Cold opens are a rare breed these days. A Pistol for Ringo uses such a technical trick to its advantage. It cuts through with simplicity and opens on those intrepid, dusty streets, introducing us to a town steeped in hesitance and opportune individuals. Characters good and bad look for the elusive Angel Face. “If you’re unlucky, sooner or later you’ll find him,” a wizened old man says to this band of brutes. Unlucky they are. A pistol for the eponymous character and he turns into a ruthless being, one that has a sincere, lighter side to him. He plays hopscotch with children and entertains their day, yet with a swift cut of the camera leaves four men dead. That is the beauty of the spaghetti western. Characters can turn on a dime. A Pistol for Ringo displays that rather well.
Set across the border of Mexico and North America during Christmas of all seasons, A Pistol for Ringo storms through the genre with all the bells and whistles the finest directors of the time offered. Ennio Morricone provides the soundtrack, and already there are signs that this Giuliano Gemma western will spark and fly with wild gunplay and formidable characters. There is a surprising scale that is utilised merely as a backdrop for the adventures of Ringo. Duccio Tessari captures the landscape with stunning variations. Characters shout off into the distance of surrender and death, their voice carried on the wind. It is the simple, technical effects that make these scenes greater than they should be. Wind billowing through the air, carrying cigar smoke and idle threats from unknown gunmen.
It is the style that serves the genre so well. A Pistol for Ringo does not try and slot into a comfortable medium between A Fistful of Dollars and If You Meet Sartana Pray for Your Death, but it certainly does well to draw parallels with both. It is a comforting middle ground between the two. Whether it is Morricone orchestrating a magnificent soundtrack or the misguided hero turning his sleight of hand to the help of honest individuals, A Pistol for Ringo is yet another western that sets out to try something somewhat new while sticking to the staple tropes of the genre. It is not without rebellion, though. Those old tropes are weary and served the past well. A Pistol for Ringo has no time for dwelling. “You laugh like an idiot,” Ringo says. He is dismantling the conventions of the genre. Why so many at this time would laugh like crazed fools is beyond me, but Gemma has no time for such stupidity.
Where A Pistol for Ringo falls apart, though, is in its need and desire to feel culturally enlightened. The gramophone gifted by a “Mr. Edison” is a nice touch, but what does it add to the narrative? It allows the villain to seethe to the sounds of classical music, but the line itself is unnecessary. Mentions of Christmas are unnecessary too. They are there to add a bit of flavour, but their consequence is immeasurably brief. Ringo is a superb character, embodied well by Gemma as a smart yet equally slapstick entity, and his existence throughout A Pistol for Ringo is bolstered by his ability to blend hopscotch with handguns.