• A Life of Her Own

    A Life of Her Own

    ★★★½

    i.

    This is devastating.

    The helplessness of the women, the narrowness of their lives, the limits on their options. The way they’ve been taught that men are their only path to happiness; that without one, there’s no reason to stay alive. That material success and goals achieved are nothing, if there isn’t also a man there to whom one can be devoted. 

    The way men tell women what’s right for them, whether it’s how to model (no, more than that:…

  • Gatling Gun

    Gatling Gun

    ★★½

    An entirely fictional story about the kidnapping of Dr. Richard Gatling and the stealing of his prototype gun during the Civil War, Gatling Gun is as much an espionage flick as it is a spaghetti western, featuring as it does a slew of spies and tradecraft (poison darts!) on both sides of the war. That said, its true theme is greed and wealth, so in that way it fits comfortably into the spaghetti western tradition.

    The taking of Gatling and…

  • The Leopard Man

    The Leopard Man

    ★★★½

    Spoilers ahead

    The Leopard Man, the final collaboration between producer Val Lewton and director Jacques Tourneur, is decidedly less coherent their two previous efforts together, Cat People and I Walked with a Zombie. Despite its weaknesses, though, this film nevertheless engages with issues of race in thoughtful, compelling ways.

    Given the care Lewton and Tourneur took to present voodoo in an educated, complete way in I Walked with a Zombie, it's no surprise that the pair made a concerted effort…

  • This Man Can't Die

    This Man Can't Die

    ★★½

    This Man Can't Die is a strange combination of deeply nasty and unusually family-oriented, telling as it does the story of the murder of the Benson parents, the rape of their youngest daughter (Anna Liotta), andf the way the family gets their revenge.

    Though Guy Madison is the first name on the cast list, his Martin Benson is very much a supporting character for much of the movie, though it's the actions of his character that precipitate the death of…

  • Midnight Mary

    Midnight Mary

    ★★★

    This is, perhaps, noteworthy for a portray of a 'fallen woman' that's more nuanced than what was typical for Hollywood at this time, possible because women were involved in its creation (story by Anita Loos, screenplay cowritten by Kathryn Scola).

    Rather that be either a)entirely a miserable victim, or b)triumphantly amoral, Loretta Young's Mary is, instead, a woman who gets a couple of bad breaks, but who also consciously chooses — twice! — a life outside the law as the…

  • Gunman Sent by God

    Gunman Sent by God

    ★★½

    Spoilers ahead.

    Though Gunman Sent by God isn't ultimately very successful, it does explore ideas not rarely foregrounded in spaghetti westerns, specifically the link between gun violence and masculinity, and true, selfless loyalty.

    The film tells the story of circus trickshot star 'Hurricane' Kerry (Anthony Steffen), a man so good with a gun that no one dares challenge him in contests of skill. Until, that is, he witnesses horrific gun violence for himself: in pursuit of bandits, he sees their…

  • Even Angels Eat Beans

    Even Angels Eat Beans

    ★★

    I think the most frustrating thing about this extremely frustrating movie is that, were it 75 snappy minutes long instead of the odious 120 it actually runs, it would likely be quite good. As it his, however, every single gag and every single scene lasts too long (and then some), which means that even the funniest, best moments — of which there are more than two! — wear out their welcomes before they end.

    Listen. The reality is that both…

  • The Ruthless Four

    The Ruthless Four

    ★★★★

    The Ruthless Four is an uncommonly well-acted, surprisingly psychologically complex spaghetti western, very much built upon the model of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. More of a character study than an action film or revenge drama, it explores the costs of greed and the meaning of loyalty as four men fall into an uneasy alliance around a gold claim.

    The film opens with old-timer Sam Cooper (an appropriate craggy, very good Van Heflin, in his only spaghetti western) killing…

  • The Asphalt Jungle

    The Asphalt Jungle

    ★★★★

    The Asphalt Jungle is a movie about (white) men's faces. Their unshaven faces; their pockmarked faces. Their faces contorted by pain, or bright with pride. Their weary, lined faces.

    It's about how men look when they die.

    And it's a movie about power, and status. About a bankrupt man who holds power because the memory of his money bestows it upon him. About an ambitious private dick who knows better and wants more, and thinks it's just about time he…

  • One Against One... No Mercy

    One Against One... No Mercy

    ★★

    One Against One … No Mercy is a revenge tale, the success or failure of which relies entirely upon the appeal of its leads. And, in Peter Lee Lawrence (Bill Grayson) and Guglielmo Spoletini (Charro), director Rafael Romero Marchent has two very charming assets at his disposal. Lawrence has a chance to be more impish here than is typically allowed for his spaghetti western characters and it fits him well, while Spoletini has a winning, easy manner that makes Charro…

  • The Gal Who Took the West

    The Gal Who Took the West

    ★★★½

    Well, I was feeling really positive about this until I went and read up on it, and found that it was originally going to star Deanna Durbin, Stephen McNally, and Howard Duff. And, while I’m not overly attached to Howard Duff, the other two would have made this AMAZING! Just imagine: Stephen McNally being all dashingly dickish, and Durbin throwing herself into the semi-randy song and dance numbers here. *far-off look*

    Ah well — bygones.

    In terms of the movie…

  • Johnny Hamlet

    Johnny Hamlet

    ★★★

    Coming on the heels of The Fury of Johnny Kid, Gianni Puccini surprisingly innovative take on Romeo and Juliet, Johnny Hamlet stands as the second attempt to incorporate William Shakespeare into the world of spaghetti westerns. Whereas the previous film was anchored by strong performances and used its narrative choices to make a clear statement on violence, Johnny Hamlet's strength lies in its visuals, and not its often cartoonish screenplay and performances. Or, more accurately, its visuals and the greasy…