A Fistful of Spaghetti

And a "fistful" in this case is almost 4,500 words. I got a little carried away, but thought maybe this could be a handy reference for some Spaghetti fan out there. I've got more, I just left off there 'cuz of carpal tunnel...

If you have no interest in Spaghetti Westerns, you can always go to my Twitter page and I'll tell you really stoopid jokes about poop and such instead.


And God Said To Cain (C, 1970) aka E Dio Disse a Caino, Cain's Revenge. Klaus Kinski is a guy named Gary Hamilton who gets paroled from a hellish chain gang and goes after the ruthless rancher who framed him and got him sent to prison. When he returns to town there are all sorts of spooky bad omens, such as birds of prey screeching when his name is said, and a tornado that blows through as he rides in. The rancher is so scared of him that he puts a $10,000 bounty on his head, but that's not easy to collect since Kinski's a deadly shot and has a tendency to appear and disappear like a ghost. Director Anthony Dawson (Antonio Margheriti) is most familiar with horror films, and that's pretty much the way he directs this atmospheric Spaghetti Western, filling it with dark scenes and gothic trappings such as tolling bells, howling wind, dripping water. You could probably edit a few minutes of this into Horror Castle without anyone noticing. There's not a lot of story, though -- just people wandering around a stormy night trying to kill Kinski and meeting their own fates instead. That's not bad, but the problem is that the movie is way too dark, and it would be hard to make out what's going on even in a good print... and the print used in the low-budget DVD isn't a good print at all: it's a muddy 2nd-generation full-frame mess. So, until a better version comes out, this is recommended for Spaghetti Western fanatics only.

Between God, The Devil, and a Winchester (C, 1968) aka Anche Nel West C'era Una Volta Dio, God Was In The West Too At One Time A chubby old outlaw named Bob Ford with a ten-grand price on his head is desperate to escape his pursuers and hires a guy with a metal hand to sneak him out of the state... but ends up falling off a roof and dying. Some bandits were also after him, and they still want something they think he was hiding. A boy recovers a map he'd secreted, and he and a man he trusts with it travel off with the metal-handed fella, trying to get to a place called The Valley of the Caves, where a treasure in gold is hidden. On the way they're stalked by bandits, and the guy with the treasure map is a crack shot but also a sworn pacifist who refuses to shoot anybody, even when they get pinned down by the bad guys. Turns out the gold they're looking for was stolen from a church during the Civil War. They're kept guessing about which side the metal-handed guy is really on -- the priest's or the bandits'. There's not enough action in this Spaghetti Western and no style to speak of; it's okay, but nothing special.

Clint The Nevada's Loner
(C, 1967) aka Clint el Solitario, Clint the Stranger, Nevada Clint. Though the title probably loses something in translation and it's stylistically more American-looking than Italian, this Spaghetti Western isn't bad. After six or seven years of hard luck being a wandering gunslinger, a guy named Clint vows to hang up his guns so he can reunite with his wife (who was so ticked at him that she's been claiming to be a widow) and her little son Tom, who takes an immediate liking to Clint even though he doesn't know Clint's really his father. Clint picked a fine time to become peaceful, though, because his wife is one of a group of farmers who are being terrorized by some sadistic gunmen who want their land. Everybody, including Tom, starts thinking that Clint is a coward because he doesn't fight back when the ranchers abuse him. When killings start, though, Clint gets fed up and starts retaliating, first with fists, then with firearms. It's a long wait to see the bad guys get theirs and you have to watch your hero take a whole lot of misery first, but what works in kung fu movies also proves pretty effective in Spaghetti Westerns, so it's worth the wait. The movie's very obviously built on Shane, with lots of matching incidents (even down to a "Clint, come back!" ending - albeit with a slightly different twist). It was followed by a sequel/remake that's paired with this on the DVD, under the where'd-they-come-up-with-that? title of There's a Noose Waiting For You, Trinity!.

Duel in the Eclipse
(C, 1967) aka Requiem Para el Gringo, Requiem for a Gringo. Quirky Spaghetti Western with a weird mystical atmosphere and a plot that keeps you off balance until it's brought together at the end. A bandito and his colorful gang of sadistic weirdoes are terrorizing Arizona, raping women and forcing citizens into duels that they cannot win, just for fun. Then our bizarre antihero, who wears a leopard skin poncho and uses astrology to predict the weather and other natural events, shows up and starts killing them off, usually playing mind games with them first, such as exploiting their superstitions or using a sandstorm to appear and disappear, or terrifying them with stories of how he killed the others. He's out for revenge because they killed his brother, and takes it during a solar eclipse that really freaks his enemies out. The hero's kept offscreen a little too much, but when he takes center stage the movie starts building in strangeness until it's almost at a horror movie level. The style's pretty pedestrian until the climactic battle, where the director goes crazy with the zoom lens. Interesting and unique.

