• Spaghetti Western Collection, The



    Released by: Blue Underground
    Relesed on: 1/7/2003
    Director: Various
    Cast: Various
    Year: Various
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    The Movies:

    Four films, one box - available uncut on DVD for the first time are three unsung classics of the Spaghetti Western genre, as well as the remastered edition of Django featuring the original Italian language track that Anchor Bay neglected to include on their previous release. The back of the box touts these films as 'the good, the bad and the violent' and that's not a bad way at all to sum up this set.

    DJANGO

    If there's a worthy counterpart to Leone within the Italian Western genre, it's Sergio Corbucci, and Django stands out as one of his masterpieces.

    Franco Nero plays Django, a man who we're first introduced to when we find him dragging a coffin through the desert and coming across some banditos whipping a woman in bondage. He watches as a gang of men, clad in red masks, make short work of the Mexicans and then proceed to take over with the whipping where they left off. Django takes care of them, however, and frees the woman, and the pair head off into the nearby town.

    When he gets there, he finds that it's ruled with an iron fist by a local general who refuses to acknowledge the end of the Civil War and carries on his racist traditions by hunting Mexicans and killing them for sport, though when you watch the scene, it's more like he's shooting fish in a barrel and it's obvious that he's only doing it for sick kicks.

    A bar room altercation leads Django to unleash the secret he carries with him in his coffin against the general and his men and he ends up allied with the
    Mexicans and involved in a gold heist that should prove beneficial to both Django and the army of banditos.

    But things of course go wrong, and one double cross after another lead to a violent and bloody conclusion in a graveyard, and Django finds out that it's going to be tough to bury what's in his coffin once and for all.

    Quite possibly one of the bloodiest and muddiest of the Spaghetti Westerns, Django still holds up today and it's influence can still be seen in recent films like Reservoir Dogs and Desperado. The movies depictions of the evils of fascism, while not unusual for the time and climate in which it was made, are handled well and with more than a fair bit of skill, as Corbucci really makes you hate the general and all that he stands for.

    Filled with great shoot out scenes, loads of violence, a theme song that will stay in your head for weeks, and a great tough as nails performance from Nero, Django belongs in every Euro-cult fan's collection.

    DJANGO, KILL... IF YOU LIVE, SHOOT!

    One of over 40 unofficial sequels, in name only, to Corbucci's 1966 masterpiece, Django Kill! is a tight and, at times, surreal film with a penchant for cruel violence and strange religious imagery.

    Tomas Milian plays a stranger, who at the beginning of the film, is part of a gang of thieves comprised of Mexicans and Americans. Together they steal a massive cargo of gold from a stagecoach, but soon the Mexicans are shot down and left for dead by the Americans, who take off with all the gold.

    Milian, known only as 'the stranger' in this film, is down but not out and with the help of a pair of mystical natives, tracks the gang to a small town, not far from where they abandoned him to die.

    He arrives to find all but one of the gang hung in the streets, and takes down the surviving member with his gun that he's loaded with gold bullets.

    But gold lust gets the better of the townspeople, and various corrupt factions within the small community erupt and start turning on one another with dire consequences.

    Django Kill! is a strange film, with scenes of rapid fire editing that are unusual for a 35 year old film, as well as scenes of brutal and sadistic violence and thinly veiled homo-eroticism.

    Milian, every bit the anti hero in this role, plays the character with more than a bit of a Christ complex, and turns in one of his better performances.

    Blue Underground has restored the infamous scalping and surgery scenes that were taken out of the films release shortly after it hit theaters due to their excessive gore.

    MANNAJA - A MAN CALLED BLADE

    Sergio Martino, probably best known for Mountain of the Cannibal God and Torso, directed this later entry in the genre in which Maurizio Merli plays Blade, a bounty hunter who'd rather use his throwing axe than his six shooter, though, as he puts it, he speaks both languages. Right off the bat, Blade captures a wanted man by hurling a hatchet at him and chopping off his hand. With his prize in tow, he heads on to the nearest town to try and get some much needed rest, but the townsfolk there are none to happy to have him poking around their pleasant little burg.

    It turns out that the town is run by a man named MacGowan, who owns the silver mine that employs pretty much everyone there. MacGowan has a right hand man named Voller Who does his dirty work for him, and seems to enjoy doing it.

    When MacGowan's daughter goes missing, seemingly kidnapped, he hires Blade to get her back for him, but unfortunately for MacGowan someone is out to get him and take control of the town and the mine and Blade ends up caught in the middle, and with a past score to settle.

    A well directed film, Mannaja's main plus point is the performance from Merli, who pretty much defines 'macho man' in this role. Some great cinematography and interesting, atmospheric visuals from Martino and cinematographer Federico Zanni (Eaten Alive) make this well worth a watch. It's also got one of the strangest soundtracks I've heard and the music and lyrics from Maurizio and Guido D'Angelis come across like a mix of Ennio Morricone and Rammstein.

