Directed By: Various
Starring: Jack Palance, Lee Van Cleef, Leif Garrett, Sybil Danning, Klaus Kinski, a bunch of other people you never heard of
Clint Eastwood and Sergio Leone made the Spaghetti Western a household word, but before and after the Man with No Name trilogy Spain was pumping out westerns of varying quality from not work the film stock it was shot on to not bad to just plain weird.
Ten Thousand Ways To Die is a collection of twelve movies, over eighteen hours of spaghetti western goodness in all its glory and wretchedness. Most of them are watchable and about half are entertaining, a few are, well I don’t know if you would call them good but they have something going for them that makes you want to watch them. Instead of dwelling on the mediocre I’ll go over a few of the more interesting films in this collection.
Four Dollars of Revenge stars Robert Wood as a cavalry officer with a future in politics and a beautiful fiancé, but it all falls apart when he is tasked with escorting a horde of confederate gold back to the capitol. He and his men are ambushed and the gold is stolen. He is framed for the theft of the gold and the murder of his men and sentenced to hard labor, literally busting rocks. Even in prison, the cabal that framed him is afraid of him so they plan to have him killed. After an attempt on his life he escapes from the prison camp and hides in plain sight disguising him self as a bandito and hunts down the men who framed him to reclaim his innocence. It’s a straight up, but competent revenge flick.
God’s Gun is one of the more addictive films in the collection. Part of it is the cast, Lee Van Cleef, Jack Palance, Leif Garrett and Sybil Danning, Part of it is the seventies feel of the whole thing. Cleef plays a dual role as twin brothers, a priest and a reformed gunfighter. Palance is the bad guy of course and Leif plays a kid, although one who’s shirt is always unbuttoned to his waist. Leif is fond of the town priest attending daily mass and helping out around the church. When Palance rides into town and starts to cause trouble the priest is the only one to stand up to his gang. You can imagine what happens next, he gets gunned down in the street. So Leif goes off to find the priest’s twin brother who lives somewhere in Mexico and convince him to come back to town to avenge his brother.
It Can Be Done Amigo is a fun movie about a wandering character that sleeps with the wrong girl. The girl’s brother played by Jack Palance takes offense and insists that out hero marry his sister to save her honor. After the couple is married and his sister’s honor is restored Palance plans to kill the rouge. Naturally our wandering hero disagrees with this plan for a couple of reasons so he hits the road. As he wanders he takes a young boy under his wing and helps him hang on to the mine that the kid has inherited.
Now They Call Him Sacramento is a story of a trio of friends who thwart a train robbery and make off with the gold themselves. The trio think they have stolen government gold but later find out they have stolen from a group of women farmers who now can’t make their mortgage payments and are going to be driven off their land. This is one goofy movie. It’s like it was scripted by a bunch of twelve year olds which strangely kind of works.
Seven Guns for Timothy is another one for the goofy category, except it goes beyond goofy into surreal. It’s a poor imitation of Seven Samurai. Timothy, played by Sean Flynn, son of Errol, is an exceptionally bright young man who has inherited a mine. A local bandito wants the mine for himself and is trying to drive him off of it. Timothy’s foreman is a crusty retired sergeant who recruits a bunch of army buddies to help him save his employers mine. You could call the characters caricatures, but that implies they have some basis in reality. This is one strange little movie.
Grand Duel is perhaps the crown jewel in the collection. Lee Van Cleef plays a lawman that is bringing a young man in for murder. On the journey back to town he becomes convinced of the innocence of the man in his custody. So together they end up taking on the evil family that has framed his prisoner. This is a stereotypical spaghetti western from the camera work to the familiar score to the revenge plot and the panoply of interesting and odd side characters.
The movies are all presented in full screen and the quality is generally poor. The transfers are generally good, the problems is not with compression or digital artifacts it’s the prints themselves. In that respect while the quality is not good this is probably the best you are ever going to see these movies.
Like the video the audio is a mixed bag. It’s never outright bad though. The soundtrack might warble here or there and there is no surround sound but you can always make out the dialog and the scores are clear.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The three double sided DVDs come in a doublewide DVD case. The artwork is fantastic and the copy is straightforward. The menus are easy to navigate; the only real aggravation is having to flip the DVDs. There are no extras, but you could pretend it is an eight movie collection and the four movies on the last disc are all bonus movies.
Just looking at the numbers there is not a lot to recommend this collection, but that would be a mistake. This is an entertaining collection of movies and an excellent value.
Overall (Not an Average) 7/10
The Movie 6/10
The Video 5/10
The Audio 7/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 5/10
Overall (Not an Average) 7/10