty brother. Gemma, as usual, plays the role to perfection, giving the character of Monty Mulligan a charismatic demeanor that only Giuliano could ever muster. His charm and wit is proudly showcased in this film, amping of the fun factor of this enjoyable flick by a country mile. To add to that, we even get some of Gemma’s trademark displays that showcase his miraculous athletic ability when it comes to the fight choreography and stunt work of the film. The movie is a mile a minute, and Gemma keeps us thoroughly engaged throughout the entire run time, but I would expect nothing less.
Nino Benvenuti takes on the role of Ted Mulligan, the simpler of the two brothers. He would be content living a low key life, far away from the hum drum of society, and he has, up to this point, lived that very same lifestyle. That is until his brother comes into town, and with him, a wrecking ball that demolishes everything that he’s worked so hard for. Nino does an exceptional job as the reluctant brother, who only wants to make an honest living by doing an honest days work. He plays the role of the innocent and pure character that slowly begins to let his wild side run rampant after being introduced to his long lost brother. After getting his house burned to the ground because of the actions of the impulsive Monty, Ted is forced to go out of his comfort zone and Nino plays these parts with wild eyed enthusiasm and a sympathetic heart. It’s not easy following in the footsteps of such a charismatic actor as Giuliano Gemma, but Nino does a respectable job in making his character just as engaging and highly energetic.
The rest of the cast do a wonderful job in rounding out the eclectic group of characters that make up this wild movie world. Antonio Casas plays Barnds, an older gentleman that gets caught up in the out of control lives of the two brothers. He rides along as they rob banks, kidnap a beautiful young lady for a hefty ransom, and even tussle a few times with a local group of bandits that have nothing but distaste for the brothers’ disruptive methods. Casas does a great job with his character and there are many memorable moments of him and his unpredictable automobile, getting into heaps of trouble.
Aside from the male roles of the film, Sydne Rome brings a nice feminine touch to her character of Rossella Scott. When first introduced, she is to be the group’s fast ticket to riches when they decide to hold her for ransom, but after finding out that her own father would rather have a long break from her high maintenance driven personality then to pay the demanded fee, they find that they are stuck with her. This sets up a rather surprising relationship between this motley group of four, allowing the film to branch off a bit into the romance department after Ted Mulligan and Rossella begin to have feelings for each other. This dynamic switch in formula mixes in even more trouble for the group and leads to some zany situations that not even I could predict when watching. Sydne Rome looks absolutely mesmerizing as the beautiful but flaky Rossella and her presence adds to the overall diversity of the film’s cast. She does a great job, but unfortunately doesn’t stay too long after being introduced. Though she is there for only a short time, her brief presence weighs heavy on the narrative of the film and she definitely leaves a lasting impact.
As for the wacky antics that I keep talking about, there are plenty of them. The brothers see so much off the wall action that it might make your head spin in all its absurdity. We have gun fights galore in this film, and a rather entertaining brawl that includes two bath tubs, loads of soapy bubbles, and a gang of bandits so destructive that they cave in the floor of a second floor building because of the sheer weight of their presence. Not only that, but the fight scenes are highly engaging, allowing both Giuliano Gemma and Nino Benvenuti to show off their stuff. These are two rough and tough actors who aren’t afraid of getting a little dirty or bruised up while filming their stunt work. The fists fly like there’s no tomorrow, and both actors look great when taking on their challengers and sometimes brawling with each other. In retrospect, this film is so filled to the brim with crazy moments and wild situations that you would have thought that the film would have burst from the overload of pleasurable content that is stored within its runtime, but lucky for us the film withstands the jam-packed bedlam.
Alive or Preferably Dead is a fun and enjoyable unknown gem, blending both comedy and western elements to make something completely and utterly ridiculous. The set up of having two completely different brothers forced to live together for six months, is a simple one, but the filmmakers went all out in bringing us something entirely original and unmatched when it comes to the amount of anarchy that one can stuff into a single film.
The cast is as boisterous as the string of wild moments that occur in this movie, having both Giuliano Gemma and Nino Benvenuti being the front runners of this colorful piece. Antonio Casas and Sydne Rome are thrilling in their individual roles, with
|Gemma you big goof.|
|Off the road you damn Sunday driver!|
|I have a problem solver and its name just so happens to be revolver.|
|Say cheese! That's going to be a good one!|
|How'd it get burned! How'd it get BURNED!|
|Check out these three weirdos.|
|You filthy little scoundrel.|
|This pajama party is over boys!|
|Take off that stupid ass hat.|
|This movie is so fun, I think I might catch the vapors.|
|This Stay Puft Marshmellow Man costume is going to knock them dead.|
|Oh my lucky stars! My breast enlargement surgery was a success!|
|Why won't you die!|
|Guys.... this wearing the same underwear thing is freaking people out.|
|Not even the actors can wrap their heads around the wackiness of this flick.|
|Stop doing that you nincompoop!|
|Hey shitheads! It doesn't look like you're handling that crate with care!|
|Look out! It's Ted the ax murderer!|
|I'm gonna kick you right in the crotch.|