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Category:    Home > Reviews > Western > Spaghetti Western > Italy > Spain > Spaghetti Western Collectione (Any Gun Can Play/A Bullet For Sandoval/The Strangers Gundown/Today We Kill, Tomorrow We Die/VCI DVD Set)

Spaghetti Western Collectione (Any Gun Can Play/A Bullet For Sandoval/The Strangers Gundown/Today We Kill, Tomorrow We Die/VCI DVD Set)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: D     Films:


A Bullet for Sandoval: C

Any Gun Can Play: B

The Strangers Gundown: C-

Today We Kill, Tomorrow We Die: B-   



Perhaps one of the more unusual and financially lucrative genre spin-offs in the history of film is the Spaghetti Western.  Originally conceived to fill the gap in Europe caused by the decline of Hollywood Westerns at the end of the 1950’s, the Spaghetti Western became a law unto itself, eventually influencing the very cinema it had hoped to replace.


The elements composing films of this sort are simple; filmed in a European locale representative of the American West (usually desert areas of Spain), with unusual cinematography (long shots, quick zooms, intense close-ups, erratic cutting), extreme violence, perhaps an American actor or two, an alluring, often amoral anti-hero, moth eaten serapes, boatloads of cheroots, a revenge motif or three, a jarring soundtrack, and an unapologetic if slightly naïve swagger, these films were universally panned by critics and eaten up by large, appreciative audiences around the world.


The four films in the Spaghetti Western Collectioné are decidedly second tier, B movie versions of an already B movie genre, yet that is part of the appeal.


A Bullet For Sandoval (aka Los desesperados) stars American actor Ernest Borgnine (McHale’s Navy, Marty) and George Hilton, who was featured in many a film in this genre.  The plot is cockamamie; a confederate soldier deserts in order to join his lover in Mexico.  By the time he arrives, she dies in childbirth and her hard-assed father, Sandoval, inexplicably gives the child to the man who he wouldn’t even let see the corpse.  Like many of these films, it would be generous to describe them as picaresque; haltingly episodic is more like it.  All the above mentioned clichés are here.  The film shifts gears as the Hilton character, John Warner, assembles a gang ultimately to exact revenge on Don Pedro Sandoval.  Directed by Julio Buchs, the film never manages to transcend its plot issues though it does provide the occasional interesting moments and does have the best line of all 4 movies, though certain aspects of the direction are competent.  While in Mexico, a group is confronted in a village, prompting one member to respond, “We’re all Presbyterians here.”


Any Gun Can Play (aka Vado... l'ammazzo e torno and Go Back & Come Back) is the most direct send-up of the early Clint Eastwood films, also starring George Hilton as The Stranger.  The film also stars two high profile American actors, matinee idol Gilbert Roland as bad guy Monetero and Edd “Kookie” Byrnes, early TV teen idol (TV’s original 77 Sunset Strip), as bank employee Clayton, who first tries to protect and then recover a train car load of gold.  Directed by Enzo Castellari, who went on to direct the original Inglorious Bastards, Any Gun Can Play is the most amusing of these films precisely because it doesn’t take itself so seriously.  Sure there are a lot of incongruities but there are also lots of interesting camera angles and more double dealing than half a dozen James Bond flicks.


The Strangers Gundown (aka Django Il Bastardo) is another film that revolves around the Civil War.  This time the Stranger, left for dead after his unit is betrayed by its officers, seeks out and executes his revenge, Western-style. You could drive a whole wagon train through the plot holes; the film is jumpy and disjointed and certainly not one the genre’s better efforts.  One of many sequels to the original Django directed by Sergio Garrone, whose career was studded with every manner of exploitation flicks, including horror and Nazixploitation, this is imitative at best and jarring at its worst.  Originally rated X, this will appeals to some of the baser instincts.


The last film, Today We Kill, Tomorrow We Die (aka Oggi AMe … Domani A Te and Today It’s Me, Tomorrow It’s You), has some interesting aspects, though there are some glaring plot inconsistencies.  Directed by Tonino Cervi, it is co-scripted by future horror impresario Dario Argento and, as one might think, the body count is inordinately high.  The cast is solid; at once inexplicably and wonderfully maniacal Japanese actor Tatsuya Nakaki as James Elfego.  Bill Kiowa is framed and sent off to prison, after watching his wife being ravaged by the Elfego gang.  Bent on revenge, Kiowa works through the cliché of acquiring one gang member at time, each with their own dastardly specialty.  Along with Any Gun Can Play, Today We Kill … is the best of this 4 movie package.


All-in-all, this collection is definitely for aficionados of the genre.  The fact that it is no frills and priced accordingly and that the films have all been cleaned up works in its favor.  For the casual viewer of the genre sticking with the Sergio Leone Clint Eastwood classic films, such as A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More (both now on Blu-ray along with DVD, reviewed elsewhere on this site ) which these films work so hard to emulate, is a better bet. 


-   Don Wentworth


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