Silver Saddle, also known as The Man in the Silver Saddle and They Died With Their Boots On, marks the end of an era in several ways. It’s the last of three Westerns that Lucio Fulci would direct (the others are Massacre Time and The Four of the Apocalypse), as well as one of the last Italian Westerns of the so-called “Spaghetti Western” period. Only China 9, Liberty 37, La Ciudad Maldita and Zanna Bianca e il Grande Kid played theaters after.
NOTE: I challenge this fact, which was in the Silver Saddle Wikipedia entry, as you could consider Fulci’s Zanna Bianca (White Fang) and Il Ritorno di Zanna Bianca (Challenge to White Fang) to be Western films, despite them not necessarily fitting the themes of the Italian version of the genre.
This is also the final western role for Giuliano Gemma, who broke out after acting in 1965’s A Pistol for Ringo. Here, he plays Roy Blood, a bounty hunter eternally seeking the man who murdered his father.
Silver Saddle begins with the moment that put Roy on the trail of Richard Barrett, a landowner whose henchman kills the young boy’s father. Barely a man, Roy picks up a gun, kills the man and takes his horse, silver saddle and all.
Decades later and he’s grown into a fearsome killer himself, followed by an old man named Two-Strike Snake (Geoffrey Lewis) who tells the tale of Roy Blood while picking the pockets of the men he’s shot along the way.
Blood takes a contract to kill a man named Barrett and discovers that instead, it is the young son of his enemy, who has died before he can get revenge. He saves Thomas Barrett Jr. from several other killers, but leaves the boy in the wilderness. However, he will soon learn that the son of his enemy will become the closest thing he will get to recapturing his lost childhood.
Speaking of all that change…
Fulci made this movie in between 1977’s The Psychic, where he explored the giallo once more in the waning years of that cycle and 1979’s Zombi 2, a movie which would take his career further than perhaps it had ever been before.
Gemma, who played Arizona Colt and the aforementioned Ringo, would appear in crime films, in Argento’s late model giallo masterpiece Tenebre and even appear in a very late Italian western, 1985’s comic book-inspired Tex and the Lord of the Deep.
Despite this being made at the very end of the “spaghetti” days, there are plenty of faces you’ll recognize from these sun drenched films, like Ettore Manni (Johnny Oro, I Am Sartana Your Angel of Death and Django and Sartana Are Coming… It’s the End), Aldo Sambrell (For a Few Dollars More), Lewis (My Name Is Nobody) and Donald O’Brien (Keoma).
Fulci would work with several of his regular collaborators, such as cinematographer Sergio Salvati, editor Ornella Micheli and composer Fabio Frizzi. It was written by Adriano Bolzoni (A Fistful of Dollars, Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key, The Humanoid). and
And what of the future?
Cinzia Monreale had only been in a few movies before this. She would go on to be memorably cast as Emily in Fulci’s The Beyond and in the dual roles of Anna and Elena in Joe D’Amato’s Beyond the Darkness.
Licinia Lentini made this her first major film role and would also be part of a movie that would herald the short return of the Italian Western nearly a decade later, the finally authorized sequel Django Strikes Again.