Forgotten Pistolero, The (C, 1969) aka Il Pistolero dell'Ave Maria, Gunman of Ave Maria. Hard-to-follow Spaghetti Western in which a hunted gunman seeks out his childhood friend Sebastian to tell him that he's been living an illusion; his real mother is living in Oaxaca with the man who killed his father. Together they travel to take revenge, and it all gets overly complicated, but there is some decent action and it's all pretty stylish. Director Ferdinando Baldi tries to imitate Leone a few times, and the music score by Roberto Pregadio shows an attempt at Morricone-ness, with its whistling, somber guitar, and trumpets. This looks the part, and its regrettable that the plot doesn't manage to be more involving.

Full House For The Devil
(C, 1968) aka Uno Di Piu All'inferno, One More To Hell, To Hell and Back. Johnny King (George Hilton) is a happy-go-lucky gunslinger who helps a preacher friend protect his ranch from an evil land-grabber whose hobby is shooting watermelons off the heads of running peasants. King gets framed for a murder that happens during a comedic bar brawl (where Hilton's briefly in drag), and while in jail he bonds with another prisoner by fist-fighting over who gets the one bunk. They escape and King helps them rob a bank (using trickery to avoid unnecessary violence), then returns home to find that the land-grabber has killed his preacher friend in his absence. King wants revenge for that and gets help from his bank-robber buddy. He gets some vengeance, including killing the land-grabber's brother, but then he's caught and a slow, painful death is put into operation and there seems no escape. The first twenty minutes of this spaghetti western makes it look like it's going to be one of those obnoxious, unfunny slapstick jobs, but then it turns grim and keeps getting grimmer. Good stuff, especially the ending, which is just badass.

Gatling Gun
(C, 1968) aka Quel Caldo Maledetto Giorno di Fuoco, Damned Hot Day of Fire, Machine Gun Killers. Complex and intrigue-filled Spaghetti Western set during the Civil War. Richard Gatling and the machine gun he designed have both gone missing, and the North and South are both trying to get him, since ownership of the machine gun could decide the course of the war. A half-breed bandit (John Ireland with dark makeup) has both and wants to ransom them to whoever will pay him a million dollars each. A prisoner named Tanner, going under an assumed identity of another prisoner named Grant, is working for the Union to try to find Ireland and recover Gatling, the prototype machine gun, and the million dollars in jewels that the South is trying to use to pay for Ireland's ransom. The skullduggery involved in this endeavor gets pretty convoluted but there are plenty of gunfights. Not to be confused with the 1972 American film of the same name. Includes a surprisingly-gruesome close-up of a bullet being dug out of a wound.

Hills Run Red, The
(C, 1966) aka Un Fiume di Dollari, River of Dollars. Soon after the close of the War Between the States, a couple of buddies, Ken Seagall and Jerry Brewster, are transporting a large sum of money when they're chased by Union troops. Seagall gets away with the money while Brewster gets caught and jailed. Five years alter, Brewster is released from jail and comes home to find that Seagall has killed his wife and stolen his son. Brewster's so determined to get revenge that he even has a tattoo carved off his arm and sent to Seagall so he'll think one of his hit men killed Brewster. Under the cover of being "dead," Brewster sets out to get revenge on Seagall, who's now become a ruthless land baron, stealing from settlers. But he's got a lot of men to protect him from getting his comeuppance, including a young, sleazy Henry Silva. Good Spaghetti Western doesn't boast anything too flashy in terms of style, but the story is good and there's plenty of action, including fistfights, gunfights, and dynamite. Dan Duryea is also in the cast.

Kill The Wicked (C, 1968) aka Dio Non Paga il Sabato, God Does Not Pay On Saturday. After rescuing their leader from hanging, three bandits go to a ghost town to meet up with their equally-vicious female companion and plan out a stagecoach robbery. They pull it off, losing one of their men in the process, then hide out in the ghost town, where the leader hides the gold from the others. They're all already paranoid of each other, but that intensifies when an old lady still living in the ghost town sneaks around setting fires (director Amerigo Anton films some of this like a horror film, and one shot of her peering through a window is an obvious homage to Bava's Kill Baby Kill), and a stranger and a woman who survived a stagecoach wreck show up. One of the perverted bandits gives himself gigglefits by trying to beat the stranger to death. With the help of his trained horse, the well-tenderized stranger turns the tables. Then the wounded friend who they left for dead also shows up, and a big battle over the gold ensues, survivor take all. Decent Spaghetti Western, with plenty of atmosphere in the windswept ghost town. The cartoon opening credits (involving more colors than a bad Hawaiian shirt) are pretty odd and very 60's, and the "Death's the price of gold" theme song matches it well.

