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Case Number 23698: Small Claims Court

Buy Fistful of Bullets: Spaghetti Western Collection at Amazon

Fistful of Bullets: Spaghetti Western Collection

Gunfight At Red Sands
1963 // 94 Minutes // Not Rated
Johnny Yuma
1966 // 95 Minutes // Not Rated
Death Rides A Horse
1967 // 114 Minutes // Not Rated
Between God, The Devil, And A Winchester
1968 // 97 Minutes // Not Rated
Beyond The Law
1968 // 109 Minutes // Not Rated
Find A Place To Die
1968 // 84 Minutes // Not Rated
This Man Can't Die
1968 // 89 Minutes // Not Rated
Sundance And The Kid
1969 // 83 Minutes // Not Rated
Twice A Judas
1969 // 91 Minutes // Not Rated
Fistful Of Lead
1970 // 97 Minutes // Not Rated
Grand Duel
1972 // 90 Minutes // Not Rated
It Can Be Done, Amigo
1972 // 97 Minutes // Not Rated
Trinity And Sartana
1972 // 101 Minutes // Not Rated
The Fighting Fists Of Shanghai Joe
1973 // 93 Minutes // Not Rated
Apache Blood
1975 // 89 Minutes // Not Rated
God's Gun
1975 // 96 Minutes // Not Rated
Released by Mill Creek Entertainment
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // April 20th, 2012

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All Rise...

Judge Daryl Loomis never leaves without finishing his drink.

Editor's Note

Our review of Grand Duel (1972), published May 9th, 2013, is also available.

The Charge

Don't play games…Tinhorn!

The Case

This review will have exactly the same level of detail that Mill Creek puts into their massive DVD collections. I don't believe there are many who are really pining for in depth analysis of sixteen films at once, anyway, but a full 24 hours of Italian westerns sounds like a fun project, so I'll try to keep it short and off we ride!

Beyond the Law: After stealing the payroll of a mining outfit, a bandit (Lee Van Cleef, For a Few Dollars More) gets roped into acting as the town sheriff and restoring order to a place under siege from some real bad guys bent on robbing everything from the town or killing all the children.

This genre entry has been included in many multi-pack sets, often in a two-fer with Death Rides a Horse, which we'll get to later. Lee Van Cleef is always pretty good, but it's a little weird to see him as the protagonist, as he's portrayed here. Directed by Giorgio Stegani (Adios Gringo), there's some violence and a fair bit of double-dealing. Beyond the Law ranks somewhere in the upper half of the genre, but it's nothing particularly special.

The print is dirty and non-anamorphic, but small as the letterboxed frame is, at least we get the entire thing. Also of note, this is the full 110 minute version of the film, not the 90 minute US release version. Thus, there are portions that have not been dubbed into English, but feature Italian with English subtitles.

Apache Blood: A soldier is left to die in the wilderness, but survives and tries to return to his fort, only to find himself pursued by the dreaded Apache assassin, Yellow Shirt (Ray Danton, Code Name: Jaguar), who wants his head as a trophy.

This one isn't even Italian, so I'm not sure what it's doing here, but I can attest to its particular awfulness. Verne Piehl (Evidence of Power), in the first of two movies he directed, makes a pretty lame script even worse by making it look like a bottom-barrel home production, with some of the worst editing you'll find and an inexplicable bear attack scene that at least lightens the mood. Nobody is buying this set for Apache Blood, no doubt about that. The print is full frame and ugly, with a mono sound mix to match.

This Man Can't Die: A bounty hunter (Guy Madison, Sword of the Conqueror) who got three bandits hanged is targeted by the leader of the bandit gang, who attack his family. After killing his parents and brutalizing his sister, the hunter now must take personal revenge.

There are worse movies in this set, but This Man Can't Die (also known as Long Days of Hate, which makes a lot more sense) still isn't much to write home about. It's violent, with more sex than your average western, and it has a hilarious brawl between the bandits and a brothel full of prostitutes. It has its moments. The print, like the last, is full frame and seriously dirty. The audio is weak and tinny. Let's hope for better down the road.

Gunfight at Red Sands: A white man known as Gringo (Richard Harrison, Ninja Terminator) was adopted and raised by a Mexican family, but has been away for years fighting for his country. Upon returning, he finds his parents have been murdered and his family's money has been stolen by the racist town officials. Now, it's once again time for revenge.

