Tuesday, March 9, 2010

SPAGHETTI WESTERN COLLECTIONE

From our friends at VCI comes this new, space-saving, four-film collection of some of the company's previously-released Sixties' Euro-Westerns. The SPAGHETTI WESTERN COLLECTIONE features the titles A BULLET FOR SANDOVAL, ANY GUN CAN PLAY, THE STRANGER'S GUNDOWN and TODAY WE KILL, TOMORROW WE DIE.

A BULLET FOR SANDOVAL (LOS DESPERADOS, 1969) stars George Hilton and Ernest Borgnine in a dark melodrama about a Confederate soldier (Hilton) who deserts his unit on the eve of battle to join his pregnant wife in Mexico. Unfortunately, by the time he arrives, she has died in childbirth and her father (Borgnine) blames him for her death. This is one of the best films in the genre, with strong performances from the leads and effective, atmospheric direction by Julio Buchs and horror-master Lucio Fulci (THE BEYOND).

At the other end of the spectrum is Enzo G. Castellari's (THE INGLORIOUS BASTARDS, 1990: BRONX WARRIORS) lighthearted ANY GUN CAN PLAY (VADO... L'AMMAZZO ETORNO, 1967), a rollicking semi-spoof of the genre which tips its hand in the very first scene when a bounty hunter (George Hilton) guns down three outlaws dressed up like Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Franco Nero. Hilton is joined by Gilbert Roland (THE CISCO KID) and Edd Byrnes (77 SUNSET STRIP) in a twisty, entertaining race for some stolen gold. Castellari is a masterful director of old school film action, and he doesn't disappoint here. AGCP is great fun.

Disc two contains THE STRANGER'S GUNDOWN (DJANGO IL BASTARDO, 1969) another unofficial, unauthorized "sequel" to Sergio Corbucci's seminal DJANGO. This violent, horror-Western features Anthony Steffen as a nearly silent, possibly-supernatural avenger wreaking vengeance upon the men who betrayed him during the Civil War and left him for dead. In many ways similar to Eastwood's HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER, which came out four years later, THE STRANGER'S GUNDOWN is very effectively directed by Sergio Garrone, and though not flawless, it's a pretty damned spooky flick.

The final film in the set is TODAY WE KILL, TOMORROW WE DIE (OGGI A ME... DOMANA A TE! 1968 - and this print carries the onscreen title of TODAY IT'S ME... TOMORROW YOU). Another revenge thriller, this one has a gunman (Montgomery Ford, decked out in an outfit very much like Nero's in DJANGO) released from prison and out to kill the man who murdered his wife. Fast-paced and entertaining, TWK,TWD is a fine entry in the genre with a great cast, including favorite pasta pistoleros Bud Spencer and William Berger.

All four films in VCI's set are presented in anamorphic widescreen, from 35mm prints. BULLET and ANY GUN's aspect ratios appear to be 2.40:1, STRANGER'S 1.85:1, and TODAY looks like 1.66:1. All of the prints show their age, with faded, shifting colors and an overall softness. Nonetheless, they are all very watchable, and none are afflicted with any serious print damage beyond a few specks. Audio is serviceable, is unimpressive. All four films are dubbed into English. There are no extras beyond a handful of vintage Western trailers that play at the beginning of the discs.

If you're a fan of the Spaghetti Western genre and don't already own any of these generally superior titles, VCI's new collection is an inexpensive and convenient way to add them to your collection. None of the transfers are exactly showcase quality, but they're perfectly adequate, and all the movies are worth watching.

BUY: Spaghetti Westerns (Bullet for Sandoval / Any Gun Can Play / Strangers Gun Down / Today We Kill... Tomorrow We Die)