Friday, February 27, 2009

The Essential European Western Library

Spaghetti Westerns: Cowboys and Europeans from Karl May to Sergio Leone
By Christopher Frayling
I.B. Taurus (London)
320 pages

‘Spaghetti Westerns’ is a major critical exploration of the European western. Sir Christopher Frayling approaches the Westerns produced at Cinecitta Studios in Rome from a variety of perspectives, placing them in the Italian, social, political, industrial and cinematic contexts from which they evolved. Over 400 westerns were produced during the 1960s peak period and Frayling deals with the most interesting and well-known examples, giving special attention to the films of Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood.

Long on scholarly analysis yet covering many of the major characters, directors and actors of the genre this book, although very dry, is a must have for your library. For one thing a British professor, now knighted can only give us justification to any of those who criticize us for enjoying this genre of films. Christopher Frayling was the inspiration and the reason I really became interested on a historical level to continue researching and developing my interest in not just Leone and his films but the entire genre. Yes Frayling made mistakes in the original book and corrected many in this reprint. We have to give him credit for accepting our criticisms and addressing them. I have been fortunate to have met Chris a number of times over the last decade and visit with him and talk about these films and their makers. He’s always come across as sincere and humorous about the genre. Thankfully we have someone like him and his book to counter the Thomas Weisser abomination.


  1. Tom,
    I have to admit that Frayling's book inspired me to get "serious" about the Italian Westerns. I had always enjoyed them and watched as many on TV as I could; but, after reading his book, I became truly obssessed!
    I started diligently seeking out any material on these films. Old magazine articles, promotional material, soundtrack LP's, and evenutally (after the advent of home video) VHS tapes, Laserdiscs, and DVD's. The rest is...history! :o)

  2. It's not the book I pull out for casual reading on the SW. I tend to get out the 3 Glittering Image books, or Opera of Violence or Howard Hughes' book, but this has got to be on your shelf if you want to call yourself a spaghetti western fan.

  3. I also still remember buying this. It was in 1990, I think. Until then all I had was the classic German book "Western Lexikon" by Joe Hembus which had at least a short plot summary of most of the westerns shown in Germany until 1975. I never heard about a book solely about SW apart from a title listed in the bibliography of the Hembus book, but this one turned out to be just a few papers put out by a student group or something. Of course there was no internet so the info was really sparse. Then, being in London for a week with school, I planned weeks ahead to visit a certain film book shop and have a look there. Sure enough there was a book about SW by Christopher Frayling. I couldn't believe my eyes and immediately bought it, along with some other books. That day was early in my week in London and so expensive I had to live on the YMCA breakfast and one piece of £1 Pizza or Kebap a day for the rest of the week (although I managed to turn one of my last £3 into £10 at the greyhound races by the end of the week...).

  4. Your blog is terrific!

    Here is the url for the blog from the Archives of the Sandusky Library if you would like to take a look: