Spaghetti Westerns

by Howard Hughes; 2010, Kamera Books

I'm always thrilled to find a good English-language book on spaghettis, as many of the best are in non-English. I hadn't read Howard Hughes 2001 book, Spaghetti Westerns, so I was pleased when I got the newly-published second edition a few weeks ago. Hughes is also the author of Once Upon a Time in the Italian West: The Filmgoers' Guide to Spaghetti Westerns, so he's no stranger to the genre.

This book covers thirty-four westerns, all of which fans of the genre are undoubtedly familiar with; the three Sergios are covered, as well as most of the Corbuccis, the Trinity films and the Django films. The sections are broken down into an introduction, which provides an excellent background about the films (including a great bit on Morricone), then four sections, covering 1964-65, 1966, 1967-69, and 1970-76. There's also a section providing lots of reference material.

Hughes writes in a straightforward style, perfect for a reader who's new to the genre and isn't looking for a super in-depth critical analysis that would have more appeal to experienced cinephiles (for that, Cox's 10,000 Ways to Die is a good choice). Each film review starts off with cursory cast and crew information, the synopsis, background, and the verdict. In particular, I found the background sections quite interesting, and even as someone who's seen a lot of these films, there's always something new, such as the fact that Morricone's Fistful of Dollars theme was a reworking of Woody Guthrie's song, Pastures of Plenty.

By and large, I found myself in agreement with most of Hughes' reviews, with the exception of Compañeros and The Mercenary, two of Corbucci's films that I've always thought were way overrated (and yes, I know that my opinon seems to be in the minority on that one). Also, I thought it a bit unusual that, other than a few passing references, none of the Sartana films were reviwed. Considering how popular they are (and, as some argue, how they exemplify the excesses of the genre in the 1970's), I would have thought that Hughes would at least give a review of the first film, as opposed to Adios, Sabata, which hardly ever makes it into people's top 20 lists.

There's a lot of information packed into its 160 pages. Another thing I liked was when mentioning a particular prolific filmmaker, he would give a mention to some of the filmmaker's lesser-known works (such as Corbucci). A nice addition to this second edition is an 8-page, full-color section in the middle of the book with some great posters and lobby cards.

If you're a spaghetti die-hard who already knows all there is to know, you'll still appreciate this book; it's very well-written, and of course, we can never get enough reviews to read, right? If you're new to the genre, or trying to let someone know about it, this book is perfect for that as well.

For another review, be sure to check out this one by Phil H over at the SWDB.

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