Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Spy in Bangkok

The Spy in Bangkok by Bill S. Ballinger
Published by Signet in December 1965 (1st Printing)
I began this book without having read any of the other books in the series and was immediately drawn into the story of CIA Agent Joaquin Hawks. The story starts out with Hawks in a prison cell on an island somewhere in Southeast Asia. He was captured when he was washed off his ship during a storm and is awaiting to be executed for spying. I was immediately hooked with this opening chapter, but I am curious if the events preceding his capture were told in the previous book.
Hawks is rescued by his contact, Dak, at the last moment and they make their escape. They head on over to Bangkok and the main plot begins. Hawks has been investigating an American by the name of Turlock and his yacht, the Santanya, is currently anchored in the harbor. Turlock is our main villain and he's a weapons dealer who made his fortune buying up war surplus at the end of World War II. Somehow, he's managed to get a hold of some nuclear warheads and it's Hawks mission to not let them fall into enemy hands.
Disguising himself as a Mexican guitar player, Hawks gets a job at the local nightclub where Turlock has been frequenting. He also gets mixed up with the beautiful dancer who works at the club. Hawks ingratiates himself with Theda Ray (punny isn't it?), Turlock's main squeeze, and is hired to perform on the Santanya for a dinner party. While on board, he discovers an antique cannon mould which was recently stolen from a local museum.
Reaching shore, after being caught by one of Turlock's goons, Hawks heads back to the dancer's pad to pick up his gear, but gets into a spot of trouble when her ex-lover shows up with the local police who don't act too kindly towards him. After some fisticuffs, Hawks manages to elude the police, but has lost precious time. The Santanya has already left port which means Dak and his men have followed orders and are tailing the ship, leaving Hawks stranded in Bangkok.
A few days later, Hawks reaches Sawan and meets up with Dak and Turlock. A Chinese Junk has been seen quite a bit in the area and has unloaded a series of crates that were delivered to the local mine, which just so happens to be owned by Turlock. Sneaking around the island, Hawks busts into the abandoned mine shaft were the delivery was sent to find the nuclear missiles and several large blocks of solid gold.
They tail the Santanya again and watch as they dive overboard and do some underwater work in a remote area down the coast in the Gulf of Siam. When Turlock leaves for the day, Hawks takes a look where they were diving to discover an old shipwreck and Turlock's plan is made clear. He plans to melt the gold down and make cannons out of it with the mould. He'll then paint them up, add some concretions and "salvage" them from the wreck. What better way to smuggle gold back into the United States?
A new plan is formed with a corrupt local official who doesn't quite follow Hawks' plan and the whole thing almost goes sour. But they manage to attack the Santanya while the salvage operation is under way, but before Agent Hawks arrives, Turlock, his goons and the corrupt local are killed. He manages to save Theda from the pirates and they head back to port where, during the night, he plants three bombs on the Chinese Junk while the warheads are being loaded. They follow at a safe distance and sink the ship somewhere in the South China Sea. Mission Accomplished.
Bill S. Ballinger wrote a total of five Joaquin Hawks adventures, The Spy in Bangkok being the third in the series. I don't regret reading this one, but there were a few things that I didn't care for. The most damning of them being not having a compelling villain. Let's face it, this book, like most of these spy adventures, are trying to cash in on the Bond craze of the sixties; and having such a weak villain just doesn't work for me. I mean he's hardly in the story at all and does not come off as much of a threat. Turlock is forgettable and he's even killed off-page by a minor character. While not bad, but I don't know if I'll be seeking out any of the other books in the series.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Dr. No in Chicago

Ladies and Gentlemen, this just in. Dr. No, the first James Bond film adventure, is back on the big screen for one showing only. Monday, September 24th at 7:00 pm, Dr. No will be showing at the AMC River East 21 in downtown Chicago. The screening is priced at $7.00 and includes a full-size commemorative poster (while supplies last). Click here for more details.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Sean Connery Interview

No, I didn't snag an interview with the legendary Sir Sean Connery (I wish), but I did find this old interview from issue #9 of the Lucasfilm Fan Club Magazine from 1989.

