A Reason to Live, a Reason to Die (originally titled Una Ragione Per Vivere E Una Per Morire, also known as Massacre at Fort Holman) is a 1972 Technicolor Italian spaghetti western movie starring James Coburn.
Many exterior scenes were filmed at the Fort Bowie set built in the Province of Almería, Spain, where the desert landscape and climate that characterizes part of the province have made it a much utilized setting for Western films, among those A Fistful of Dollars, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and later 800 Bullets. The Fort Bowie set was originally built for the film The Deserter.
There are two different English language versions of the movie, shorter with James Coburn's own voice and longer with different voice actors and music. James Coburn was not involved in longer cut dubbing.
This is a story derivative of The Dirty Dozen, but set during the American Civil War. Eli is to be hanged for looting, when he and some other men condemned to death are pardoned, providing that they follow former US colonel Pembroke in an attempt to recapture Ft Holman, which he earlier had surrendered to the Confederate army.
The "volunteers" are a deserter who have killed two sentries, a man who has murdered his commanding officer and raped the wife of the victim, a horse-thief, two looters, one who has stolen medicine so soldiers have died, and an Indian ”bastard” who has killed a white man that sold liqueur to the Apaches. However, the one presented as ”the worst of the bunch” – a religious pacifist agitator - declines the offer and is hanged!
Pembroke holds the group together by saying that he really is after a treasure of gold hidden inside the fort. At Ft Holman Eli gains entrance as a Confederate orderly in a stolen uniform. He realises that there is no gold, and also learns that the present commander Ward used Pembroke’s son to blackmail him into giving up the fort. Then Ward killed the son anyway. When Eli is exposed he produces a paper (also stolen) to show that he is a security officer, and criticises the lack of security. Ward plans to save his own hide by executing the "security officer,” but the others are let in by Eli and attack the garrison. After the battle only Pembroke and Eli stand as survivors. Pembroke kills Ward with his own sword and the two survivors leave together.James Coburn as Col. Pembroke
Bud Spencer as Eli Sampson (Was one of Pembroke's unit to take Fort Holman)
Telly Savalas as Major Ward
Fabrizio Moresco as Ward's Assistant
Reinhard Kolldehoff as Sergeant Brent (Was one of Pembroke's unit to take Fort Holman)
José Suarez as Major Charles Ballard
Georges Géret as Sergeant Spike
Ugo Fangareggi as Ted Wendel (Was one of Pembroke's unit to take Fort Holman)
Guy Mairesse as Donald MacIvers (Was one of Pembroke's unit to take Fort Holman)
Benito Stefanelli as Piggott
Adolfo Lastretti as Will Fernandez (Was one of Pembroke's unit to take Fort Holman)
Joe Pollini as Jeremy (Indian) (Was one of Pembroke's unit to take Fort Holman)
Ángel Álvarez as Scully the Monger
Francisco Sanz as Farmer
Sharin Sher as April
A Reason to Live, A Reason to Die was released in Italy on 27 October 1972 in Italy where it was distributed by Cidif. The film had a domestic gross of 1,960,071,000 Italian lire. The film was later released on 27 December 1972 in West Germany, 6 August 1973 in Spain, and 29 May 1974 in France. It received a released in the United States 1974 August 28.
In his investigation of narrative structures in Spaghetti Western films, Fridlund discusses A Reason to Live, a Reason to Die mostly in terms of the "infiltrator" plot introduced in A Fistful of Dollars, where The Man With No Name joins a gang with hidden agendas of his own. Eli is an infiltrator entering the fort and piling one false motive on top of the other to cover his true intentions. In fact, the same goes for Pembroke - pitting his rather involuntary companions against the Confederates with a false monetary motive beside the official, to re-conquer Ft Holman for the Union, while his real hidden motive is vengeance.
Wild East has released the full uncut version with around 30 minutes extra footage on an out-of-print limited edition R0 NTSC DVD in the film's original widescreen aspect ratio with the title A Reason to Live, a Reason to Die.