Long Ride from Hell, A
(C, 1968) aka Viva Per la Tua Morte, I Live For Your Death. Hercules goes West as Steve Reeves (in his final film, which he also produced and co-wrote) stars in a Spaghetti Western. Some outlaws frame Reeves and his brother for a train robbery and they're sent to Yuma Prison, which is so harsh it looks like the Circle of Hell reserved for puppy-rapists. Reeve's brother dies from abuse by the guards, but Reeves manages to stage a breakout, which sees most of the guards dead. He escapes into the badlands and deals with Mexican bounty hunters, then he goes after the bandits who framed him in the first place, while evading the law. (What good clearing his name would do after he's killed about a dozen prison guards, I don't know, but we're probably not supposed to notice that). The film briefly loses its grit with an absurdly out-of-place comedic bar brawl scene (complete with rinky-tink piano music that'd be more appropriate for a plate-spinner act) but mostly remains grim and brutal, with action scenes that are far better than average. Reeves is almost unrecognizable without the beard, but makes as effective a badass cowbody as he does a mythic muscleman, and the plot does a good job of making the bad guys so evil that you really want to see him get revenge, and an even better job of seeing that it doesn't come easily.

Matalo! (C, 1970) aka Kill Him! One of the most bizarre Spaghetti Westerns. A prematurely-grey (and apparently somewhat psychotic) bandit is snatched from the noose by an outlaw gang... whom he promptly kills for their trouble. Then he hooks up with his crime partners in a dusty, windy ghost town (which, judging from the whispering noises the wind makes, may have actual ghosts). Using it as a base, they get back to work robbing stagecoaches for gold shipments. Then a few thirsty passersby show up in the ghost town and the bandits terrorize them until one of them busts loose and starts fighting back using boomerangs. Somebody slipped some LSD into the spaghetti sauce on this one, and it's more El Topo than Fistful of Dollars, with a soundtrack that's half blaring fuzz-rock and half horror movie weirdness, cowboys who look more like Manson Family hippies than anything else, and long stretches of slow motion and freakish camera angles. Way way way more style than substance (there's hardly any dialogue and lots of footage of people sitting around doing nothing) but that style is interesting enough to carry it and make it worth seeking out.

Badass fuzzadelic theme song...

Payment in Blood
(C, 1967) aka Sette Winchester per un Massacro, Seven Winchesters For A Massacre, Renegade Riders, Winchester for Hire, The Final Defeat, Texas 1867, Blake's Marauders. After the end of the Civil War, Confederate Colonel Blake (Guy Madison) refuses to quit and leads a gang of bandits who terrorize the West, looting, burning, and murdering anyone they meet. Edd "Kookie" Byrnes is a government agent who infiltrates the gang by claiming to know the whereabouts of some stolen money that was hidden during the war. Director Enzo D. Castellari keeps the emphasis on action (including lots of fires), which keeps this good-but-fairly-average Spaghetti Western moving at a fast clip.

Red Sun
(C, 1971) aka Soliel Rouge, The Magnificent Three. Charles Bronson (with his hair long) and his gang hold up a train carrying the Japanese ambassador, who's carrying a gold-encrusted sword that's supposed to be a gift for the president. One of Bronson's men (Alain Delon) steals the sword, leaves Bronson for dead, and takes off. One of the samurai (Toshiro Mifune) sent to guard the sword has seven days to recapture it or he'll have to commit hara kiri, and he forces Bronson to help him track down the gang. After fighting each other for a while, they become buddies and kidnap Delon's girlfriend (Ursula Andress) to trade her for the gold. The big problem is that Mifune swears to kill Delon on sight, while Bronson wants to keep him alive long enough to make him tell where the gold is hidden. The movie emphasizes the comedy a little too much for my taste, but also has good action scenes, and it's great seeing two of the greatest cinema badasses ever work together.

Watch carefully, because you'll seldom see Charles Bronson get manhandled like this by anybody else...

