Thursday, December 23, 2010

Today It's Me... Tomorrow It's You! (1968)

By 1968 the spaghetti western had fully hit it's stride in the world's movie market. They were wildly popular with audiences who loved the gritty, violent take the Italians had on the American wild west.

Today It's Me, Tomorrow It's You is a basic revenge tale, in a western setting. Bill Kiowa (Brett Halsey) is a free man after spending five years in jail for a crime he didn't commit, and he's hell bent on revenge. After dreaming day and night on the day he'd get his hands on his old friend James Elfego (Tatsuya Nakadai) and practicing with a wooden replica of his trusted revolver Kiowa assembles a group of five of the best gunslingers the west has to offer to hunt Elfego's gang down, offering each of them $10,000 to do the job.

The film is straight forward from the beginning. We quickly learn who is the protagonist, though the reason we want to cheer him on is delayed until later. His team is a very likable group though, each with their own personality. Kiowa has a very Django-esque quiet calm to him, while Bud Spencer's character O'Bannion offers the brute force with a bit of comic relief. Add in a gambling man who hates to lose, a sheriff who is bored with what life is offering him of late and a ladies man who loves money more than women and there is a great contrast that makes for an interesting gang.

Today It's Me moves along at a steady pace, never getting ahead of itself, but never leaving you tapping your foot for something to happen. The writing was handled in part by Italian horror maestro Dario Argento is great. Simple, but great. There is a never a "face palm" moment from the writing and the direction by Tonino Cervi is very good. The score, which any level of spaghetti western fan can tell you can really add to the film, isn't memorable. It is serviceable but suffers from a couple of moments where it, along with the shot it is accompanying takes a turn towards being hokey. Luckily it never quite makes it there and doesn't detract from the film.

There are some problems with this entry in to the genre. The story never fully explores almost anything it could. How deep did the friendship of Kiowa and Elfego go? This could have played a part in the viewer being more emotionally invested in the all too brief finale, which was overshadowed by the set up "hunting" scene. Also, exactly what race is Elfego? He's played by Tatsuya Nakadai who is a Japanese actor famous for his decades of work with directors Akira Kurosawa and Masaki Kobayashi, but his name seems to be Spanish and similar to El Fuego which means The Fire. Though no one is ever set on fire. Also he uses a sword in a fight (which actually happens to be a machete) in a very samurai-ish manner. This is a minor nitpick from me, but it would be nice to know, we just have to assume that he is a half breed Japanese-Mexican.

When it's all said and done, Today It's Me... Tomorrow It's You! also known as Today We Kill...Tomorrow We Die! falls short of its true potential. Possibly due to fear that it would seem contrived or maybe it was simply due to it's (obvious) budgetary restraints. It is however a very entertaining western that is steady standing on its on two feet. All five members of Kiowa's gang are great, and Nakadai is exceptional in the screen time he receives. Tonino Cervi seemed to draw a bit too much of a Hollywood influence for his own good at times but its never more than a passing thought. The obvious influence from the samurai films that helped start the spaghetti western cycle in the mid-60s adds a stylish touch. And I can't write this review without giving a round of applause to Bud Spencer for using a belly bump as an attack in a fight scene, I'll support that tactic until the day I die.


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