Singer/songwriter Scott Walker passed away earlier this week, and in tribute to the “30th Century Man” I decided to watch a movie he is tangentially connected to for this column. Walker sang the theme song for this forgotten Spaghetti Western film from 1969, directed by French actor/director Robert Hossein (who also stars). Many people, fans of Walker included, wouldn’t be aware of this film unless they were either diehard fans of his or foreign film buffs, but it’s a brutal entry in the genre and makes Sergio Leone’s work look like a bunch of Pixar films.
Cemetery Without Crosses sets the tone with a violent opening scene of a trio of brothers fleeing from a heist on horseback followed by the ranchers from whom they stole. The ranchers, part of the ruthless Rogers family, follow one of the brothers, Ben, as he retreats to his home after he’s been wounded. The ranchers claim Ben and quickly hang him in front of his horrified wife, Maria.
Afterwards, Ben’s brothers, Thomas and Eli, give Maria Ben’s share of the heist money, and she in turn takes it to Manuel, a violent gunfighter and former flame of hers who lives in a deserted ghost town, to ask him to take down the Rogers family in revenge. He turns her down at first, but then accepts, and his sojourn as a vigilante killer is rife with intrigue, a kidnapping plot involving the only daughter of the Rogers clan (TW: rape), and bloody carnage on both sides.
Cemetery Without Crosses doesn’t have the same sized fandom that, say A Fistful of Dollars has, but it carries a singular filmic style characterized by long scenes without dialogue, and a steady pacing. Visually it’s dragged down by dark lighting, but it matches the dreary characters within the film and gives it the appearance of a melted painting. Hossein’s father, Andre, contributed the musical score, and although it doesn’t contain the rumble of Ennio Morricone’s epic soundtracks, the soft guitar arrangements fantastically fill in where dialogue is absent.
I mention the work of Sergio Leone here mostly to compare against the stylistic flourishes of one of the most iconic and famous examples of the Spaghetti Western genre to give you an idea of what we’re looking at, but really, Cemetery Without Crosses stands alone on its own merits, specifically for its captivating storyline, moody atmosphere, and unnerving silence. Never in a Western has silence seemed so deadly and creepy, so much so that any diegetic sound that offsets the film’s quiet immediately feels disturbing.
And lest I forget to mention that it stars the bewitching Michele Mercier, one of the most beautiful French actresses to cross over to Italian cinema in the ’60s. She plays a major role in the film and drives most of the film’s action, that she’s rightfully given top billing.
Cemetery Without Crosses is available to watch on Youtube, iTunes, Vudu, Google Play, and Amazon Prime.
Aimee Murillo is calendar editor and frequently covers film and previously contributed to the OCW’s long-running fashion column, Trendzilla. Don’t ask her what her favorite movie is unless you want to hear her lengthy defense of Showgirls.