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Star of the Month: Rita Hayworth
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Remind Me

The Bastard

Even before Rita Hayworth refers to her gangster sons Giuliano Gemma and Klaus Kinski as "my lion cub... and my man-eating tiger," the Italo-French-German co-production The Bastard (aka I bastardy, aka The Cats, 1968) reveals itself as an updating of the myth of Romulus and Remus, legendary brothers who fought to the death on the ground where the Eternal City of Rome would one day rise. Joan Crawford originally had Hayworth's role, of a boozy old tart who handles an automatic better than she does her liquor or her children, but artistic differences prompted Crawford to abandon ship in preproduction. (The 50 year-old Hayworth would make only three more films before retiring after 1972, largely due to the onset of Alzheimer's disease.) Filmed primarily in Spain (with tourist board footage of New Mexico playing out under the opening titles), The Bastard bridges the gap between the Italian western (Tessari had collaborated with Sergio Leone on A Fistful of Dollars) and the burgeoning Italo-crime films. The result is the best of both worlds; though set against a backdrop of chic modernism, The Bastard hews close to spaghetti western SOP, most notably in the pivotal scene in which Gemma suffers a Django-style hand injury in the lead-up to the film's bloody final frames: a fraternal mano a mano interrupted by an earthquake! Notable among the film's supporting cast is former Bond girl Claudine Auger.

Richard Harland Smith

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