Ringo The Lone Rider
(C, 1968) aka Dos Hombres Van a Morir, Two Brothers One Death In the aftermath of the Civil War, Confederate Bill Anderson retains some of his troops, which he uses as a bandit gang to rob banks. There are supposed to be Pinkerton detectives after them, but no one knows who these Pinkerton agents might be. A guy named Captain Bligh interferes when Anderson tries to hang a couple of miners he suspects of being Pinkertons, but Bligh still gets suspected of working with Anderson's gang. The gang goes on the run and comes across a group of traveling Mormons. They massacre them all, intending to take their place and run a ranch they've bought, and carry on their bandit business with no suspicion, since everyone will think they're devout Mormons. That plan lasts about five minutes since they can't behave and get in a barroom brawl. After a few more chases and shoot-outs, we get a big revelation... part of which is that there's nobody in the movie called Ringo. Bland, very average Spaghetti Western is devoid of style and burdened by some really terrible dubbed fake Southern accents.

Tequila Joe
(C, 1968) aka ...e Venne il Tempo di Uccidere, And Then A Time For Killing, Time and Place for Killing. Two rival gangs - one run by a guy named Mulligan, the other by Trianis - run rampant in an isolated town because the sheriff, Tequila Joe, is a stumbling gutter drunk who makes no effort to keep law and order because it gets in the way of his drinking. A new deputy is sent in, and he takes the job much more seriously and struggles to clean up Sheriff Tequila Joe so he'll have some help in cleaning up the rest of the town. He has little luck with that, but the deputy's badass enough to make quite a dent in the criminal activity by himself. After he whittles down the ranks of the gangs, Mulligan sends for more men -- the Crawfords -- and they're too tough to handle alone, so Tequila Joe will have drag himself out of the gutter long enough to shoot some people. There's not much style to this film, but the storyline's good enough to carry it and make it a worthwhile Spaghetti Western.

Texas, Adios (C, 1967) aka Texas Addio, Goodbye Texas, The Avenger. Spaghetti Western starring Franco Nero as a sheriff who decides its time to avenge his father's death, so he and his younger brother head off into Mexico, looking for a bandit named Cisco Delgado. Before they can turn him up they run into plenty of other bandits and end up killing quite a few of them. When Franco tracks Delgado down he plans to take him back to Texas to stand trial, but there's a complication: he learns that Delgado is his brother's real father! Still, Franco is as determined to bring him in as Delgado is not to be taken, so much struggle results. Decent Spaghetti Western hampered just a bit by some really terrible opening music and a rather incidental plot. It also bugged me a bit that Franco's clothes look like the inspiration for Indiana Jones (I hate Indiana Jones), but that's just me; his performance is cool as always, there's no shortage of action, and the music does improve after that opening song. I had hesitated on picking this up because I'd heard that it was too "American style," but fear not, it's firmly spaghettified.

They Call Him Graveyard (C, 1971) aka Gli Fumavano le Colt... lo Chiamavano Camposanto, A Bullet For A Stranger, They Call Him Cemetery, His Pistols Smoked... They Call Him Cemetery. A pair of super-gunfighters (Gianni Garko and William Berger, who look exactly alike -- at first I thought it was a dual role) are operating in a town that's being controlled by a gang that's running a protection racket. A couple of brothers from Boston, who have more courage than sense or skill, stand up to them. One of the gunfighters, who's extremely Sartana-like (Garko) takes pity on them and trains them to use guns. They're very quick studies. Their two Mexican sidekicks never pick up the gun skill, but they can throw knives well enough to pluck cards out of the air. People start calling the Sartana-like gunfighter "Cemetery" (partially because he puts people there, and partially because it's implied that he's the sole survivor of a massacre that killed his wife and children, who are buried in nameless graves that he visits), but he's also known as "the Ace of Hearts." The bad guys hire the other gunfighter, Duke, to take him on... plus they're after the same cache of stolen money. The movie has a lot of comedic elements, but they're not overbearing, and mostly this plays like a Sartana movie, in that it's mostly played straight but there's no way you can take it seriously because of the supernatural level of the skills the characters have. Some okay cinematic style and an interesting musical score.

They Call Me Trinity
(C, 1971) aka Lo Chiamavano Trinitia, My Name is Trinity, Just Call Me Trinity. Spaghetti Western that's a satire of the rest of the genre was a major hit which (unfortunately, to my thinking) led to a lot more Italian "Western comedies" and (not as unfortunately) led to a lot more movies teaming up stars Terrence Hill and big Bud Spencer. Hill is Trinity, "the Right Hand of the Devil," a lazy gunfighter who drifts around the West, sleeping on travois dragged by his horse, wearing filthy rags and seldom bathing, eating a lot, and effortlessly gunning down all opposition with lightning speed. Spencer is his half-brother Bambino, "the Left Hand of the Devil," who's also very fast with a gun but usually settles conflicts with brute force. He's not a big fan of his slovenly brother, but teams up with him to take on a gang of bad guys who are trying to run off a group of peaceable Mormon settlers. Lots of ridiculous slapstick action results. It's amazing that a movie so goofy and silly became such a huge international hit, because there's really not much to it once you get past the first half hour and the Mormons show up, but Hill and Spencer and likeable and charismatic, and the film does have some style (when it's not overbearingly cartoonish), including a catchy-as-hell theme song. I remember when one of the three big TV networks aired this as the movie of the week, and now you can find it and its sequel (Trinity is Still My Name) together on one DVD for about a dollar.

