Friday, June 2, 2023

Best Lesser-Known Spaghetti Westerns You’ve Got To See

 Wealth of Geeks

By Kyle Logan

May 28, 2023

In the late 1960s and ’70s, after the decades-long reign of the Hollywood Western, Italian filmmakers took the genre by storm with their darker, more explicitly violent takes on the genre. Many of these films aren’t stories of honorable sheriffs and innocent townspeople but instead focus on characters who are, at best, morally gray. Look at the best-known film from the “Spaghetti Western” subgenre, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, wherein “the good” is a greedy man whose only claim to goodness is that he isn’t as bad as the other two characters.

There are tens if not hundreds of these films, and fans often move through the genre’s classics quickly after they begin exploring, leaving them searching for lesser-known gems. So when one Spaghetti Western fan asks an online film forum for recommendations of unknown best of the genre, other fans are more than happy to stick up for the lesser-known movies they love.

1.      Day of Anger (1967)

Lee Van Cleef had a fantastic 1967 in Spaghetti Westerns. Day of Anger is one of three that he starred in that year after The Good, the Bad and the Ugly was released. Day of Anger stars Van Cleef as a villainous gunslinger who takes a young man under his wing and then takes over a town, only to have his apprentice turn on him to defend the town. It’s not a complicated movie, but it features excellent shootouts and sets.

 2.      Death Rides a Horse (1967)

The second of the three Spaghetti Westerns starring Lee Van Cleef released in 1967, Death Rides a Horse once again features the sharp-featured star developing a relationship with a younger man. This time, both their characters are on the trail of the same band of outlaws, each seeking their revenge. But things become more complicated when the young man learns about Van Cleef’s connection to the gang. 

3. The Big Gundown (1967)

The third Lee Van Cleef movie released in 1967, The Big Gundown, follows Van Cleef as a bounty hunter searching for an accused rapist and murderer. Things become more complicated when he finds the man. It’s a western with several film noir elements in its plotting and packs a serious socio-political punch.

4. They Call Me Trinity (1970)

Not all Spaghetti Westerns are bleak and violent. They Call Me Trinity is a broad comedy that tells the story of two men who defend a town of Mormons from bandits that features more laughs than thrills but doesn’t lose anything in shifting its focus to humor.


5. Cemetery Without Crosses (1969)

Cemetery Without Crosses is an especially bleak film within its genre. It is a revenge western that explores loneliness, futility, and regret. It’s a film that’s not easy to watch. But it is rewarding for those interested in a movie that considers revenge and why we seek revenge philosophically.


6.  Mannaja (AKA a Man Called Blade) (1977)

Mannaja is a delightfully chaotic film starring Maurizio Merli as a hatchet-throwing bounty hunter whose arrival in a mining town sets off an increasingly violent series of events. The movie is a bit complicated, but in a way that’s never difficult to follow, so much as enjoyably ridiculous.

7. If You Meet Sartana Pray for Your Death (1968)

The first in a series of five films, If You Meet Sartana Pray for You Death stars Gianni Garko as the eponymous gunslinger Sartana who finds himself at the center of a multi-faction hunt for gold. It’s another film, like Mannaja, that is somewhat complicated but always remains focused on delivering the genre goods, including a wild final shootout.

8. Rita of The West (AKA Crazy Westerners) (1967)

A movie that the person recommending it called “insane,” Rita of the West centers on the eponymous Rita, played by Italian-Swiss singer Rita Pavone, as she attempts to rid the world of gold, which she sees as the source of all evil. Her adventures include several musical numbers and run-ins with parodies of beloved Spaghetti Western heroes Ringo and Django.

9. The Legend of Frenchie King (1971)

The Legend of Frenchie King is a delightfully over-the-top western that pits iconic bombshells Brigitte Bardot and Claudia Cardinale against one another before pairing them up to take revenge on the men who have attempted to manipulate them. It’s a movie that doesn’t take itself seriously and is just about having a good time with two gorgeous women, and it greatly succeeds.

10. Four of The Apocalypse (1968)

An early film from director Lucio Fulci, who would become best known for his horror films in the following two decades, Four of the Apocalypse follows a group of four petty criminals as they travel across 1870s Utah and do their best to stay alive while being hunted by a sadistic bandit. It’s a brutal movie that portends Fulci’s later greatness as the “godfather of gore” but also takes a genuine interest in its characters. It packs an emotional as well as a visceral punch.

11. And God Said to Cain (1970)

One of a few Spaghetti Westerns that veers into horror territory, And God Said to Cain, begins as another fairly typical revenge story but morphs into something more like a ghost story as the protagonist takes out his enemies under cover of darkness. Add to that the use of catacombs, and several fans think the movie plays out more like a gothic horror story with a Spaghetti Western cover than an outright Western.

12. Cut Throats Nine (1972)

Another horror/western hybrid, Cut Throats Nine, is also one of the most vicious films out of the Spaghetti Western bubble. The movie follows a group of criminals who are attacked and set loose while being transported to prison. The one lawman who survived the attack is trying to keep them while keeping himself and his daughter safe.


1 comment:

  1. I've only seen half of the Westerns you just mentioned. Might have to see the others next time.