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Hot Snake / Guns And Guts (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

    Ian Jane

  • Hot Snake / Guns And Guts (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: July 26th, 2022.
    Director: Fernando Durán Rojas, René Cardona Jr.
    Cast: Eric del Castillo, Carlos East
    Year: 1974/1976
    Purchase From Amazon

    Hot Snake / Guns And Guts – Movie Review:

    Vinegar Syndrome pairs up two unusual Mexican westerns from the mid-seventies on one nicely remastered double feature Blu-ray release with the pairing of Hot Snake and Guns And Guts.

    Hot Snake:

    A bandit approaches a wagon carrying a coffin and a window. He shoots the driver dead, shoves the coffin, pulls out a box hidden away and steals the money, which belongs to the United States army, and then tries to rape the widow. When she protests, he shoots her dead. Then he proceeds to rape her anyway. The bandit heads into the hills and finds Native Indian woman named Ramona (Monica Miguel), introducing himself as John Smith. A man named Tony Fernandez has sent him and he needs sleep and supplies. She allows him entry and the opportunity to sleep while the older man tends to John's horse. The next morning, he's on his way, but before he leaves, she addresses him as John Jenkins (Carlos East) - Ramona knows everything, we're told.

    It turns out that this leather-clad bastard has been wreaking havoc in the small desert town of Hot Snake for some time now. While the army would certainly like to get their hands on Jenkins, the sheriff (Jorge Russek), finally decides to hire a surly, mustachioed gunman named Emiliano (Eric del Castillo) to make sure that he is taken care of, permanently.

    Emiliano heads out to visit Ramona where she gives him an elixir of some sort and summons some spirits to grant them wisdom. She does a Tarot reading while the old man plays the flute in the background. The cards tell her that someone wants Emiliano dead immediately, a blond man of great power, not Jenkins but someone who has 'breathed very close' to Emiliano. She also tells him to watch out for a day with two nights.

    After enjoying some quality time with his favorite pretty blonde prostitute, Eva (Christa Linder), he sets out to get to work but before he can, another bounty hunter named Miranda (Noé Murayama) shows up. They talk about Jenkins and unseen forces and Miranda is sent off to Ramona to get rid of his bad luck. After a strange ceremony, she gives him the coin that Jenkins gave to her and a Tarot card and sends him on his way. Jenkins kills him a short time later.

    From here, Emiliano decides that it's time for him to hunt Jenkins down and see that justice is served. Along the way, he encounters bad omens like snakes and scorpions, all while being stealthily perused by a stranger named Erick (Ricardo Noriega) with a score to settle of his own.

    Directed by Fernando Durán Rojas in 1974, Hot Snake is a wild mix of spaghetti western-influences, supernatural weirdness and stylish direction. The performances are all pretty strong here, with Carlos East doing a great job as the film’s initial villain and Eric del Castillo really going for it as the bounty hunter who soon finds himself in way over his head. Ricardo Noriega is also very good as the man from Emiliano’s past, and beautiful Christa Linder quiet good in her role, though she isn’t given as much to do as the main male characters. Monica Miguel steals a few scenes as the mystic/bruja Ramona, the impetus for all of the strange, otherworldly elements that fuel the second half of this quickly paced movie.

    Rojas shows strong control over the pacing of the movie from the start, and the cinematography is strong. The movie gets quite violent at times, a few of the shootout scenes are pretty bloody and a bit more sadistic than you’d probably expect them to be. A solid score and a tense atmosphere help to make this one a really strong watch – it goes in some really unexpected directions and is all the better for it.

    Guns And Guts:

    In short? Mexican exploitation whiz kid Rene Cardona Jr. does the Wild Bunch by way of Sergio Leone and his bastard offspring, only not as well.

    Pedro Armendariz Jr. (of Treasure Of The Amazon) and Rogelio Guerra are two escaped convicts who team up to take down a corrupt sheriff (Quintin Bulnes of the dreadful Karloff film, Isle Of The Snake People) who works out of Santa Fe. They travel together and along the way they manage to pick up a third party in the form of a gun for hire played by Jorge Rivero (of Lucio Fulci’s Conquest) who has a taste for poon unrivalled outside of the sex industry – this guy lives to get laid and as such, he has a tendency to spend a little too much time with the whores, waxing nostalgic about their abilities and their free loving ways (well, not free in the financial sense, but you know what I mean).

