There may be such a thing as a casual fan of spaghetti westerns, but it’s a rare creature. To the contrary, aficionados of the genre tend to border on the obsessive; they treat the Sartana-Django divide as a top-shelf split akin to the Beatles and the Stones, preferring to save their debate strength for deciding whether Gianfranco Parolini or Tonino Valerii has the most appropriate directorial style for the genre.
For those fans, this 44-film collection – yes, forty-four movies on 11 DVDs – is a godsend. Appropriately cheap (list price: $29.98, but you can easily get it for less than half that) and slapdash (the double-sided DVDs come in thin envelopes jammed into an oversized case), this set easily evokes the budget-minded approach that went into the production of spaghetti westerns in the ’60s and ’70s. By grabbing aspiring (or down-on-their-heels) American actors and filming in a quick-and-dirty fashion, these westerns were notable for their lack of formalism, but also for their creation of a film language all their own. Less morally constrained than the Ford school of American westerns, these Italian directors unleashed films that were considerably more violent (and considerably less rehearsed) than their U.S. counterparts.
The sheer quantity of films that emerged during the heyday of the spaghetti western means that even a 44-film set could only scratch the surface; notably, this set just skips right past the surface and goes right to the middle and bottom of the barrel. Although stars like Lee Van Cleef, George Eastman, Franco Nero, and Robert Widmark are here – along with Leslie Nielsen and William Shatner! – there are only a few genre classics to be found. Death Rides a Horse, Django vs. Sartana, Johnny Yuma, and 3 Bullets for Ringo are here, but questionable entries like Jesse and Lester, Four Rode Out and others claim the bulk of the space.