What comes to mind when you think Spaghetti Westerns? Everyone’s familiar with Sergio Leone’s Dollars Trilogy, which made Clint Eastwood a superstar. Some movie buffs will recognize (if only through Quentin Tarantino!) titles like The Big Gundown, Death Rides a Horse and Django. But these are a small sampling of a wild subgenre that produced over 500 movies between 1964 and 1975.
Possibly Spaghettis’ most striking feature is their titles. Some are literal translations of Italian phrases nonsensical in English. Others cash in on past hits: hence the proliferation of films with Django, Ringo and Sartana in their title. But most are weird word stews with recurring terms like death, dollars and bullet cropping up randomly.
I’ll admit I haven’t seen all of these films: some are unavailable in English or decent DVD copies. The movies weren’t picked on account of quality, either. Still, we'll survey a list of creative names: good, bad, ugly, funny, silly, awesome, ridiculous, whimsical and inexplicable.
1. And The Crows Will Dig Your Grave (1971, Juan Bosch) – Great title for a convoluted Western about bounty hunters pursing stagecoach robbers and a pardoned prisoner.
2. And They Smelled the Strange, Exciting, Dangerous Scent of Dollars (1973, Italo Alfaro) – Nearly impossible to find in English, and by most accounts terrible. Like most ‘70s Spaghettis it’s a broad parody, featuring a Mafioso bandit and wisecracking parrot.
Really though, who cares whether it’s good or what it’s about? Not since The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in the Land of the Bolsheviks has a title been so intriguing. Here’s hoping an English-language print exists!
3. Between God, The Devil and a Winchester (1968, Marino Girolami) – That title is the film’s greatest asset; it’s basically Treasure Island out West. The original Italian title translates, non-grammatically, as Even in the West There Was a God Once Upon a Time.
4. Django’s Cut Price Corpses (1971, Luigi Batzella) – Ten bandits for the low price of $14.99! This is one of the 30+ unofficial sequels to Django (1966), stealing the title of Sergio Corbucci’s cult classic. A better title might be Batzella’s Cut Price Django.
5. Don’t Turn the Other Cheek (1971, Duccio Tessari) – This means exactly what you think: one of the protagonists has a treasure map tattooed on their rump. Starring Franco Nero, Eli Wallach and Lynn Redgrave.
6. Find a Place to Die (1968, Giuliano Carnimeo) – Spaghetti Westerns are pushy! Don’t bother strapping on your six guns, just go lay in a coffin. Starring Jeffrey Hunter (The Searchers) in a loose remake of the American Western Garden of Evil. Apparently labeled a Ringo film in some territories.
7. Get Mean (1975, Ferdinando Baldi) – Our third imperative title in a row, and the fourth film in Tony Anthony’s Stranger series. The Stranger escorts a Spanish princess home, fighting Moors, knights and witches along the way. In that situation wouldn’t you get mean, too?
8. God Forgives, I Don’t (1967, Giuseppe Collizi) — Not Nicholas Winding Refn's latest film. This marks the first collaboration of Terence Hill and Bud Spencer, Italy’s Laurel and Hardy. God Forgives is serious though, with Hill (playing “Cat Stevens”) and Spencer fighting villain Frank Wolff. Because Italian distributors enjoyed beating a dead horse, some prints go under Django Forgives, I Don’t.
9. Have a Good Funeral My Friend, Sartana Will Pay (1970, Giuliano Carnimeo) — Among the most popular Spaghetti heroes, Sartana (played by Gianni Garko and George Hilton) flaunts style, wit and guns through five adventures like a Western James Bond. They’re typical action and double cross stories, but their elaborate titles deserve recognition — especially this second installment.
10. His Name Was Pot… But they Called Him Allegria (1971, Demofilo Fidani & Lucio Giachin) — Strangely not starring Cheech and Chong, this features Peter Martell as another vengeance-seeking gunfighter. Inevitably retitled Django Draws Second in the UK.
11. If One is Born a Swine (1968, Alfonso Brescia) — Cool title, lame film about a range war. When life gives you swine, make pulled pork sandwiches.
12. It Can Be Done… Amigo (1972, Maurizio Lucidi) — A Bud Spencer solo vehicle with all that entails, eg. crude slapstick. The Spaghetti Western Database lists an even better alternate title: Bulldozer is Back… Amigo.
13. Kill Them All and Come Back Alone (1967, Enzo G. Castellari) — Second only to Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia in the incitement to murder sweepstakes. Aka Any Gun Can Play, this one’s best known for the protagonist shooting villains impersonating Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Franco Nero.
14. Life is Tough, Eh Providence? (1972, Giulio Petroni) — A comedy with Tomas Milian (The Big Gundown) unaccountably impersonating Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp. Notable as one of the few Spaghettis without a body count. Milian reprised the role in a sequel, Here We Go Again, Eh Providence?
15. Massacre Time (1966, Lucio Fulci) — The title clues you in on what to expect: Franco Nero and George Hilton killing lots of people. An early film for Lucio Fulci, director of gory horror flicks like Zombie and The Beyond.
16. A Minute to Pray, a Second To Die (1968, Franco Giraldi) – Nondescript oater about a reformed, epileptic outlaw battling bounty hunters. Stars John Wayne wannabe Alex Cord, with cameos by Arthur Kennedy (Lawrence of Arabia) and Robert Ryan (The Wild Bunch).
17. One Damned Day at Dawn (1970, Demofilio Fidani) – Given the proliferation of rip-offs, crossovers between Spaghetti heroes were inevitable. Genre stalwarts Django and Sartana butted heads four times! In this pairing, neither is played by original stars Franco Nero and Gianni Garko (instead, Hunt Powers and Fabio Testi). Not content with trashing Django’s street cred, Sartana later tangled with Trinity and Hallelujah.
18. Those Dirty Dogs (1973, Giuseppe Rosati) – Gianni Garko plays a Muslim gunslinger (?) who joins army officer Stephen Boyd to fight Mexican bandits. With a name like that, who needs a plot?
19. Two R-R-Ringos from Texas (1967, Marino Girolami) – Either a literary stutter or stuck typewriter key produced this amazing title. Unsurprisingly, it has no relation to the Giuliano Gemma vehicle A Pistol for Ringo (1964). Rather, it’s a parody of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – or is that U-U-Ugly?
20. You’re Jinxed Friend, You’ve Met Sacramento (1972, Giorgio Cristallini) – We close with another comedy. Between stints as TV actor and right-wing demagogue, Ty Hardin starred as a boxer tracking down the dastards who kidnapped his wife.
Did I miss any memorable Spaghetti Western titles? Let me know in the comments section!