This is the least known and undoubtedly least effective of the six spaghetti westerns directed by Alberto Cardone. Cardone is a little known figure outside of fan circles, but as a former assistant director of some distinction (he worked on Ben Hur (59) and Morgan the Pirate (60) among other big budget productions) he carved something of a niche out for himself in the genre, proving himself to be something of a low budget auteur with his distinctively Gothic, operatic films which generally highlighted family trauma and the inescapability of fate (concerns which were also of key importance to the melodrama genre which was so popular in Italy in the 1950s).
Unfortunately, 20,000 dollari sul 7 offers only glimpses of his vision. It seems to have been made on the cheap, as is witnessed by the presence Roberto Miali, who featured as a supporting character in the director’s earlier Seven Dollars on the Red (66) and Blood at Sundown (66), in the lead role. The plot – which Miali also co-wrote – sees Jerry (Miali) arrive in town with a couple of semi-comic henchmen (Teodoro Corra and Hector Boilleaux) in tow, set on having his revenge upon the man who killed his brother during a raid on their ranch fifteen years earlier. Trouble is, he doesn’t know who the killer is, just that he’s somewhere in town. Not to worry, as just about the only plausible suspect is saloon owner Adriano Micantoni, who also demonstrates a suspicious ability to shoot while holding his gun behind his back (exactly like the man who killed Jerry’s brother, natch).
It’s a flimsy plot, with little in the way of plot development or distinction. It seems to have been dreamed up on the fly, with many aspects totally unexplained – Jerry’s background is never fleshed out, his possible misconceptions about his brother’s death never clarified – or taken for granted. It’s almost like you’ve been plunged into the middle of a story which has happened off screen, without ever knowing quite what’s happened outside of the fragments you’re seeing.
Cardone also does a lacklustre job. He does try to give it an interesting look, with cinematographer Gino Santini using numerous idiosyncratic camera angles, but it lacks the visual and narrative crescendos of, for instance, Seven Dollars on the Red and Blood at Sundown. Perhaps realising the mediocrity of it all there are some attempts to divert the attention by including unconvincing comic elements, but this is a slapdash affair that doesn’t stand up to the director’s other work.