Revenge
R0 - America - Indiepix
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (25th January 2019).
The Film

"The following film is one of hundreds that were produced at the height of Apartheid for African audiences with no access to mainstream entertainment.

By early 1990, most of these films simply disappeared.

In 2013, Gravel Road Entertainment Group launced an iniative to locate and digitally restore these forgotten films for present and future generations."


In the "Wild West" of turn-of-the-century South Africa, Cijimpi Shala arrives in a mountain village on foot with his wife and son Kitsu to take possession of the Shabalala farm. He is blissfully ignorant of what happened to the family that owned the farm before him and thinks only of his own family's prosperity; however, the local toughs give him and his family a less-than-warm welcome. While Cijimpi is away in the fields one day, the men show up at the farm, rape and murder his wife, set the farm on fire, and deal Kitsu a head wound that blinds him. Cijimpi seeks help in the village only to be beaten and left for dead. He finds an ally in a mountain hermit who was a great gunfighter until he shot an innocent man and retreated to solitude to live in shame. In spite of the gunman's warnings about all-consuming revenge, Cijimpi insists that he train him to shoot in order to take revenge on his wife's killers.

Although the film's running time of just under an hour which is not unheard of in classic poverty row westerns, Revenge feels more like a "feature-length" western told in digest form. They arrive, they are hassled for no reason, dialogue rather than dissolves or montage denote some passage of time before the attack, and the whole path from peace-loving farmer to ace gunman eats up about half of the remaining twenty minutes. The film is not badly acted, the action choreography is more the victim of editing and coverage than the abilities of the performers, and it appears as if director Coenie Dippenaar or possibly cinematographer Tonie van der Merwe who might be something of a South African auteur with his own contemporary producing and directing credits had some affection for the Leone trilogy and McCabe & Mrs. Miller. The results are still technically rough by even low budget American standards of the period (or even of the decade before that), but Revenge works as a somewhat dodgy throwback to the American westerns of the thirties and forties.

Video

Restored in HD by Gravel Road Entertainment, Revenge probably looks as good as it can in SD. The pillarboxed fullscreen encode on Indiepix's manufactured-on-demand DVD-R is helped by a high bitrate and a source that appears to have been largely free of damage but the faults of the original photography and the print duplication are more responsible for lack of detail in shadows and highlights.
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Audio

The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono encoding of the Zulu mono track gets the job done given the location recording and rudimentary sound editing; however, the hard-encoded English subtitles have some annoying SDH designations like "(cheering)" that remain onscreen longer than necessary.
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Extras

The sole extra is a new trailer (1:42) prepared by the Gravel Road which scores the film with Ennio Morricone's theme from A Fistful of Dollars.

Overall

The results are still technically rough by even low budget American standards of the period (or even of the decade before that), but Revenge works as a somewhat dodgy throwback to the American westerns of the thirties and forties.

 


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