ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Phil Bailey is a long time photographer and film writer, who doesn’t actually hate everything, but has no fear of being a contrarian. Follow at Twitter at @stroke_midnight or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/philbaileyphoto
Like so many of his contemporaries in Italian cinema, Antonio Margheriti worked in numerous film genres including science fiction, peplum, and spy adventures, but he is mostly fondly remembered as one of the greats of creating atmospheric gothic horror movies. Castle of Blood, The Long Hair of Death and The Virgin of Nuremberg are some of the horrors directed by Margheriti who was frequently Americanized as Anthony Dawson. And God Said to Cain was not the director’s only Euro-Western but it is his best-known thanks in no small part to its star Klaus Kinski and the unusual gothic atmosphere Margheriti surrounds his simple tale of revenge.
The film opens in a rock quarry where a number of prisoners swelter in the blazing sun turning large rocks into small ones One of the prisoners, Gary Hamilton has just been granted clemency and wastes no time in returning home with a new rifle and a thirst for revenge against the men who framed him and stole his house, gold, and even his wife. After a few brief expository scenes, the film gets down to business. Hamilton sends word to Acombar (Peter Carsten) that he is coming for him. To complicate matters Acombar’s son has just arrived home and a storm is moving in. During this storm, Hamilton moves through the town taking out Acombar’s men. The sandstorm, howling winds, and constant clang of the church bell creates a huge amount of tension in Acombar and his men, as well as members of the audience.
The film is obviously made on a minuscule budget with Margheriti using the storm set-piece as an excuse to hide all the townspeople not vital to the plot. Margheriti knows what he has to work with and uses it to full advantage. It doesn’t hurt to have Klaus Kinski’s chiseled features and deep blue eyes who was most likely part of the package to secure financing and distribution as “Italian” movies were rarely solely funded with just Italian Lira and several countries would pool resources to make these films which is why you have a German star, making an Italian western, in Spain. Margheriti leans heavily on his horror director’s bag of tricks to keep a plot of one-man murder spree going without side plots, characterization, or much in the way of dialogue. As the film unfolds Kinski becomes increasingly spectral, utilizing his surroundings including the aforementioned church bell as a weapon in the film’s most memorable scene. Margheriti’s taste for the gothic also shines in numerous touches that would be right at home in any of Margheriti’s standard gothic horrors, most notably the gorgeous mirrored parlor set complete with candelabra adorned grand piano. Any cult film fan knows where the final showdown is going to take place once they see all those mirrors. The often spectral figure of Klaus Kinski weaving effortlessly through light and shadow, including through catacomb-like tunnels beneath the town. In these tunnels, Kinski and Margheriti evoke the spirit of Lon Chaney’s Phantom of the Opera more than a standard cowboy hero/anti-hero as he dispatches all who stand in his way of a showdown with the man who wronged him.
The mix of horror and western in And God Said to Cain is not going to be to everyone’s taste as neither genre is fully satisfied, but in a sea of forgettable copycat Euro-Westerns, and hell this one is nothing original in the plot and is essentially a remake of Salvatore Rosso’s A Stranger in Paso Bravo, but Margheriti brings his own weirdness to the film giving it lift over the endless disposable films being cranked out of the Italian studios before they abandoned the old west and went all-in on gialli in the wake of Dario Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage.