CONTINUING HIS ADVENTUROUS repertory programming at the Hollywood Theatre, the Grindhouse Film Festival's Dan Halsted is offering up a trio of bold spaghetti westerns, presented in original 35mm prints over the next three weeks. The spaghetti western perhaps hit its peak in the late '60s with majestic work like Sergio Leone's The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, but the Italians had been making westerns since the beginning of the decade. When 1964's A Fistful of Dollars won a huge international audience for Leone and actor Clint Eastwood, the floodgates opened for European directors to try their hand at the genre. The results—frequently shot in and near the Spanish city of Almería—were violent, surreal, gritty, operatic, sometimes awful, and often incredible.
The Hollywood's series opens with Death Rides a Horse (April 23 & 27), a 1967 revenge flick from director Giulio Petroni. This is essentially the same movie as Leone's For a Few Dollars More, right down to Lee Van Cleef as the mysterious stranger and a rousing score from Ennio Morricone. John Phillip Law is just as wooden here as he was as the blind angel in Barbarella, but the film retains a grandeur in its musical and visual leitmotifs, a couple of which Quentin Tarantino borrowed for Kill Bill.
Cut-Throats Nine (April 29, May 1), meanwhile, is a 1972 Spanish combo of western and splatter flick from director Joaquín Luis Romero Marchent, littered with odd freeze-frame flashbacks and extreme bloodiness. A chain gang of murderous convicts travels a mountain range on foot (the Pyrenees, subbing for the Rockies). Its intense level of gore hits surreal highs, and the Catholic imagery turns the whole thing into a bizarre passion play. A remake with Harvey Keitel is currently being filmed.
The series closes with Leone's 1965 For a Few Dollars More (May 6-11), the middle installment of the director's Dollars trilogy and a virtually unimpeachable classic. Eastwood's here, and so's the outstanding Van Cleef, teaming up to take down pothead gangleader El Indio (Gian Maria Volenté). It's gorgeous, exciting, action packed, and one of the best movies ever made.