Our brothers and sisters in Italy have always had a certain élan when it comes to filmmaking. Indeed, I expect nothing less from the country that not only created a entire subgenre of violent murder mysteries that paved the way for the America slasher flick in the late ‘70s (the “giallo”), but also added their own spin to the tired ol’ western, making way for what would we call the “spaghetti western” today. Yet, for all their efforts — good or bad — many of their works remain low-key to the American public to this day. It’s a real pity, too, since there are some truly exceptional contributions to cinema, such as dramas and documentaries (no, I’m not talking about Mondo Cane, kids), that go widely unnoticed by all.
Therefore, for this helping of “Catching Up at the Video Store”, I have collected six titles that offer a total of seven strange and often wonderful movies from that familiar boot-shaped country.
· Spaghetti Western Double Feature: The Strangers Gundown / Today We Kill, Tomorrow We Die! (1969/1968) (VCI Entertainment)
We’ll begin with that genre of film Italy is perhaps best known for (well, for me at least): the Spaghetti Western, to wit VCI Entertainment has whipped up a double serving of with The Strangers Gundown and Today We Kill, Tomorrow We Die! The first film — originally known as Django the Bastard — is one of many unofficial Django flicks produced in the wake of the Sergio Corbucci classic. Here, Anthony Steffan plays a mysterious personification of revenge, who wanders into town to eliminate the men who thought they had killed him. If it sounds like a Clint Eastwood film, it’s because Clint copied it when he made High Plains Drifter four years later.
The second flick in this set, Today We Kill, Tomorrow We Die!, is presented here under an alternate title, Today It’s Me…Tomorrow You, and stars Brett Halsey (under the name Montgomery Ford). Co-written by none other than Dario Argento, this one has a man released from prison for a crime he did not commit, and who promptly goes out in search of the man who set him up. Interestingly, the villain here is portrayed by Japanese actor Tatsuya Nakadai (one of his few non-Japanese roles). The great Bud Spencer co-stars alongside Wayde Preston, Jeff Cameron, and William Berger as the men Halsey/Ford hires to assist him in his plight.