Retro Relapse: Top 50 Spaghetti Westerns of All-Time

RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.

*Originally written in 2015.

Spaghetti westerns are better than westerns, at least in my opinion. Sure, there are fantastic American-made westerns but as a whole, the Italian-Spanish (sometimes German) films are superior. There is more grit, more bad ass shit and a level of violence that adds realism and authenticity to a genre that has typically been family friendly in the U.S.

The greatest film of all-time is a spaghetti western. And many of the other greatest films ever also fall into this genre.

I have spent the last several months watching a lot of these films. I have always been familiar with the greats but I had to delve deeper into the more obscure reaches of the genre. A special shout out goes to the Spaghetti Western Database for the hours of research I was able to accomplish in mostly one place. Also, thanks to Amazon, Hulu and YouTube for providing several of these films. The rest were an adventure to track down.

This list is the result of my hundreds of hours of film watching.

1. The Good, The Bad and the Ugly
2. Once Upon A Time In the West
3. The Great Silence
4. The Big Gundown
5. For A Few Dollars More
6. Django
7. A Fistful of Dollars
8. The Mercenary
9. Face to Face
10. Django Kill… If You Live, Shoot!
11. A Bullet For the General
12. Compañeros
13. Duck, You Sucker! (A Fistful of Dynamite)
14. Day of Anger
15. Keoma
16. Sabata
17. Return of Ringo
18. Death Rides A Horse
19. Cemetery Without Crosses
20. My Name Is Nobody
21. The Grand Duel
22. A Genius, Two Partners and A Dupe
23. A Pistol for Ringo
24. If You Meet Sartana, Pray For Your Death
25. The Dirty Outlaws
26. Django, Prepare a Coffin (Viva Django)
27. Run Man Run
28. Tepepa
29. Navajo Joe
30. Four of the Apocalypse
31. Massacre Time
32. Shoot the Living, Pray for the Dead
33. Mannaja
34. Django Strikes Again
35. The Return of Sabata
36. A Few Dollars For Django
37. Light the Fuse… Sartana Is Coming
38. Machine Gun Killers
39. Beyond the Law
40. Ace High
41. The Bounty Killer (The Ugly Ones)
42. Trinity Is Still My Name
43. Hellbenders
44. Django the Bastard
45. God Forgives, I Don’t
46. Minnesota Clay
47. God’s Gun
48. They Call Me Trinity
49. Ringo and His Golden Pistol (Johnny Oro)
50. Arizona Colt

Film Review: Danger: Diabolik (1968)

Also known as: Diabolik (Italy)
Release Date: January 24th, 1968 (Italy)
Directed by: Mario Bava
Written by: Dino Maiuri, Brian Degas, Tudor Gates, Mario Bava, Angela Giussani, Luciana Giussani, Adriano Baracco
Based on: Diabolik by Angela Giussani, Luciana Giussani
Music by: Ennio Morricone
Cast: John Phillip Law, Marisa Mell, Michel Piccoli, Adolfo Celi, Terry-Thomas

Dino de Laurentiis Cinematografica, Marianne Productions, Paramount Pictures, 105 Minutes

diabolikReview:

Danger: Diabolik or just Diabolik is a movie based off of the famous Italian comic book character. I am not sure how closely the movie follows the comic but in the film, he is a master thief that elaborately steals pretty much anything of value in an effort to impress his hot girlfriend. Granted, she pulls her weight too, as she helps Diabolik with his overly complicated and crazy schemes.

The film is greatly inspired by the spy thrillers of the era. While the character is a thief instead of a spy, Danger: Diabolik borrows heavily from the style of 1960s James Bond pictures. Visually, it is greatly enhanced by its director, Mario Bava.

Bava frequently used vibrant colors and an opulent atmosphere to give his movies life. Now, Bava takes his style and really lets loose. Everything is bigger and over the top. All of which, is enhanced by magnificent cinematography and art direction.

The score by Ennio Morricone also helps enhance Diabolik‘s atmosphere. In fact, the score is great but when has Morricone ever failed to deliver? Answer: never.

The acting leaves a lot to be desired. It stars John Phillip Law as the title character. Granted, he is much better than his older self, which can be seen hamming it up in the worst way possible in 1988’s cinematic shit stain Space Mutiny. Marisa Mell, who plays Diabolik’s muse, is absolutely majestic and it was hard to concentrate on her acting chops when I found myself in some sort of mystical daze whenever she graced the screen.

Danger: Diabolik is not a good film, overall. It is a visually stunning experience but it doesn’t play nearly as good as other films by Mario Bava. Plus, a lot of it is just ridiculous. To be fair, James Bond films have always been full of completely implausible things. It is just really hard to suspend disbelief when I see party balloons lifting  20 tons of gold in a giant steel safe from the bottom of the Mediterranean.

It is also worth noting that this was the movie featured in the final episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Despite its flaws, it is much better than the typical MST3K feature.