Gunfight at Red Sands is a decent movie, but notable only for predating Sergio Leone's films, which introduced the world to the genre, and a very early score from the great Ennio Morricone, and includes one of his most ridiculous vocal tracks, "A Gringo Like Me." Otherwise, this is a mediocre curiosity that has a lot more to do with the hokey American westerns of the time than the films it precedes. The prints just keep getting worse, though, with this one the bottom of the barrel so far and sound that isn't a whole lot better.

Death Rides a Horse: As a young boy, Bill (John Phillip Law, Barbarella) witnessed the brutal murder of his entire family. Now an adult, the spirit of vengeance has grown in him and he goes out to seek retribution, only to find Ryan (Lee Van Cleef, Escape from New York), an ex-con with his own agenda and the same targets.

This one should be pretty familiar to Italian western fans, as it has been released over and again in budget sets over the years. It's an excellent film, a top ten in the genre for me, with solid performances, good direction from Giulio Petroni (Tepepa), and one of Ennio Morricone's finest scores on top. Unfortunately, as usual, the full frame transfer is horrible, sometimes unwatchable, and the sound isn't much better.

Sundance and the Kid: Two feuding brothers learn that they have inherited a huge sum from their dead uncle, but must live together peacefully for six full months in order to claim it. They start fighting immediately, but soon must learn to work together to fight off the menace of the big bandit in town.

This is the worst one yet. Titled "Alive or, Preferably, Dead" in Italy, the producers tried to capitalize on the success of a certain film, though it has nothing to with that pair, but only succeeded in creating the worst western-comedy I've ever seen. The jokes are terrible, the plot is worse, and the acting is simply laughable. The transfer and sound do it no favors.

Grand Duel: Sheriff Clayton (Lee Van Cleef), a disgraced former lawman with an axe to grind, discovers that a young man wanted for murder (Alberto Dentice) is innocent and does what he can to help the man bring the right men to justice.

This one won't set the world on fire, but Grand Duel is a solid movie from the latter half of the genre. Van Cleef is great as always and Dentice is pretty good with no real experience. There are some acrobatics as well, channeling the great Django, which is always welcome. This is the second of the collection with a widescreen transfer, though it's not anamorphic either, and seeing the entire screen might also have elevated my esteem for the movie.

Twice a Judas: A man (Antonio Sabato, Seven Blood Stained Orchids) wakes up on the battlefield not remembering what happened or even his name. After finding out that he has taken a contract to kill his own brother (Klaus Kinski, Fitzcarraldo), the man kills his employer and rejoins the family, only to discover that his brother is more diabolical than anybody.

While it's welcome to see Klaus Kinski in these sorts of roles, Twice a Judas is a pretty lackluster movie. It isn't as disturbingly terrible as some of the movies so far, but it's nothing to write home about, either. The print, while full frame, is a little clearer than average in the set and the sound is relatively noise-free, but there's not enough going on here to care about any of it.

It Can Be Done, Amigo: A good-natured rogue (Bud Spencer, Trinity Is Still My Name) is saved from an illegal hanging by a lawyer and his rich young charge happening by on a stagecoach. The lawyer is killed in the ensuing mayhem and the rogue takes the kid under his wing to a town where the boy has an inheritance that everyone, including a gunslinger (Jack Palance, Companeros) who is connected to the rogue.

Unfortunately, this is the second western-comedy I've had to endure but, without recommending it at all, at least it's not as bad as Sundance and the Kid, though it does star Bud Spencer, as well. The comedy works a little better here than in the last example and, while the dubbing on the child acting is as bad as I've ever heard, it's an amusing little western. The full frame transfer, predictably, looks poor, but not quite as bad as much of the set. The sound is pretty poor, though.

God's Gun: Father John (Van Cleef), once a gunfighter but now a preacher, is drawn back into his old life when a bandit leader (Palance) arrives in town and kills a local man. When the preacher is killed by the bandits, a young boy must head into Mexico to convince John's twin brother to cross the border and get revenge.

This one was weird and fairly enjoyable. We have Van Cleef and Palance together, which is always a treat, plus a host of other names, including teen idol Leif Garrett (Walking Tall (1973)) and sex siren Sybil Danning (Chained Heat), to make the most star-studded picture so far in the set. Twin Lee Van Cleefs sounds a lot cooler than it actually turns out to be, but in relation to the rest of the collection, this one's a winner. The technical specs are making me sound like a broken record, so I'll just move on.