Sean Connery
Discovering the Bonds Between Father and Son
by Dan Madsen & John S. Davis
The entertainment industry is filled with various types of individuals. First, there are the would-be actors, writers, directors, producers and so on who flood into Hollywood on a daily basis, most of whom will remain in hopeful obscurity forever. Then there are the people who make a living in the business, but many of their names are unknown to the public. Now come the handful of household names - the stars - the people we adulate whether their new project has any redeeming value or not. And, of course, the personality gamut of all three groups range from one extreme to another, from the egomaniac who feels he's the best thing to ever happen to the entertainment industry to the laid-back individual who is so genuinely nice you sometimes wonder how they survive in such a cut-throat world. And actor Sean Connery certainly falls into that latter category. But who is this man?
Born in a poor and rugged part of Edinburgh, Scotland, Thomas Sean Connery learned the value of work early in life. By the age of nine he was already rising at six in the morning to deliver milk before going to school. Work such as this helped keep Connery's family afloat while his father worked in a munitions factory during World War II. Only a few years afterwards at age thirteen, he abandoned school and eventually found himself, three years later, entering into the Navy, only to be discharged due to stomach ulcers at nineteen.
With the Navy behind him, a string of odd jobs followed during the next several years (lorry driver, cement mixer, bricklayer, steel bender, printer's devil, lifeguard, coffin polisher). At the Edinburgh School of Art, he both studied and worked as a model. Then fate stepped in when he entered a Mr. Universe competition in London, from which he was invited to audition for the touring company of South Pacific.
Connery's love and fascination for acting grew in the coming years as he worked in the repertory theatre and gained small roles in film and television, including Rod Serling's Requiem for a Heavyweight, Age of Kings, Anna Christie, and Anna Karenina. About a decade after his entry into the world of acting, the British Secret Service beckoned him. James Bond, Agent 007, soon proved to be the greatest boost for Connery's career. Yet, in time, his newest persona became much like a cage from which Connery continually tried to free himself. After years of struggle, Connery finally managed to gain his long sought-after parole from the Bond image, which first manifested itself because the stars of the time, such as Cary Grant, David Niven, Richard Burton, James Mason, and Roger Moore, were too high-priced for that first Bondian adventure, the one million dollar Dr. No.

"I'm not quite as branded or destroyed by the association with Bond as I once was," says Connery. "There's no question it was getting in the way of my decisions to do anything else. The strange thing was how long it hung around, but it doesn't bug me as much as it used to."

After Dr. No, Connery returned to the role of James Bond for the film Diamonds Are Forever (to the joy of all concerned because they had singularly failed to find a replacement in George Lazenby in On Her Majesty 's Secret Service) and gave his entire fee to the Scottish International Education Trust which he helped form. Its aims are, "the advancement of education for the public benefit and the provision of facilities for recreation and other leisure time activities." Sean Connery is a firm believer in putting something back.

Apart from his return for the film Never Say Never Again in 1983 (not one of his happier experiences), Diamonds Are Forever was Connery's last mission for the secret service.

In the years that followed, Connery firmly left his image as James Bond behind with such films as Murder on the Orient Express, The Wind and the Lion, John Huston's The Man Who Would Be King with Michael Caine, Robin and Marian (with Audrey Hepburn), A Bridge Too Far - Richard Attenborough's star studded film about Arnhem, Outland, The Name of the Rose, The Presidio and the veteran Chicago cop Jimmy Malone who taught Kevin Costner how to deal with Al Capone in the acclaimed The Untouchables - a role for which he won an Oscar.
"It was very encouraging and flattering to receive an Oscar," says Connery. "Of course you do hear conflicting cases about people never working again but fortunately that doesn't seem to be the problem. I think the goals remain the same - finding material that is stimulating and challenging.

