A Double Dose Of Pecos: Two spaghetti westerns starring genre favorite Robert Woods as a Mexican pistolero

By on August 20, 2016

Night Flight continues to serve up our feast of spaghetti westerns from our partners Wild East Productions with two more titles — the graphically ultra-violent My Name Is Pecos (1966) and its more comedic sequel Pecos Cleans Up (1967), both directed by Maurizio Lucidi and transferred from pristine 16mm prints — which are now streaming on our Night Flight Plus channel.

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Adriano Bolzoni — who along with screenwriter Duccio Tessari had a hand in scripting the first draft of Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars, inspired by a screening of Akira Kurosawa’s film Yojimbo (he would later say that he and Tessari actually wrote Leone’s first two Dollars films, for which he was paid 300,000 lire, which were eventually credited onscreen to Fernando di Leo and Luciano Vincenzoni, with Leone getting the “Story by” credit) — wrote the screenplay for Il mio nome è Pecos, which was also titled Due once di piombo (English: Two Ounces of Lead) and internationally released as My Name Is Pecos.

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Bolzoni, a former WWII war correspondent journalist, had found success after the war as an occasional director of documentaries, but he is primarily known as a screenwriter of many successful spaghetti westerns and gritty Italian police crime dramas (see our post about the recent VHS release of Mike Malloy’s documentary on poliziotteschi films here).

A few of Bolzoni’s best known titles include Kill and Pray, A Professional Gun, The Return of Ringo, and he also wrote the screenplay for They Called Him Amen, which we also have available in our Spaghetti Western collection over on Night Flight Plus — you can read the blog about that film right here).

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Director Maurizio Lucidi (credited here as “Maurice A. Bright”) ramps up the violence here, as this grim, violent Euro oater is basically another of the frequently-told tales about a man named Martinez — bent on revenge after returning from a long absence to find that his family has been slaughtered — who goes after the group of murderous outlaw bandits responsible for the killings. Later we will see that four of his family members are buried in a single grave.

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He finds the bandits are now in control of Houston, a small town in Texas (it’s not small anymore — the city now has the fourth largest population in the United States). Houston, in fact, is where Pecos is originally from, and, it turns out, they don’t like Mexicans very much.

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The man — a half-breed Mexican, proudly so, who makes a point many times during the film of telling the other characters that his first name is “Pecos” — is played by American actor Robert Woods, who hailed from Colorado, who made frequent appearances in spaghettis during the 1960s.

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Here he’s given heavy brown makeup and (curiously) slanted, squinty eyes which are meant to make him look more Mexican (many reviewers like to point out that it was still somewhat rare for the hero of a film to be Mexican, when most of the time characters with that particular heritage or ethnic background where mostly being portrayed in non-heroic ways).

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Pecos tracks down a man named Joe Kline (played by Pier Paolo Capponi, billed as “Norman Clark”) who’s the leader of the gang of killers. Kline, we found out, is consumed with trying to find the money from a recent robbery he and his gang pulled that was later stolen from him by one of his own men and a local man in town whose identity he has yet to uncover.

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The mean-spirited bandits have the local townsfolk quaking in their boots, so to speak, and basically rampage and pillage and rape their way across town without any trouble.

That’s because the people in the town aren’t packing weapons of their own because they’re trying to avoid trouble, but all that will surely change when Pecos shows up and leaves in his bloody wake “a trail of bodies” belonging to those who directly or indirectly aided Kline, the man responsible for his loss. As with many spaghetti westerns, it’s all about settling scores, and then moving on.

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There’s a pre-credit sequence which sets the tone for what we’re about to see, when we see Pecos — who wears flared bell-bottomy chaps that actually inspired a fashion trend in Europe for awhile — walking across a windswept desert, before he guns down the first man who gives him a reason to pull his pistola from its holster (the man had sold him a gun for $20).

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There are characters in the film which may remind you of other, more famous spaghetti westerns, especially the Dollars trilogy, such as the town’s bible-quoting undertaker, Morton — played by the great Italian character actor Umberto Raho — who Pecos approaches and tells he will soon have a lot of bodies to bury.

There’s Eddie, the town’s saloon owner (a coward, naturally, played by Luigi Casellato), and a beautiful bosomy saloon girl named Ester, played by the lovely Christina Iosani, who in 1968 would have a substantial role in May God Forgive You… But I Won’t, another title we’re offering in our Spaghetti Western collection.

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You’ll no doubt recognize familiar faces from other spaghetti westerns in the cast, including Peter Carsten (And God Said to Cain), Peter Martell (Forgotten Pistolero), and Sal Borghese (3 Supermen in the West).

My Name Is Pecos boasts a great score by Lallo Gori, and features a theme song, “Ballad of Pecos,” performed by Bob Smart (who gives away the film’s ending in the lyrics so don’t pay too much attention to the song if you want to be surprised at what happens).

The crisp cinematography is also worth noting, by director of photography Franco Villa, who finds inventive places to put the camera in order to capture the violent action onscreen.

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My Name Is Pecos was successful enough at the box office in Italy and most of Europe (and especially in Third World markets, where the film was a huge success, especially countries in Africa), that it was picked up for distribution in the U.S. too, and that helped to secure the need for a sequel, which went into production very quickly, in 1966, in order to be released the following year.

For the next film — Pecos E Qui: Prega e Muori, aka Pecos and the Treasure of Moctezuma, and released in English-speaking countries in 1967 as Pecos Cleans Up — the screenwriters, Adriano Bolzoni and Augusto Caminito decided to take the character of Pecos in a new direction.

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This time they opted for a lighter goofier tone overall , one similar to other popular spaghetti western comedies which were starting to come out, and so the movie plays more like a Saturday matinee actioner with lots of laughs rather than another bloody revenge saga.

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Director Maurizio Lucidi signed on for the sequel (using his real name this time), and Woods agreed to reprise his Pecos character as well, although he’s said in interviews that he agreed to do the film before seeing a script and knowing the filmmakers intentions; he just wanted to continue the character’s journey because he liked the first film so much.

The plot in this one sees Pecos playing the straight man along with a couple of treasure hunters who are searching for gold — a long-lost Aztec treasure hidden away for centuries — and they run into a villain named El Supremo (Erno Crisa) who rules a gang of ruthless bandits and lives inside an Aztec pyramid carved into a lost canyon.

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El Supremo — who sounds to us like something you’d see on the menu at Taco Bell — has been telling his people that hes a direct descendant of Moctezuma.

He has delusions of overthrowing the Mexican government and ruling the country himself from his throne.

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In addition to Lucidi and Woods and Bolzoni returning to work on the sequel, Pecos Cleans Up also featured a new score by composer Lallo Gori, and saw the return of the excellent cinematographer Franco Villa.

The two films have subsequently been packaged together — as a double-billed feature — on DVD release.

Have a look at our Double Dose of Pecos over at Night Flight Plus!

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.