"His calling card was a toy drummer ... his business was death!" [All together now: "Oooooooooo ...!!"] Rossano played the Sheriff, however, which means that instead of a toy drummer, his calling card was a little more (deep voice) MANLY. [All together now: "Ahhhhhhhhhh ....!"]Background
According to Tom Betts of Westerns ... all'Italiana!, Rossano made two Italian westerns in his career: the first was the first Italian western ever made: Una donna dell'ovest (1942), and this is the second. It was a joint Italian-British production, and was first released in Italy, in 1971.Synopsis/Reviews
One of the more fascinating aspects of an Italian western, for an American, is the marked difference in style between the two: Italians, it seems, never tried to copy the American western, but rather used the basic elements of American westerns to create an unmistakably Italian film. The effect, for an American, is fascinating and sometimes even jarring: "it looks like a western, but ..."
The basic story line: Ty Hardin plays a man whose wife and son were murdered by a gang of outlaws. His wife, a Native American, was raped and murdered along with their only son, and their home burnt to the ground. The only item he found in the rubble was a mechanical toy drummer, a present he had given to his son.
He is now set on revenge. One by one, he hunts down each of the gang members and shoots them, but not before setting a toy drummer on the ground, winding it up and saying, "When it stops, make your play" (i.e., draw and shoot). He takes on the disguise of a bearded religious fanatic and proceeds to wreak havoc upon the (unnamed) town where the gang resides.
The Sheriff of the town is played by Rossano.
The film may be an Italian western, but it was filmed in England, so the landscape is unidentifiable and unfamiliar, and the film was dubbed into English -- even Rossano was dubbed and he was speaking English.
The stylistic Italian aspects are immediately evident: the brief, sudden shifts in camera angles, one right after the other, the sudden "zoom" of the lens (Americans tend to use more sweeping, panoramic shots); the intense focus on emotional reactions, rather than physical action, accomplished by repeated close-ups of each characters' eyes, in quick succession. The background music is a uniquely Italian one.
American men, for whom American westerns are created and by whom they are made, seem to be only comfortable saving the close, intimate, "look into the eyes" shots for brief moments preceding a violent action - a death, or an intuitive awakening that changes a character's direction, or understanding of unfolding events. Italian men are far more comfortable establishing an intimate relationship between the viewer and the character, and in this case, we focus on Rossano's character's eyes as he reacts to events with concern, wariness, thoughtfulness, suspicion. In the final scene we are drawn further into his character via a nightmare he has, and realize that all along he wasn't the honest, law abiding Sheriff we thought he was.
Other interesting stylistic differences: they use the sound of muffled gunshots for the sound of punches (we tend to rely more on muffled "flesh-on-flesh" clapping sounds), and their depiction of native Americans is far more dignified in nature but more stereotypical in dress and appearance.
Finally, if the real inhabitants of the early American west had wasted as many bullets as these guys did, shooting each other three or four times, shooting at the dark, at empty air, at everything that moved, they would have run out of bullets long before the next Wells Fargo wagon arrived with fresh supplies. One of the reasons sharpshooters became such mythical heroes in the real American west was: they could do the job with one bullet, and out in a wilderness where supply wagons were few, and the only men able to make replacements (usually blacksmiths) were limited, that was a life-saving skill.