"I'm highly competitive in sport," he adds, "and I've never made any secret of that, whether its golf, tennis or poker, but ('m not competitive as an actor. I don't mind giving a scene to anyone who can take it from me."

But the question remains: who is Sean Connery? That's hard to say. He is a man who is both straightforward and somewhat mysterious. Perhaps it is these qualities coupled with his fine acting abilities that makes him such a sought-after star by both the public and film directors alike, including Steven Spielberg.
"Sean was immediately my first choice. I never had to think about it," Spielberg recalls, "because the second I thought, 'Who is worthy enough and strong enough in the area of screen charisma to be Harrison Ford's dad?,' I ruled out every character actor that the casting people gave me. And I immediately went right to Sean Connery, never thinking we could get him."

"But George Lucas wasn't so enthusiastic," Connery recalls about his casting as Professor Henry Jones. "He had a different idea. He wanted someone more bookish and Yoda-like."

As everyone now knows, Lucas was eventually convinced and Connery took on the role as Indy's father. However, in the beginning, even Connery had to be convinced that the role was right for him when he first read the script.

"I was rather disappointed," he recalls. "When I voiced my reservations about it, Steven was, I think, a bit surprised. My reservations at the beginning were mainly to get a clearer picture of where we were going with this character - this father figure.

"I liked the idea of him being more like Sir Richard Burton - the explorer; much more  active and academic to begin with and then you realize what the genes were that  produced this Indiana Jones. So you get this picture of the action man with the academic but still very much a Victorian father. And therefore, you could get a lot of mileage out of the stunts and still play the father and be a part of the relationship.

"He's got skin and that's what I think captures an audience for this type of story and that's what the James Bond films had, too. Indiana Jones, in some ways, is a Bondian character because he always ends up in terrible situations which always have to be resolved with some invention or humorous action. That's the only solution he ever has whether it's  jumping into a plane and he says he can fly it but that he doesn't know how to land it. Yes, he's very Bondian."
Whether Indy and Henry are escaping from an Austrian castle, fighting for their lives on a German tank or facing the mystical forces in the Grail temple, one thing is very  apparent - these two characters work well together and create what could only be described as movie magic.

"There is the most wonderful chemistry between the two of them," says director Steven Spielberg. "It's a little like the Newman/Redford chemistry in Butch Cassidy and The Sting. It's a real sparkle of screen magic."
For both Ford and Connery, the experience of working together was a pleasure and one of the highlights of the film. "Sean is, of course, such a terribly experienced actor," states Harrison Ford, "and that made it interesting to work with him. He's an awfully nice guy, too. I've enjoyed knowing him as well as working with him."
One aspect that not only Ford but the Indy III crew enjoyed was the lightness and good humor Connery brought to the set. He is one actor that believes in having fun while you work and spreading that enjoyment to others.
"I think the essence of the fun for me is the pleasure," Connery says. "The greatest pleasure is when the whole team is working and then what you're all trying to do works. When a film set is harmonious and everybody has the same similar intention and goal, it's terrific. It's like a microcosm of a really good society.
"The nice thing about Indiana Jones is the humor and the fact that it's back to an older age, not an age of hardware and spacecraft, but cars and airplanes and trains and horses. I'm always looking for the humor in a situation and Harrison Ford has a nice sly sense of humor. I'm very impressed by Steven Spielberg; he's very inventive, very quick. We've built up the humor as much as possible in the relationship between Indiana and his father."
Not only does the Indiana Jones series of films owe a debt of gratitude to the old cliffhanger serials of the 40's and 50's for its style, it also owes some thanks to Sean Connery who influenced Hollywood's portrayal of the modem screen hero with the characteristics he injected into James Bond: humor, irony, detachment, and  self deprecation. So the interesting thing about The Last Crusade is not just the fact that Sean Connery relinquishes the heroic reins to his on-screen son, Indiana Jones, but that Indiana Jones has followed in his father's footsteps and graduated with honors from the Connery School of Screen Heroes.
Unfortunately, not all stars are as well-grounded as Connery. In addition to fame and fortune, stardom brings responsibilities and certain problems to the lives of many celebrities. Some are well able to handle their success without flaunting it or being consumed by it such as the case with Connery. Then there are the others who seem to have little regard for their fans, who enabled them to reach star status in the first place, and often make a concerted effort to avoid fans. To Connery, such behavior is way out of line, and in his mind his rule of thumb is this: if he is in a public place he has to deal with the public, and if he's in a private place he expects his privacy to be respected. Quite simply, Sean Connery knows and accepts the trappings of stardom.

