Requiescant (1967) | Carlo Lizzani’s offbeat Spaghetti western packs a punch with its revolutionary spirit
Fuelled with a revolutionary spirit, 1967’s Requiescant is one of the most offbeat of the political westerns to come out of the late 1960s. Written and directed by Carlo Lizzani, a committed Italian Communist who cut his teeth on neo-realism and documentary films, and with script help from fellow Marxist Pier Paolo Pasolini, Requiescant’s universal themes of liberty, racial prejudice and class struggle all play out alongside the political awakening of the film’s uncharacteristic hero, played by Western star Leo Castel.
After rescuing his ‘sister’ Princy (Barbara Frey) from a whorehouse run by the pill-popping Dean Light (Ferruccio Viotti), Castel’s sweet-natured Bible-reading foundling – who has inherent shooting skills – learns he’s the survivor of a massacre orchestrated by ruthless landgrabber George Bellow Ferguson (Mark Damon), which resulted in the deaths of his Mexican rebel father and mother. With revenge on his mind and spurned on by a militant missionary (Pasolini), Requiescant (called so because of the Latin words ‘Rest in Peace’ he mumbles over his victims) sets out to take the racist Southerner down…
Now Lizzani might have a political agenda, but his Spag western is not lacking in those trademark visuals that genre fans have come to expect (lots of close-ups and fast zooms). It also benefits from Castel’s Chaplinesque comic touches and Mark Damon’s tour de force turn as the villainous Ferguson.
Callous and cruel to the poor and a rabid misogynist (who most probably has a thing for his blonde, baby-faced right-hand man Dean Light), Ferguson is the embodiment of Confederate reactionism, who sees the abolition of slavery as an act of suppression against the south by the north, and his twisted psyche is best illustrated in the film’s most notorious scene: a shooting and drinking game in which he takes pot shots at a servant girl.
Featuring a cracking soundtrack by the legendary Riz Ortolani, cameos from Pasolini regulars Franco Citti and Ninetto Davoli, and one of the craziest gunfight scenes every filmed, this is a provocative and powerful entry in the Western genre, and quite possibly the only one in which the hero uses a frying pan as a horsewhip.
THE ARROW RELEASE
• 2K restoration of the film from the original camera negative (which looks bloody fantastic)
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations.
• Optional English and Italian soundtracks in uncompressed PCM mono audio (While I preferred the English audio, I did want to hear Pasolini in his native tongue, so I just flipped between the audios when he came on – which is very easy to do).
• Newly-translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack (which uses lots of different words compared to what you hear on the English audio).
• Exclusive interview with Lou Castel (very interesting to hear why he became involved in activism after this film).
• Archive interview with director Carlo Lizzani (who reveals how preventive censorship in Italy was the reason why he used the Western genre to get his class struggle message across).
• Original and new artwork by Gilles Vranckx.
• Collector’s booklet.