    The three amigos hit the trail and find their way to Santa Fe and along the way, Armendariz’s character hires Jorge to kill the sheriff for him as he fears that once he’s confronted by him, face to face, he won’t have the guts to pull the trigger. Jorge agrees, but he wants double the usual amount once he finds out that the man he is to kill is an officer of the law. When they finally arrive at their destination, Jorge puts into motion a strange plan to get into the sheriff's inner circle and win his confidence, but it’s a plan that Armendariz and Guerra don’t particularly like. Who will stab who in the back? Will the three guys kill the sheriff or each other? Who will live and who will die? Will Jorge realize his dream of marrying his favorite hooker or go down Bon Jovi style, in a blaze of glory?

    This one moves pretty slowly until the last twenty minutes or so but along the way we are treated to some surprising female nudity (full frontal even!) and an amazing, agonizing death scene in which Jorge shoots some punk in the neck resulting in a slow motion squib fest wherein blood squirts out from this guy’s neck for about a minute and you can’t help but think of the shoot out from Thriller when it happens. A few fistfights and some squabbles here and there keep things from getting boring, but the first two thirds of the film are hardly a model of cinematic thrills. Once we get to the ending, however, all gloves are off and Cardona blatantly rips off Peckinpah’s masterpiece to surprisingly good effect. You want Gatling Guns? You’ve got’em and while it’s not quite the same without Pike and Bishop growling at their foes, the grand finale definitely delivers the goods and makes up for the slow start that hinders the film a little more than it probably should.

    While Guns & Guts isn’t really a remarkable Spaghetti Western/Peckinpah knock off, it is worth seeing for those who enjoy digging up the oddities that sixties and seventies cult westerns offer. It’s slow, but there are some pretty naked ladies and some gore so that will ensure that it at least appeals to a few exploitation films buffs. Some tighter editing and more gun-play could have resulted in a better movie but what we have here isn’t half bad at all.

    Hot Snake / Guns And Guts – Blu-ray Review:

    Hot Snake / Guns And Guts arrive on a 50GB disc in AVC encoded 1080p high definition, each movie framed at 2.35.1 widescreen and taken from 4k restorations of their original 35mm negatives. Hot Snake uses up 22.9GBS and Guns And Guts uses 24.5GBS on the shared 50GB disc. There are a few noticeable vertical scratches on the first feature but otherwise, both of these look excellent. Some tiny white specks show up here and there but for the most part, both images are quite clean and shot excellent detail and color reproduction. There are no noticeable compression artifacts present in either presentation and both transfers are free of any obvious edge enhancement or noise reduction, always looking properly film-like throughout.

    Both films get 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono tracks with optional English subtitles, Hot Snake in Spanish and Guns And Guts in English. Both tracks are fine, balanced and pretty clean. Range is a little limited in spots but overall they sound pretty decent, affording some depth to the score and effects work when called for.

    The only extra on the disc is Guns, Guts And Family, which is a new interview with René Cardona III. It runs fifteen minutes and covers his father's work on Guns And Guts, discussing some of the earlier westerns that he made as an actor. He also talks about his dad's transferring some of the ideas from that movie into Guns And Guts, the influence of Peckinpah and Leone on the movie, a few of his own childhood memories from the shoot, meeting some of the actors, how this was one of the first Mexican films made in Panavision, the importance of this film to his family, how the film was shot in English for the American market and how he feels it is one of his father's best movies.

    Menus and chapter selection options are also provided.

    As far as the packaging goes, Vinegar Syndrome offers this release with an embossed slipcover design by Tony Stella that’s limited to 5,000 copies and available only from their website, as well as some reversible cover sleeve art.

    Hot Snake / Guns And Guts - The Final Word:

    Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu-ray release of Hot Snake / Guns And Guts might not be stacked with extras but it does offer up two really entertaining westerns from South Of The Border in very nice restorations and with an interesting interview providing some history of the second feature on the disc. Recommended!

    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized Hot Snake / Guns And Guts Blu-ray screen caps!

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