"You can't really explain it to people who haven't experienced it," he says. "If I went into a public place, I did so completely at my own risk and you can't complain about your privacy being infringed upon. On the other hand, I made myself go into some places and move around because you can very easily have a Burton-Taylor situation, which was greatly self provoked, where you have a phalanx of guards in the restaurant in front of you, setting up the scene like a tableau before you enter."

Connery, as an individual, is unconcerned about what others may think of him. His goal is simply to be a serious actor. The size and nature of a role is unimportant to him, only the quality of the characters he is asked to play matter.  In his thirty-plus year career, he has been seen on screen as a middle-aged Robin Hood, an honest Chicago beat cop, a convict in a brutal British military prison in North Africa, a grandfather in the current generational crime caper, Family Business, and as the Russian sub commander in The Hunt For Red October due out next spring. Yet, when looking over his list of credits, one fact becomes immediately apparent - the almost complete lack of comedies, a point others have expressed to Connery before.
"Everybody says, 'You don't do much comedy,'" states Connery. "But I always try to find the comedy in everything, because it's much more revealing, much more enjoyable and harder. There is something quite comedic and absurd about somebody sitting in that sidecar! What we really got down to in The Last Crusade was trying to find as many places as possible where they would have problems relating to each other, which always lends itself to the comedic elements. Right from the very beginning Henry calls Indy 'junior!'

"As I go on," adds Connery, "I still retain an appetite (for acting) which at some times gets even greater than it was before. But as long as I still have that there I'm perfectly happy working. The day I wouldn't have that enthusiasm or that sort of appetite, then I will look in another direction."

Sunday, September 16, 2012

3 For $35 Warner Archive Sale

While not their best sale, Warner Archives is currently offering three titles for $35 out of a selection of 1,199 DVDs. While the sale is only on select titles, there are some good ones to be found. There are only offering free shipping this time around on orders over $50. The sale runs through Monday, September 17th so you'll need to act soon if you want to get in on the deal. There's nothing that I can't wait to own, so I'll be waiting around to see what kind of Black Friday deals they have this year.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Indiana Jones and the Movie Marathon

For those with nothing to do on Saturday, AMC and Paramount Pictures are screening all four Indiana Jones movies (at select cinemas only). The $25 entry fee also includes a limited edition poster and lanyard. Will it be the Raiders in Imax poster with the incorrect title as shown above?  For those in Chicago, the River East 21 located downtown at 322 East Illinois Street will be hosting the movie marathon. Click here for more details.

Raiders of the Lost Ark also finishes its one week limited Imax run tomorrow, September 13th. Sadly, the Navy Pier Imax did not show the film...  Here's hoping they get Skyfall this November.
And don't forget, the Indiana Jones Blu-ray set will be released this coming Tuesday. There still has been no word of a US release of the UK Limited Edition Collector's Set. Although the set is region free, reports indicate that many of the special features are in standard definition PAL format. Which means people without region free players will be able to watch the movies, but not all of the special features. It might just be time to finally invest in that region free blu-ray player...