The Fighting Fists of Shanghai Joe: Joe (Chen Lee), a Chinese immigrant with crazy fast feet, gets to the states expecting an opportunity to succeed, but only sees prejudice wherever he goes. When he starts fighting for the rights of the Mexican workers in the area, the mayor hires an assassin (Klaus Kinski) to come in and take care of business.

You can tell that a genre has run out of ideas when they combine their story with kung-fu. Shanghai Joe is an utter joke, but not as much as its sequel, The Return of Shanghai Joe, which is thankfully not in this set. Kinski is extra sadistic in this film, though, and it's pretty violent, but that can't overcome the awful story and terrible fighting. The Bruno Nicolai score is pretty good, though, so it does have that. The full frame print actually looks better than most; though the colors look really bad, there isn't a lot of damage to the print. I'll take it where I can get it.

Between God, the Devil, and a Winchester: Just before bandits kill him, an unknown man hides the treasure map his killers hope to find. A young boy happens to witness the action and, once they leave, retrieves the map. He takes it to his pastor, Father Pat (Richard Harrison), who believes it is the lost treasure of his church. Together, they hire a team to go after the treasure, but the bandits have been on their trail the whole time.

As far as Old West adaptations of Treasure Island go, I suppose this isn't all that bad of a movie, but it really doesn't fit the bill when you have a hankering for the genre. There's too much comedy and way too much time spent with this stupid kid. It works as rainy Saturday kind of fare, but that's about it. The transfer is awful and the sound is awful, as I have come to expect.

Trinity and Sartana: Two friends, Trinity (Harry Baird, Four of the Apocalypse) from Trinidad and the agile Sartana (Alberto Dell'Acqua, Texas, Adios, as Robert Widmark), constantly come into money in weird ways, but their playful attitudes mean they can't hold onto it for long. The fun-loving duo scams their way through the country thwarting villains and helping others wherever they can.

There are two pairs of character names in Spaghetti Westerns that mean very different things. If you're looking at a movie that uses the names Django or Sabata, you're in for a violent, sadistic, though not always quality time. If that name is Trinity, however, you're looking at really bad comedy. Put together in the same movie and, if you're still reading, you can probably tell by now how I feel about comic entries in the genre, so good lord. It even has awful cartoon sound effects. I'd probably like it better if it was a cartoon. For the image and sound, what do you expect?

Find a Place to Die: A geologist on his way to his goldmine is buried under a mountain of rubble while fending off a team of bandits. In order to save him, his wife (Pascale Petit, Three Murderesses) heads to a nearby town and hires a drunken ex-Confederate soldier (Jeffrey Hunter, The Searchers) to help her. He hires a team of local weirdoes and they head out, but quickly find the bandits waiting for them.

In terms of quality, Find a Place to Die is pretty good, but it isn't terribly exciting. There are a few good scenes and the overall mood is considerably darker than much of the set, but the action scenes are few and the romantic subplot is jacked up way too far. Given what Ive had to watch so far, though, I'll take it. Image and sound quality are average for the collection.

Johnny Yuma: Samantha Felton (Rosalba Neri, Lady Frankenstein) hires her brother to murder her rich husband, only to discover that he left his entire fortune to his nephew, Johnny Yuma (Mark Damon, Johnny Oro). She then convinces her ex-lover to murder Johnny, but after she double-crosses him, as well, he and Johnny team up to get back at her.

Huh, it seems like the quality is going up as the collection comes to a close. It's a shame most of the rest is so bad, but I'm happy to have it now. Like the previous feature, Johnny Yuma is fairly dark, but is filled with all kinds of betrayals and fisticuffs, including a fairly savage beating of a young boy, which I'm not that used to seeing, even in the otherwise dark genre. This is one of the few here that I'd like to see again if somebody does a restoration on it. On the whole, though, the image and sound are some of the best on the set, which clearly isn't saying much.

Fistful of Lead: After Sartana (George Hilton, My Dear Killer) witnesses a gold heist, he heads into town looking for a piece of the action, or all of it, to be more accurate. When his old rival Sabata (Charles Southwood, Roy Colt and Winchester Jack) shows up in town looking like he knows something, though, Sartana has to decide whether to team up with him or put him down.

