A Beginners Guide To Spaghetti Westerns (By A Beginner)

When you start watching films from a different genre it can be daunting, especially when the genre is so large as Spaghetti Westerns is…but once you find your footing everything else falls into place!

Westerns to me are like horse-operas, saddle-sore dramas and full-scale revenge stories. I’m addicted to the tales of retribution and deep characterisation and the pure escapism it provides!

The Spaghetti Western is a sub genre of western films produced in Europe. While the majority of Spaghetti Westerns were made by Italians there is also a strong Spanish contingent involved too. The films were mainly filmed in locations such as Almeria and Madrid in Spain and Central and Southern Italy and aimed to replicate the Wild West in a European setting.

I could list all the directors and key actors but I really don’t want to spoil the surprise. That said, if the directors first name is Sergio or the cast includes Franco Nero, Giuliano Gemma, Lee Van Cleef, Clint Eastwood, or Klaus Kinski you know you are onto a winner!

Dive in and discover them as you watch the finest movies to come out of the 60’s which most of your friends won’t have a clue about!

Finding where to start is the hardest part, but once you are in you are fine. Luckily, in 2021 most films are actually easily accessible thanks to boutique distribution labels and vast supply and have stunning restorations.

A good place to start is Arrow Video, titles like The Grand Duel (1972), Cemetery Without Crosses (1969), Day of Anger (1967), Django (1966), Texas Adios (1966) are all top-tier Spaghetti westerns. Then, if you want to explore further and invest more of your hard earned money, the Sartana & Vengeance Trails box-sets are great value for money. With the Vengeance Trails set you are treated to 4 lesser known western films by known directors (like Horror legend Lucio Fulci for example) and Massacre Time (1966), My Name Is Pecos (1967) and Bandidos (1967) are all worth the price of the set alone.

Do what I didn’t do, make sure you watch Sergio Leone’s Dollars Trilogy as early as possible; A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For A Few Dollars More (1965) & The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966). All 3 films have Clint Eastwood at his very best. In addition to these it is also worth mentioning the masterpiece Once Upon A Time In The West (1968); it is a long film at nearly 3 hours long but ticks all the right boxes. Just be aware that it sets the bar extremely high and everything else you watch after it may not compare…

Imports are actually pretty accessible and cheap depending on where you shop. Wild East Productions (USA) releases are Region Free on DVD & Bluray and their library is crammed full of forgotten gems. Infact, if you want to up-skill yourself and fast track your knowledge, building up a collection of WEP titles is a great way to do it! Most films can be sourced new from Strange Vice or eBay. I highly recommend The Ugle Ones (1966), A Bullet For The President (1969) & Death Rides A Horse (1967). Just be aware, some of the harder to find OOP titles tend to go for big bucks in eBay auctions…

Eureka have an extensive range of incredible transfers for the cream of the crop films on bluray including The Great Silence (1968), Sabata Trilogy (1969), A Fistful of Dynamite (1971) and many many more! I can almost guarantee that if you buy a spaghetti western bluray from Eureka you will be satisfied.

88 Films have a limited range of spaghetti western titles but I highly recommend you pick up all of them. Especially Navajo Joe (1966) & The Mercenary (1968) which are classics.

Watching the films is probably enough for most people but I’m obsessive and throw myself deep into the things I like. The standard of books out there is very high and they serve a purpose as a reference point after watching films or as a prerequisite too. I’m really enjoying reading the Spaghetti Western Digest (Michael Hauss) issues which act as standalone books crammed full of reviews and interviews. I’ve found Howard Hughes books to be a great informative source too, namely Once Upon A Time In The Italian West & Spaghetti Westerns.

Follow the Spaghetti Western Database on Facebook to learn literally everything for free. The page really is a bible for the genre.

I’ve been collecting for only a few months, I’m still a novice to the genre but I’m loving everything I’ve watched so far. If you are sitting on the fence, now is a good time to hop on the horse!

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