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Who Wants To Live Forever

Highlander by Garry Douglas
Published by Grafton Books in 1986

MacLeod is the Highlander - a 19th century Scottish warrior, the noblest of the Immortals. Ramirez - the Spanish peacock - showed him his destiny and taught him swordplay. Heather loved him. But The Kurgan sought them out in MacLeod's wild homeland, and dealt Ramirez the only death an Immortal can suffer - decapitation.

Now the Immortals are Gathering. Seven lifetimes later in New York, the last of the Immortals face the final contest. One of them will receive The Prize they have awaited since the dawn of history. The others must perish.

The Kurgan is strong - with the strength of total evil. Finally, only MacLeod has the power to destroy him - and save the Earth from an era of chaos and darkness.

Highlander by Garry Kilworth
Published by Harper Collins in December 1998

There Can Be Only One
The battle rages across the centuries, from the wind-scoured Sahara to the wild Russian steppes to the rocky crags of Scotland. And only one Immortal can survive.

MacLeod is the Highlander. A Scottish clan warrior from the 16th century, he was taught the deadly arts by an ancient warrior, who then suffered the only wound that can end an Immortals life: decapitation.

Now, seven lifetimes later, MacLeod faces the final test. The Kurgan, his ancient adversary, has tracked him all the way to the streets of New York City.

The fight will be the same: blade to blade. Only the outcome is in doubt. Will the Highlander win? Or will The Kurgan's scimitar stop him with a blow that will plunge the Earth into an era of darkness and chaos?

Based on the cult film classic, the original novel available for the first time in the USA!

The Element of Fire by Jason Henderson
Published by Warner Books in October 1995

There Can Be Only One...
He is Immortal. A Scottish warrior born four hundred years ago. He is not alone. For centuries he has fought others like himself. He can die only if a foe takes his head, capturing his life-force in an event known as the Quickening. But his battles are eternal... for in the end, there can be only one. He is Duncan MacLeod. The Highlaner.

Princes of the Universe
Centuries ago, the Immortal pirate Khordas vowed to destroy MacLeod. Evil and insane, Khordas delights in burning his victims inside their homes and ships, while he loots the pyres from which he alone can emerge.

Nantucket, 1897: Now on an anniversary of blood, this undying monster springs an infernal trap around the Highlander. But the pirate doesn't want merely to kill MacLeod. Unless stopped, Khordas will sear to cinders everything - and everyone - the Highlander holds dear...

Scimitar by Ashley McConnell
Published by Warner Books in February 1996

Blood of Kings
For centuries the legendary sword has brought death and the Quickening. A blade forged to steal the blood of princes and Immortals, the scimitar has haunted Duncan MacLeod as it has haunted history, from the slave markets of the Barbary pirates to Lawrence of Arabia's war against the Turks...

Now the sword has mysteriously been delivered into Joe Dawson's hands. With it come instructions that tell Dawson - a member of the Watchers, the secret society of mortals who have observed Immortals through history - to give the scimitar to Duncan MacLeod. Is the scimitar meant as a challenge, a warning, or a salute across the centuries from one Immortal to another?

Scotland the Brave by Jennifer Roberson
Published by Warner Books in September 1996

Scotland Will Be Freed
MacLeod is drawn into a conspiracy of Immortals on a militant quest to win back the independence that Scotland lost, centuries ago, at Culloden. For her own reasons, Immortal Annie Devlin has already answered the ancient call of the clans. But if Duncan follows, he risks being drawn into a web of obsession, madness and murder. For the Immortal who is masterminding the campaign will be satisfied with nothing less than Duncan MacLeod's heart and soul... and undying loyalty.

Measure of a Man by Nancy Holder
Published by Warner Books in May 1997

The Prince of Lies
Niccolo Machiavelli was history's greatest manipulator, whose only morality was "might makes right." He played princes against kings, controlling all by lies and corrupted love. What if such a man were Immortal?... In Venice, 1655, MacLeod tested his wit and his honor against Machiavelli and learned that his opponent would stop at no betrayal to achieve his ends. Now Machiavelli has plans to dominate the entire mortal world. Then why has the Prince of Lies dared the Highlander to stop him?

