DVD Review: Spaghetti Westerns and More Spaghetti Westerns

In the wake of A Fistful of Dollars‘ international success, Italian filmmakers beat a hasty path to the wilds of Spain to claim their share of the Western genre that had enriched Hollywood. Plenty of Spaniards struck it rich renting out cowboy hats and holsters to the visiting producers. How big was this movement? Over 600 Spaghetti Westerns were made during the ’60s and ’70s. They went far beyond Django, Trinity and Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name series. Although many of the producers would do their best to make you think the movie booked stars like the real Django, Trinity or Clint Eastwood. The movie posters reused power words such as “Dollars,” “Fists” and “Few” to sound like a sequel. This included dozens of Dollar titled movies. Hundreds of European actors had their names changed to make American audiences think these films might star minor characters from Gunsmoke. However this isn’t that foreign to the genre since John Wayne wasn’t the Duke’s birth name. Why shouldn’t Giuliano Gemma get a Wild West appropriate marquee name, too? Timeless Media has put out Spaghetti Westerns and More Spaghetti Westerns as part of their Movies 4 You series. Thrill to eight more titles in a cinematic subgenre was as huge as Texas even if it was played by Spain. Both films have the legendary Ennio Morricone scoring the action.

Spaghetti Westerns begins with A Pistol for Ringo (1965 – 93 minutes). Duccio Tessari had worked on the script for A Fistful of Dollars so it made sense for him to make his own western. Ringo is set up to be a big time badass when he kills four guys in the opening. He gets brought up on charges. But a parole deal is quickly set up when the mayor has his family taken hostage. Ringo needs to infiltrate the outlaws and rescue the family. Ringo is played by Giuliano Gemma who was reamed Montgomery Wood in the USA. Depending on the dub, the gunman Ringo is also called Angel Face. Clint Eastwood’s character was also nicknamed Angel. Coincidence? This cowboy was named so that viewers might think it’s western starring The Beatles’ Ringo Starr. The movie proved popular so that they quickly cranked out a sequel which had Tessari calling the shots and Gemma back in the saddle for The Return of Ringo (1965 – 96 minutes). This time Ringo has returned from the Civil War only to realize he lost the ultimate battle. Mexican bandits have taken over his house and the leader is about to marry his woman. He has to once more infiltrate the bad guys, but this time it’s personal. In case you’re wondering Gemma is still acting. He was a hotel manager in Woody Allen’s To Rome With Love. Gemma stopped being Ringo after the two films, but that didn’t stop the name from being abused by others. Like Django, Ringo was fair game. Ringo: Face of Revenge (1967 – 97 minutes) made Anthony Steffen, the new face of Ringo. He was also the new face of Django in Some Dollars For Django. This new installment has Ringo looking for a lost treasure using a map that’s tattooed on an outlaw’s back. Turns out the other side of the map is on a sheriff’s back. Can Ringo unite these two so he can make a big score? While not a Ringo film, the title Shoot, Gringo…Shoot! (1968 – 91 minutes) might confuse a movie goer into thinking Ringo shows up. Who does show up is Brian Kelly (Flipper), a real American actor. He’s in major trouble and his only hope for escaping a visit with the noose is rescuing a rich man’s son from an outlaw gang. The gang is run by Keenan Wynn (Dr. Strangelove). Kelly gains their trust by orchestrating a train robbery. But can he make the big escape with his target in tow?

More Spaghetti Westerns is all about dollars, blood and bullets. Blood for a Silver Dollar (1965 – 90 minutes) brings back Giuliano Gemma although he’s not Ringo. He’s just Gary O’Hara, a confederate soldier back from the war. He gets a job hunting down an outlaw named Black Jack. Little does he know that he’s really been hired to kill someone close to him. Can he follow through with the contract? 10,000 Dollars for a Massacre (1967 – 93 minutes) is another Django flick with Gianni Garko (Gary Hudson in America) as the gunman. He’s hunting down an outlaw with a major price on his head. However Django decides to join up with the guy to help him in a robbery that could be more profitable. Seven Dollars on the Red (1966 – 94 minutes) has a son kidnapped by ruthless outlaws. His dad (Steffan) spends years tracking his son, but will it be too late when he reunites? Has his son become a creature of evil? A more hardcore version of The Searchers‘ storyline. A Bullet for Stranger (1971 – 98 minutes) brings back Garko as a mysterious gunman who helps out two naive brothers. It’s not quite a Django film. But it might as well be for Garko.

Spaghetti Westerns and More Spaghetti Westerns do a fine job of collecting 8 movies from the height of subgenre’s box office glory. These were films that understood how to exploit the old West in the Old World. The 8 titles truly get a fine sample of the 600 productions that sprung up in the frontier of Spain. Having both of the Ringo movies gives them a chance to be appreciated like the Django and Trinity titles.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame with the movies letterboxed to their proper aspect ratios. The transfers are rather low resolution since each has the 4 films on 1 DVD. These do not look nearly as nice as Timeless’ recent Django double features. However the lack of detail helps you not notice the dub lip issues. The movies are in mono with English dubs. Don’t complain about the lack of an Italian soundtrack. Rarely did these productions have a boom microphone since the international casts didn’t need to spend time learning phonetic Italian or English. These low budget productions could move fast if all that matter was moving your lips like Mister Ed so the voice talent could dub things back in Rome for the various territories.

There are no bonus features.

Spaghetti Westerns and More Spaghetti Westerns is a fine selection of films made by Italian producers in the wilderness of Spain. The two Ringo films are essential viewing for fans wanting to go beyond the Clint Eastwood titles. The lack of resolution means that the movies are fine for viewing on the small TV in your horse trailer. The sets are priced low.

Timeless Media Group presents Spaghetti Westerns and More Spaghetti Westerns. Starring: Giuliano Gemma, Gianni Gako and Anthony Steffen. Each Set Has: 4 movies on 1 DVD. Released: July 9, 2013. Spaghetti Westerns and More Spaghetti Westerns are available at Amazon.com.


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