Cult Spaghetti Westerns – DVD Boxset Review
By Sarah Morgan
Believe it or not, there are some people who still think that the spaghetti westerns genre begins and ends with Sergio Leone’s Dollar trilogy.
And while it certainly deserves recognition – after all, it helped turn then-TV actor Clint Eastwood into a cinematic superstar – there are plenty of other titles that should be better known.
Thankfully, three of them appear in a new box set from the aptly named Cult Films company. Headlining it is the most famous of the trio – Django. It’s the movie that inspired Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained; the auteur appears in ‘Django & Django’, a feature-length documentary on the disc, in which he pays homage to director Sergio Corbucci.
In his breakthrough role, Franco Nero plays the title character, a soldier-turned-lone gunslinger who becomes embroiled in a feud between Confederate soldiers and Mexican revolutionaries. Originally considered one of the most violent films ever made (it was denied a certificate in the UK until 1993), it now doesn’t seem more graphic than any modern movie, but it’s undeniably tough and attention-grabbing with a charismatic central performance from Nero.
He also takes centre stage in another entry in the set, Keoma, which I actually preferred. Once again he’s a soldier-turned-gunslinger, albeit this time a man on a mission – to bring down the sadistic killers, including his three half-brothers, who now rule his hometown with an iron fist. Regarded as a swan song for the genre, it features stylish direction from another of Tarantino’s heroes, Enzo G Castellarri, as well as a fine supporting performance from the always wonderful Woody Strode.
Finally, there’s Damiano Damiani’s A Bullet for the General, an example of a Zapata western (one that featured a Mexican bandit paired with an American), in this instance played by Gian Maria Volonte (of A Fistful of Dollars and A Few Dollars More fame) and Swedish actor Lou Castel. It focuses on an outlaw who learns that changing the social order is far more important than acquiring money.
Each film has been beautifully restored, and there are a wealth of special features adding depth to our understanding of the genre and its exponents. Alongside Django & Django, look out for interviews with Nero, Damiani, Castellari and editor Gianfranco Amicucci, among other delights.
A must for enthusiasts and students of cinema alike, there’s much to admire about this Spaghetti Westerns box set – and if you can’t find something to enjoy within it, then you simply can’t call yourself a Western fan.