The Path by Rebecca Neason
Published by Warner Books in August 1997

The Immortal Way
It is said that the Dalai Lama is immortal, in his own way: repeatedly reincarnated with his memories of past lives intact. Will the current incarnation of the Dalai Lama remember the Duncan MacLeod he met in 1781? And will he greet him as a friend - or an enemy?

In 1781 Duncan MacLeod was a weary traveler trying to escape the memory of too many European battlefields. Reaching Tibet's holy city of Lhasa, he found peace in a woman's love, an ancient land's eternal wisdom, and friendship with the Dalai Lama. Until a bloodthirsty Immortal turned his unstoppable army toward Tibet... and the head of the Highlander.

Zealot by Donna Lettow
Published by Warner Books in November 1997

Never Again
The Hebrew warrior Avram Mordecai has defended his people since the Roman siege of Masada, through 2000 years of Diaspora, ghettos, pogroms, and the Holocaust. And MacLeod has fought beside him, saving Jews from the Nazis in World War II. Now the Highlander is protecting a beautiful Palestinian diplomat at peace talks that the Zealot has vowed to disrupt by any means - including murder...

Shadow of Obsession by Rebecca Neason
Published by Warner Books in June 1998

Man of Peace
Once the Immortal Darius was a brutal warrior and the terror of Europe. Then outside the gates of Paris, a transformation took place, and Darius became a saintly man of peace. His teachings touched many lives - including the Highlander's. Now, to honor his friend's memory, MacLeod protects Victor Paulus, a mortal who carries on Darius' legacy. But Darius left another legacy - a thwarted ex-lover who spent centuries plotting against Darius, who has sworn to destroy anyone he called a friend. Staring with Victor Paulus and Duncan MacLeod.

The Captive Soul by Josepha Sherman
Published by Warner Books in August 1998

An Ancient Evil
Over three thousand years ago, Methos helped the Egyptian pharaohs in their battle against the sadistic Hyksos overlords. Then he fought Khyan, an Immortal Hyksos prince, but failed to take his head. Now a deadly madman stalks modern New York City, hunting an ancient sword, killing all who stand in his way. It can only be Khyan, seeking revenge. If Methos does not destroy this darkness from his past, he, Duncan MacLeod, and indeed all Immortals will be doomed...

White Silence by Ginjer Buchanan
Published by Warner Books in March 1999

Crucible of Ice
Three Immortals - MacLeod, his old friend Hugh Fitzcairn, and Fitz's student, young Danny O'Donal - trek to the Yukon, seeking glory, gold, and the Northern Lights. But in the raging blizzards of the far north, the quest becomes a nightmare. For even Immortals can starve, freeze, and go mad, trapped in a frozen hell where implacable nature can kill the Highlander or his companions - again, and again, and again...

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Another Disappointing Release of Death Wish 2

MGM and 20th Century Fox have done it again, and that's not a good thing. They recently released Death Wish 2 on blu-ray, and they keep dropping the ball.  It's like they don't even care about this series and I find that inexcusable. The entire release isn't a total write-off as the picture and sound quality are very strong. I'd go so far as to say that this movie will never look or sound better unless they spend the money for a full Lowry Digital restoration. They even went to the trouble of creating some new cover art instead of recycling the rather unattractive ones they have been using for years. While I still would have preferred the original poster artwork, I really do like the cover.

That leads to the question: What did they do wrong?  The answer:  Everything else. 

To start with, they did something that I truly hate on any release - the absence of any menus. After the standard warnings and logos, the film beings to play. You can press the menu button to your heart's content, but there isn't one. They only included one of those lame pop-up menus while the movie is playing.