Try to get that theme song out of your head... I dare ya... And beans: it's what's for dinner.

Three Bullets for Ringo (C, 1966) aka 3 Colpi di Winchester per Ringo, Three Graves for a Winchester. Mickey Hargitay is Ringo Carson, a hired gun who decides to settle down and become a sheriff, as well as protect his mom from a ruthless land baron. Then the Civil War breaks out, and during a raid by Ringo's estranged friend, Ringo has to rescue his son from a burning house. A falling timber hits Ringo's head, leaving him blind. Soon after, Ringo's old friend kills his mother, steals his wife, and kidnaps his son. There's not much Ringo can do about it... until another blow on the head restores his sight. Then Ringo sets out for revenge, utilizing some weapons he confiscated from an armory, such as dynamite and a multi-barreled cannon. The shootouts are sloppy and chaotic and the plot's confusing and uninvolving, making this a lesser Spaghetti Western, although it does have its moments. Some of the music is re-used from Tomb of Torture, and it's even more out of place in this than it was in that. Not lacking in action, although it's kind of ridiculous; the guns never seem to need reloading, and despite all the firing, few people die.

Today It's Me... Tomorrow, You! (C, 1968) aka Ogga a Me... Domani a Te!, Today We Kill, Tomorrow We Die. Top-notch Spaghetti Western with Montgomery Ford (aka Brett Halsey) as Bill Kiowa, a man framed for a crime committed by a bandit named Elfego (Japanese actor Tatsuya Nakadai passing for half-breed Commanchero), who also killed his wife. Kiowa thinks of nothing but revenge, spending all his prison time practicing fast draws with a wooden pistol he carved. When he's released he recovers a cache of stolen money and uses it to hire four expert gunmen (including big Bud Spencer, who's playing a non-comic version of the same sort of character he played in the Trinity films) to help him take on Elfego's marauding band of Commancheros. The script (co-written by Dario Argento!) has good pacing and the action scenes are well-shot and have some variety; some of the bad guys end up stabbed or hung instead of just shot, and time is taken to build suspense. Elfego's use of a machete makes him a more-fearsome adversary than usual (and gives Nakadai a chance to show off kendo forms), and there's a sawed-off rifle in the mix, just for coolness. I'd worried that this might be a comedy because of the presence of Spencer and a too-breezy title score, but it's dead serious. The long-lamented Carribbean Superstation used to play an especially-skangy looking print of this, but VCI's DVD looks nice and sharp, if somewhat faded.

Twice A Judas (C, 1969) aka They Were Called Graveyard, Due Volte Guida, Shoot Twice. Any Spaghetti Western that begins with a "dead" man reviving to shoot at the buzzards that are trying to eat him can't be all bad. Our hero (Antonio Sabato, who keeps a moronic pout on his face throughout the movie) wakes up with amnesia, but the other guy with him wasn't so lucky, so the buzzards have something to eat after all. He finds a rifle with the name "Dingus" on it, but when he gets to town a man he apparently has some business with identifies him as Luke Barrett. He learns that he's agreed to kill his own brother for money, but when the time comes he renigs on the deal and kills his partner instead (nailing him with one shot from a six gun after the guy's missed him about a dozen times with a scope-equipped sniper rifle -- yep, it's one of those movies). His brother (Klaus Kinski) thought he died in the Civil War, and his mother's too insane to give him much family history, although he does figure out that he had another brother and a pregnant wife who were killed by Yankees. While he struggles to remember his past and learn the identity of "Dingus" (that's a helluva embarrassing name to have to go around asking people about), Kinski is muscling homesteaders not to sell their land to his rival and sneaking Mexicans over the border as farm labor. There's lots of hard-to-believe plot elements in this (any time a character has amnesia in a film, start taking notes) but they try to make up for it by brining in a giant riot gun for the finale. The film does a pretty good job of keeping us confused (like the amnesiac protagonist) for a while, and having us put the story together as he does is a nice effect. Average spaghetti.

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