Though I recently reviewed Man, Pride and Vengeance in the first episode of the Blood and Black Rum Podcast, I wanted to take time to give it an official written review as well because we didn’t get into a discussion about the special features on this disc. It’s also a bit more in-depth from my own perspective.
Man, Pride and Vengeance review
Man, Pride and Vengeance lists three descriptive terms to characterize what Luigi Bazzoni’s film is about. It’s a better title than its alternative, With Django Comes Death, but both fail to capture the movie’s main thematic appeal: it’s a re-imagining of Carmen in a spaghetti western format. That adds an intriguing premise to a subgenre of film that often relies on the same tropes for its plots, and Bazzoni’s incorporation of the most important parts of the novella/opera allows Man, Pride and Vengeance room to extend away from the more generic qualities of spaghetti westerns.
At the same time, Bazzoni is unable to effectively pair the two ideas without losing steam from both. He relies on Franco Nero, playing the Army officer Jose, to guide the film; best known for his role as Django, Nero brings the gruff aspect of a western hero to the film while simultaneously establishing a character that can be lured in by the seductions of Carmen (Tina Aumont), here a prostitute and a petty criminal. The film first establishes the relationship between Carmen and Jose, or the unrequited love not shared by Carmen, for the first act of the film, setting up an exposition that shows Jose becoming enamored with the woman while she continues to play him.
Carmen is obviously a temptress, at least to the audience, and her flirtations are just enough to keep Jose coming back for more even when he gets jail time for his actions. Still, Man, Pride and Vengeance‘s first act is often unbearably slow, with Bazzoni spending far too much time on the development of the clearly one-sided relationship; by the time the halfway point of the movie rolls around, the overarching plot is just becoming defined.
It’s in the second act where Bazzoni’s film adopts the spaghetti western aspect of its plot, moving away from Carmen to incorporate planning a heist after Jose is forced to leave town. Here, he meets up with a bunch of criminals, including Klaus Kinski playing Carmen’s husband Garcia. It sets up one of the best sequences in Man, Pride and Vengeance, a horse chase where the group successfully steals a chest of gold from a rich man only to have the situation devolve into violence when Garcia decides to murder the victims.
The moment is meant to set up the main conflict between Garcia and Jose, not only due to their shared interest in Carmen but because Garcia fails to follow orders and invokes violence instead of Jose’s preferred methods. But Bazzoni’s failure to introduce Garcia until late in the film means there’s little development for his character, and the final showdown between the two lacks the tension it should have with the audience knowing Carmen’s manipulations.
Ultimately, Man, Pride and Vengeance hinges on the audience’s feelings about Carmen and Jose, but during the middle portion of the film, her character drops from the film almost entirely leaving Jose to yearn for her alone. It’s difficult to take Jose’s interest in her seriously; though Carmen has seductive charm, Bazzoni fails to identify what keeps him drawn to her, especially when her ulterior motives are so evidently expressed.
The third act brings about the inevitable, with Jose denying himself the chance to escape from the authorities in hopes that Carmen will come with him. It’s the sort of climax that one expects from a film based on Carmen; the fleeting romance between the two aside, there’s no hope for Jose to have a lasting relationship with Carmen because that’s just the type of woman she is. And as a conclusion, Man, Pride and Vengeance ends on the best note that it can: dark and dreary, with violence that Jose so often attempts to avoid.
However, the film is a slow ride from start to finish, even by spaghetti western standards. Those who enjoy Carmen will find some important distinctions in this film, but Bazzoni’s melding of genres feels piecemeal throughout, structured unevenly. Man, Pride and Vengeance is an interesting excursion from the spaghetti western formula, but its plot is one of the weaker ones in the genre.
Click next for the Blu-Ray review.