The next mistake is the lack of special features - you only get the movie's theatrical trailer and that's it. While I don't know if there are any vintage featurettes from 1982, there is a rather interesting interview with director Michael Winner that is floating around YouTube, which was sadly not included. After watching that interview, I'm pretty sure he has something to say about the movie and a commentary track would have been a very nice addition.  None of the alternate scenes found on the Greek VHS were included either. 

But the most egregious error was the use of the cut, watered-down version yet again. Why do they keep doing this to us? Let's face it, most people who buy Death Wish 2 on blu-ray are going to be fans of the movie and they are going to want the complete version. This is especially confusing when you learn that MGM have been playing the uncut version on their HD cable channel and, or so I've been told, have been streaming the uncut version on Amazon and Netflix (it has since been removed from Netflix).  To add insult to injury, they even used one of those damned eco cases! 

While this release is far from ideal, it is at least better than the lousy DVDs they've been selling for years. I would recommend the purchase of Death Wish 2, 3 & 4 on blu-ray if you're a fan of the series; but not at the full retail price. These releases are so lackadaisical and cheaply produced that they have the five dollar budget bin price written all over them. Shame on you once again MGM!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

8 Spaghetti Westerns Movies

I came across another set of spaghetti westerns that was released this year by Echo Bridge Home Entertainment. The set was only $5.00 so I couldn't pass it up. This time around we get eight movies on two discs and all of them are spaghetti westerns.

The Cover Art
The 8 Spaghetti Westerns Movies set comes in a double disc case and features a Photoshopped movie poster for each title in the collection. It's nothing too fancy, and aside from the awkwardness of Spaghetti "Westerns Movies," it's not terrible; but it does look like a budget title.

The Discs
This set includes two double sided discs, each holding four movies.We get old parchment wanted poster type disc art that lists the titles contained on the disc.

The Menus
The menu is very basic featuring a selection of the movies only. There are no sub-menus or chapter indexes.

The Movies
All plot summaries have been taken from the back cover of the set and all reviews came from Spaghetti Westerns: The Good, the Bad and the Violent by Thomas Weisser.  As mentioned above, this collection includes only spaghetti westerns this time around.
Disc One
Buddy Goes West (1981)
Original Title:  Occhio alla penna
Starring:  Bud Spencer
Directed by:  Michele Lupo
Music by:  Ennio Morricone
Original Aspect Ratio:  2.35:1
DVD Aspect Ratio:  ~1.85:1
Original Runtime:  97 minutes
DVD Runtime:  89 minutes

Synopsis:  A drifter, mistaken for a doctor, takes on his new role while also trying to protect the town of Yucca from a band of outlaws.
Review:  A lightweight, but entertaining western comedy from director Michele Lupo aided by a melodic Ennio Morricone score. The meandering, episodic adventures of the "big" man and his dim-lit Indian sidekick do nothing for Bud Spencer's desire to escape the stereotypical image of the likable brute.
Notes:  This appears to be longest version available, at least in the United States.

Sartana in the Valley of Death (1970)
Original Title:  Sartana nella valle degli avvoltoi
Starring:  William Berger, Wayde Preston, Luciano Pigozzi
Directed by:  Roberto Mauri
Music by:  Augusto Martelli
Original Aspect Ratio:  2.35:1
DVD Aspect Ratio:  ~1.85:1
Original Runtime:  98 minutes
DVD Runtime:  79 minutes
Synopsis:  Outlaw Lee Calloway breaks three bandit brothers out of jail in exchange for part of their stolen gold.. but is forced to fight back when they don't hold up their end of the deal.

Review:  This one is written and directed by Roberto Mauri with stately camera work from underrated Sandro Mancori (generally associated with the better productions of Frank Kramer and Sergio Garrone).

Notes:  Again, this looks like the longest version available. The movie title is misspelled on the DVD menu as pictured in the menu image above.