    RUN MAN RUN

    Directed by Sergio Sollima (The Big Gundown, Revolver) and starring Tomas Milian, Run Man Run is a hybrid of a film and treads the line between serious political action film and slapstick comedy very carefully.

    Milian plays Cuchillo Sanchez, a thief and trouble maker (if the character sounds familiar, it's because Milian played him earlier in The Big Gundown). When he ends up in jail he's offered $100 to help a revolutionary escape, the night before he's to be set free for good! It seems that there are some men who are waiting for him outside and unless he gets out early, there'll be trouble.

    Cuchillo agrees and ends up mixed up in some serious trouble involving stolen gold, disgruntled banditos, misguided American missionaries, an ex sheriff now out only for himself and some irate French hitmen.

    Again, like in his previous films, Sollima shows a great eye for action, and the shoot out and brawl scenes are very well done. Milian plays a likeable character, and his interaction with Donal O'Brien (who plays the sheriff) is reminiscent of the on screen chemistry he had with Van Cleef earlier in his career.

    Although the film tends to drag in one or two spots, overall it's an enjoyable western with much to like about it, including a memorable score from Ennio Morricone and Bruno Nicolai.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Django, Kill!, A Man Called Blade, and Run, Man Run! are all presented in 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen. Digitally restored from the original negatives, these three films look absolutely gorgeous. Colors are perfect, there are no compression problems, and print damage is minimal with the exception of a minute or two here and there, and never distracts the viewer. Django is presented in 1.66.1 anamorphic widescreen, and while it does have some damage visible on the negative, colors are much sharper and the transfer is crisper than the previous release from Anchor Bay. All four DVDs in this package look very, very nice.

    All four films are presented in your choice of a dubbed English track or in an Italian track. One really notices the difference on Django when comparing it to the original AB release, where only the dubbed track was available. Hearing Franco Nero's actual speaking voice is a vast improvement over the lesser sounding dubbed version. Besides that issue, however, the tracks are crisp and balanced with little to no distortion. The only problem I encountered was that the levels on Mannaja were a slight bit low, but turning up the volume on my receiver quickly corrected that minor issue.

    The extras on each DVD are different, so I'm going to break it down disc by disc:

    'Django: The One and Only' is a short featurette about 15 minutes long featuring interviews Franco Nero and Ruggero Deodato (who was the assistant director on the film). Franco speaks with noticeable affection about the role and he and Deodato both have some interesting things to say about Corbucci. Also included are theatrical trailers for all four films in the collection (in the form of an Easter egg!) as well as a poster and still gallery and some interesting talent bios. Rounding off the package are liner notes from Christopher Frayling (who wrote the definitive book on Sergio Leone, 'Something To Do With Death'). Those who own the original AB release will want to hold onto it though, as this version does not have the excellent book detailing the many sequels the film inspired included with it (or Django Strikes Again for that matter).

    Django Kill! contains "Django, Tell!" another featurette with interviews from director and co- writer Guilio Questi, who does his best to explain some of the strange imagery and techniques behind the making of the film, as well as conversations with Tomas Milian and Ray Lovelock. Again there is a theatrical Trailer as well as a poster and still gallery, rounded out by liner notes from William Connolly, editor of Spaghetti Cinema.

    A third featurette is included on Mannaja entitled 'A Man Called Sergio' which is an interesting interview with Martino, who comes across as much more likeable here than he does in AB's interview from the Mountain of the Cannibal God release. Again, there's a theatrical trailer and another poster and still gallery as well as a Sergio Martino text biography on the disc. Liner notes this time out are supplied by Tom Betts, of the long running fanzine 'Westerns al'Italiana.'

    Finally, Run Man Run features it's own featurette entitled "Run Man Run: 35 Years Running" which has some great interviews with Sergio Sollima and Tomas Milian where the two both speak fondly about the film and the genre. An added bonus on this disc is the inclusion of 'Westerns Italian Style' an obscure 38 minute documentary about the Spaghetti Westerns from the 60s which has got some excellent, and as far as I know, exclusive behind-the-scenes footage of from Sergio Corbucci's Klaus Kinski vehicle, 'The Great Silence" as well as Sollima's own 'Run Man Run' and some vintage interviews with Enzo G. Castellari, Sergio Corbucci and Sergio Sollima. Fans should eat this up as it's a great extra feature, which up until this time, has been pretty elusive. The theatrical trailer, poster and still gallery and text talent bios are also included on the disc as well as some alternate title sequences included from the films Italian release.

    The Final Word:

    Stunning video quality and truly interesting extras make this uncut presentation of four unsung gems of the genre. Truly, a remarkable set; a must own for Western aficionados the world over.