A Minute to Pray, a Second to Die (1968) Blu-ray Review: And Nearly Two Hours to Snooze

Kino Lorber unholsters one of the most boring, cynical, shallow, and violent attempts to cash-in on the Spaghetti Western craze.
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If you had the good fortune to grow up in or around video rental stores during the '80s and '90s, then there's a darn good chance you saw a very generic-looking videocassette cover for A Minute to Pray, a Second to Die (Un minuto per pregare, un istante per morire) on the shelf at one point or another. I know I certainly did, and I was always a little put off by the lack of its "enticing" artwork. Nevertheless, when teenaged me beget his Spaghetti Western phase and I had burned through all of the more popular-looking titles, Franco Giardi's fourth and final contribution to the genre inevitably wound up on my VHS playlist.

Alas, it really didn't thrill me all that much. In fact, I vividly recall being just a tad on the bored side by the film as a kid (apart from some chuckles over the hilariously awful dubbing, that is), which prevented me from re-experiencing the film as time marched on and improvements in the home video arena (i.e. DVD) were made. More than two-and-a-half decades later, A Minute to Pray, a Second to Die caught up with me thanks to this Blu-ray release from Kino Lorber Studio Classics.

Here, the one and only Alex Cord (The Scorpio Letters, that forgotten remake of Stagecoach) ‒ still desperately trying to make a name for himself (to the point where he did his own stunts, even) ‒ stars as a vicious outlaw named McCord (gee, how original). Plagued by mysterious seizures which remind him of his horrific past, McCord faces the possibility of a future thanks to an offer of amnesty by New Mexico governor Robert Ryan (Bad Day at Black Rock, Inferno). Alas, between a plethora of brutal (and badly dubbed) bounty hunters and desperados alike, to say nothing of vindictive marshall Arthur Kennedy (The Lusty Men, The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue), he might not make it.

Highlighted (?) by several decidedly shockingly violent moments (even by today's standards), A Minute to Pray, a Second to Die is probably one of the most cynical spaghetti westerns I have ever seen outside of The Great Silence (released the same year). Sadly, it's nowhere near as good as that film; rather, A Minute to Pray, a Second to Die is a decidedly shallow movie featuring some wholly uninteresting characters and absolutely no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Even if you are fans of the flim's "marquee value" stars (Cord, Kennedy, Ryan), it can be quite the disappointing ride altogether. Yes, it still bored me. Even as it brought me down with its overwhelming aroma of pessimism and emptiness. But whatever.

A Minute to Pray, a Second to Die receives another chance at redemption thanks to Kino Lorber Studio Classics, who have released the title to Blu-ray via a slightly worn ‒ but nevertheless, beautiful ‒ HD transfer. The disc presents us with a fresh 4K scan taken from the negative of the original US cut of the film in a 1.85:1 ratio with an above-average DTS-HD MA Mono soundtrack and optional (SDH) subtitles. You'll note I refer to this as the "original US cut", as the international version of the film is (get ready) even longer and with more sadistic imagery. As no one has uncovered the original film elements of the downer extended ending, we get to see it here culled from an old Japanese VHS print.

As is becoming fairly customary with Kino Lorber's spaghetti western releases, A Minute to Pray, a Second to Die includes a bonus audio commentary by filmmaker/enthusiast Alex Cox, who also chimes in for the alternate ending extra. Additional special features for this title include trailers for Navajo Joe, A Fistful of Dollars, Death Rides a Horse, The Mercenary, and A Fistful of Dynamite.

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