Rating: 8/10

Film Review: Space Mutiny (1988)

Also known as: Mutiny In Space, Southern Son (South Africa)
Release Date: August, 1988 (US theatrical release)
Directed by: David Winters, Neal Sundstrom
Written by: Maria Dante, Ian Yule
Music by: Tim James, Mark Mancina, Steve McClintock
Cast: Reb Brown, Cisse Cameron, Cameron Mitchell, James Ryan, John Phillip Law, Graham Clark, Billy Second, Rufus Swart

Action International Pictures, 93 Minutes

spacemutinyReview:

There is shit… and then there is Space Mutiny.

I kind of love Reb Brown, even though he is synonymous for starring in awful movies. Granted, I kind of love awful movies. I must be a sick and twisted person. But there is just something about films that are so flawed that they go beyond being just bad and into the realm of filmmaking insanity.

Space Mutiny is one of those pictures, where it is baffling to try and understand how it got made or why. Did the people working on this see this as quality work? I’m not saying that 100 percent effort wasn’t given but one would have to assume that the people behind this picture are completely devoid of talent and possibly delusional.

The costumes were horrendous. This film came out in 1988 yet the characters were dressed like something out of a 1950s sci-fi B-movie. Ed Wood may have provided his cast with better costumes three decades prior to this picture.

There are only two sets in this film. One is a warehouse and the other is an office building.

The warehouse stands in for just about every action sequence, whether it is the multiple snail-paced security cart chases or the endlessly running around catwalks and railing. It also stands in for the spaceship’s nightclub, which provided the film with a terribly strange sequence.

The office building is used for corridors on the ship, as well as the bridge – a bridge where they use large telephones with cords and bulky keyboards glued to the drywall.

Then you have the space battles. Luckily there are few of those. And to be honest, you might think the effects are somewhat passable for a South African sci-fi film with no budget. The problem, is that those sequences were taken from the original Battlestar Galactica. It is completely disorienting, as I was watching the film and immediately, I knew it was Battlestar Galactica.

Did I mention that there are the dancing space witches that sexually slither around plasma globes like sexy drunk girls Halloween shopping at Spencer Gifts?

Space Mutiny also has atrocious acting but that should probably go without saying.

The film is so awful, that the director claims he left the production before filming began and left those duties in the hands of his assistant. He also claims that he was unable to get an Alan Smithee credit, which is the film industry’s recognized pseudonym used by directors that disown their own work – usually because something happened to destroy their vision for the project.

If you like analyzing the worst films in history, this should probably be on the list of things you need to see. If you hate bad movies and want to avoid them at all costs, wipe this thing’s existence from your memory banks.

Space Mutiny is beyond bad. However, you can watch it in the eighth season of Mystery Science Theater 3000, where it ended up being one of the best episodes of Mike Nelson’s run.

Rating: 3.5/10

Film Review: Death Rides A Horse (1967)

Also known as: Da uomo a uomo, lit. As Man to Man (Italy)
Release Date: August 31st, 1967 (Italy)
Directed by: Giulio Petroni
Written by: Luciano Vincenzoni
Music by: Ennio Morricone
Cast: Lee Van Cleef, John Phillip Law, Luigi Pistilli, Anthony Dawson, Jose Torres, Mario Brega

Produzione Esecutiva Cinematografica (P.E.C.), Sancro International Film, Titanus Distribuzione, United Artists, 120 Minutes (Italy), 114 Minutes (USA)

death_rides_a_horseReview:

I know I’ve been reviewing a lot of spaghetti westerns lately but that’s where my heads been at. And honestly, there are several that are considered classics that I am trying to get my hands on and see.

I have seen Death Rides A Horse. However, it has been a really long time. The reason being, is that I used to own it on VHS but I no longer have a working VCR. I’ve tried to track down a good quality version on DVD or Blu-ray for awhile, to no avail. I had to settle for the crappy quality DVD, as there doesn’t seem to be a remastered edition in the US. The visual quality of the trailer linked below is infinitely better than any copy of the film I have been able to find on DVD or streaming online.

The reason I bring up the quality issue is that it has a very negative impact on the film. Luckily, I have the patience to sit through it but the average film viewer wouldn’t have gotten through the opening sequence. Additionally, the audio is atrocious. I hope someone remasters this thing or releases a better quality version in the States.

In regards to the movie itself, Lee Van Cleef is perfection. John Phillip Law is good as the vengeance seeking Bill. The cast is rounded out with Luigi Pistilli and Mario Brega (both from The Good, The Bad & The Ugly).

Death Rides A Horse follows a young man (John Phillip Law) seeking revenge against the gang that raped and murdered his family. He confronts them one-by-one and finds an unlikely ally (and rival) in Lee Van Cleef’s Ryan.

The film is accompanied by the most recognizable Ennio Morricone theme song not associated with a Sergio Leone picture. It was one of the many great Morricone themes recycled by Quentin Tarantino over the years.

Ultimately, this is a really good spaghetti western. It is severely hurt by the poor quality of the DVD and streaming releases. It is a classic in certain respects but it is unfortunately, almost unwatchable.

Rating: 7/10