Versatile Italian director Antonio Margheriti appeared as much at home on the range calling the shots on westerns as he did at breeding goose bumps in his horror chillers. Not only did Margheriti helm at least five westerns during his career, including "Dynamite Joe" (1967), "Vengeance" (1968), "And God Said To Cain" (1970), "The Stranger And The Gunfighter" (1974), and "Take A Hard Ride" (1975), but he also made a number of horror movies, too, among them "Horror Castle" (1963), "Castle of Blood" (1964), "Web of the Spider" (1971), "Seven Deaths in a Cat's Eye, " (1973) and "Cannibal Apocalypse" (1980). Mind you, Margheriti did not redefine the western either like Sergio Leone of "A Fistful of Dollars" trilogy or Sergio Corbucci of "Django" did, but he worked within the bounds established by the two Sergios and made some above-average oaters. Margheriti managed something that neither Sergio attempted; he combined western elements with horror elements. All five of Margheriti's westerns are also examples of solid craftsmanship. "And God Said to Cain" stands out as one of his best sagebrushers. This represents the best example of the invincible western hero this side of the grave and spawned Clint Eastwood's supernatural sagebrusher "High Plains Drifter."
The Spaghetti western "And God Said to Cain" is a straightforward but powerfully told revenge yarn and its invincible hero wields death with the same finality that Jason and Michael Myers did in the slasher horror movies of the 1980s. This western casts perennial villain Klaus Kinski as its hero. Gary Thompson has been wrongly imprisoned; he has spent ten years of a life sentence in a brutal prison before the U.S. President gives him a pardon. Kinski's performance as a Union officer framed and convicted for a crime he never committed is a portrait in restraint. Since he is the hero of sorts, his dialogue is typically monosyllabic. He totes a Winchester repeating rifle, wears a red shirt, dark pants, boots, and a large black Stetson tilted back on his head like an historic gold rush forty-niner. The Kinski hero here is as inexorable as death itself; his Winchester serves him like the scythe serves Death. He sets out to kill only the bad guys, and he never deviates from his objective. Although he is severely outnumbered, Thompson displays no sign of fear. Somehow, because he is the hero, Gary Thompson manages to be in all the right places at all the right times. He emerges out of nowhere like a Jason or a Michael Myers on the prowl for their next victim and kills without a qualm. Indeed, the West Germany title for "And God Said to Cain" is "Satan der Rache."
In the Giovanni Addessi & Antonio Margheriti screenplay, Thompson has payback in mind for Acombar (Peter Carsten of "Dark of the Sun"), the double-crossing polecat who framed him for robbing a stagecoach during the Civil War. While Thompson sweated away in prison, Acombar lived in the lap of luxury. He owns a sprawling house, has an army of henchmen on his payroll, and has enough money to buy off anybody no matter how seemingly influential that they may be. Thompson meets Acombar's son Dick (Antonio Cantafora of "Baron Blood") on a stagecoach and we learn that Dick is fresh out of West Point Military Academy. Young Dick knows nothing about his father's devious past. Once Thompson starts knocking off Acombar's minions, the son discovers that his dad was evil incarnate. From the moment that Thompson launches his attack on Acombar, he never makes a wrong move and he dispatches the villains in cool ways. He exploits the Indian burial caves under the town to appear anywhere and kill. Meanwhile, Acombar earns his villainy. He shoots an unarmed preacher twice in cold blood. He is a son of a bitch.
Addessi and Margheriti employ symbolism to good effect. A tornado predicted to be the worst ever experienced sweeps into town about the same time that Thompson arrives; this serves as a metaphorical reference to the inexorable potency of our hero. After Thompson enters town, he jangles Acombar's nerves by having the church bell toll until the white-hat wearing villain is about to go berserk. The bell tolling here is Acombar's conscience just as the heart ticking away to the killer in the famous Poe short-story. These two touches enhance the dramatic value of the film. Furthermore, Margheriti shuns the traditional bells, whistles, and whip crack music that accompanied virtually every Spaghetti western made. The musical cues belong to a horror movie as do the consistently dark interiors and exteriors. Although Kinski is the hero of record, the end credits suggest something entirely different, and the Australian VHS title is "Cain's Revenge." This implies that the heroic Thompson is an anti-hero destined to wander the Earth for an eternity.
The chief problem with "And God Said to Cain" is that the DVD versions available in America are abominable. This movie came out as a widescreen film, but the full frame DVD version ruins the artistry of the compositions on every shot. Moreover, the picture quality is abysmal. The action occurs predominantly after dark and the images are so muddy that only the close-ups register with any clarity. If you watch this DVD movie with the lights off, you may not see anything for long stretches. These significant technical flaws aside, "And God Said to Cain" still ranks as a worthwhile western.