We end on a very high note, with the best film in the collection. Violent and fun, director Giuliano Carmineo (The Case of the Bloody Iris) puts two of the great Spaghetti Western icons together and makes it work really well. Fast-paced and action-packed, this is definitely the one I wish would get a real restoration. The image and sound are as poor as anything on the set, but at least it's widescreen, and I'm glad it's here to see.

Dang, that was a lot. For Spaghetti Western fans on a budget, it's hard to argue with the price versus value of Fistful of Bullets. A full day's worth of Italian rifle action at a low price makes sense, but since it isn't the first time Mill Creek has released any of these sixteen films and the quality hasn't been improved on a single one of them, the market for the set seems fairly limited to me. Still, if you like the genre, don't mind some pretty shoddy prints, and haven't already purchased a previous iteration, it isn't that bad of a collection.

The Verdict

Nobody can claim they got ripped off, so case dismissed, I guess.

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Scales of Justice, Gunfight At Red Sands

Judgment: 73

Perp Profile, Gunfight At Red Sands

Studio: Mill Creek Entertainment
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Release Year: 1963
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Gunfight At Red Sands

• None

Scales of Justice, Johnny Yuma

Judgment: 82

Perp Profile, Johnny Yuma

Studio: Mill Creek Entertainment
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 1966
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Johnny Yuma

• None

Scales of Justice, Death Rides A Horse

Judgment: 88

Perp Profile, Death Rides A Horse

Studio: Mill Creek Entertainment
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 114 Minutes
Release Year: 1967
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Death Rides A Horse

• None

Scales of Justice, Between God, The Devil, And A Winchester

Judgment: 50

Perp Profile, Between God, The Devil, And A Winchester

Studio: Mill Creek Entertainment
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 97 Minutes
Release Year: 1968
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Between God, The Devil, And A Winchester

• None

Scales of Justice, Beyond The Law

Judgment: 72

Perp Profile, Beyond The Law

Studio: Mill Creek Entertainment
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 109 Minutes
Release Year: 1968
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Beyond The Law

• None

Scales of Justice, Find A Place To Die

Judgment: 80

Perp Profile, Find A Place To Die

Studio: Mill Creek Entertainment
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 84 Minutes
Release Year: 1968
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Find A Place To Die

• None

Scales of Justice, This Man Can't Die

Judgment: 60

Perp Profile, This Man Can't Die

Studio: Mill Creek Entertainment
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Release Year: 1968
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, This Man Can't Die

• None

Scales of Justice, Sundance And The Kid

Judgment: 30

Perp Profile, Sundance And The Kid

Studio: Mill Creek Entertainment
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 83 Minutes
Release Year: 1969
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Sundance And The Kid

• None

Scales of Justice, Twice A Judas

Judgment: 55

Perp Profile, Twice A Judas

Studio: Mill Creek Entertainment
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 1969
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Twice A Judas

• None

Scales of Justice, Fistful Of Lead

Judgment: 86

Perp Profile, Fistful Of Lead

Studio: Mill Creek Entertainment
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 97 Minutes
Release Year: 1970
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Fistful Of Lead

• None

Scales of Justice, Grand Duel

Judgment: 81

Perp Profile, Grand Duel

Studio: Mill Creek Entertainment
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
•  7.1 Master Audio (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 1972
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Grand Duel

• None

Scales of Justice, It Can Be Done, Amigo

Judgment: 40

Perp Profile, It Can Be Done, Amigo

Studio: Mill Creek Entertainment
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 97 Minutes
Release Year: 1972
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, It Can Be Done, Amigo

• None

Scales of Justice, Trinity And Sartana

Judgment: 60

Perp Profile, Trinity And Sartana

Studio: Mill Creek Entertainment
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 101 Minutes
Release Year: 1972
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Trinity And Sartana

• None

Scales of Justice, The Fighting Fists Of Shanghai Joe

Judgment: 50

Perp Profile, The Fighting Fists Of Shanghai Joe

Studio: Mill Creek Entertainment
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Release Year: 1973
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, The Fighting Fists Of Shanghai Joe

• None

Scales of Justice, Apache Blood

Judgment: 35

Perp Profile, Apache Blood

Studio: Mill Creek Entertainment
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Release Year: 1975
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Apache Blood

• None

Scales of Justice, God's Gun

Judgment: 73

Perp Profile, God's Gun

Studio: Mill Creek Entertainment
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 1975
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, God's Gun

• None








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