Wanted (1966)
Starring:  Giuliano Gemma
Directed by:  Giorgio Ferroni
Music by:  Gianni Ferrio
Original Aspect Ratio:  2.35:1
DVD Aspect Ratio:  ~1.85:1
Original Runtime:  104 minutes
DVD Runtime:  100 minutes
Synopsis:  A newly-appointed sheriff is framed for murder, forcing him to prove his innocence and fight for his freedom.
Review:  In a loose remake of Gemma's Adios Gringo, once again he has to clear his name by bringing in the real horse rustler.  Except for the director's affinity for violence, there's not much separating this entry from similar Hollywood efforts. 
Notes:  Sinister Cinema lists a widescreen version for sale with a runtime of 107 minutes.

Blood Money (1974)
Original Title:  Là dove non batte il sole
Starring:  Lee Van Cleef, Lo Lieh
Directed by:  Antonio Margheriti
Music by:  Carlo Savina
Original Aspect Ratio:  2.35:1
DVD Aspect Ratio:  ~1.85:1
Original Runtime:  103 minutes
DVD Runtime:  96 minutes

Synopsis:  When a scheming thief gets mixed up with a Chinese man's hidden treasure, he is recruited by a young Kung-Fu student to help hunt down the missing inheritance.
Review:  The "man with gunsight eyes" teams up with the star of Five Fingers of Death in an action packed, yet unconventional genre production. There's loads of fun with some beautiful stars including Erika Blanc. It's a joint Hong Kong/Italian production directed in Europe by genre favorite Antonio Margheriti.
Notes: This title has been released internationally with the correct aspect ratio, but I can find no information on runtimes.  This is probably the same version used in the VideoAsia release, but I haven't checked for certain.

Disc Two
Sundance Cassidy and Butch the Kid (1969)
Original Title:  Vivi o, preferibilmente, morti
Starring:  Giuliano Gemma, Antonio Casas
Directed by:  Duccio Tessari
Music by:  Gianni Ferrio
Original Aspect Ratio:  1.66:1
DVD Aspect Ratio:  Pan & Scan
Original Runtime:  101 minutes
DVD Runtime:  97 minutes


Synopsis:  Estranged brothers Monty and Ted Mulligan must live together for six months in order to cash in on their inheritance.
Review:  This film is, perhaps, the best of directors Duccio Tessari's western comedies, but not as impressive as his serious films.
Notes:  Wild East released an anamorphic widescreen version of this film, but not as part of their Spaghetti Western Collection series. This one was released as a double feature with the Eurospy flick Kiss Kiss Bang Bang under an alternate title of Alive or Preferably Dead; both films star Giuliano Gemma.
Bounty Killer (1966)
Original Title:  El precio de un hombre
Starring:  Richard Wyler, Tomas Milian, Mario Brega
Directed by:  Eugenio Martín
Music by:  Stelvio Cipriani
Original Aspect Ratio:  1.78:1
DVD Aspect Ratio:  ~1.78:1
Original Runtime:  96 minutes
DVD Runtime:  92 minutes

Synopsis:  An escaped convict and a ruthless bounty hunter face off in a dangerous and violent showdown where the fastest gun will win.
Review:  An interesting love triangle is the central focus of this top-notch spaghetti western, by far the best of the Eugenio Martín genre efforts (unfortunately, he is best known in the US for his stinker Bad Man's River).  For this film, he is aided by the keen eye of chief cameraman Enzo Barboni. And, it's all based on the book Bounty Killer by Marvin H. Albert. There's also an excellent musical score from one of Italy's most sought-after composers, Stelvio Cipriani.
Notes: This appears to be longest version available to date.

Life Is Tough, Eh Providence? (1972)
Original Title:  La vita, a volte, è molto dura, vero Provvidenza?
Starring:  Tomas Milian, Horst Janson
Directed by:  Giulio Petroni
Music by:  Ennio Morricone
Original Aspect Ratio:  2.35:1
DVD Aspect Ratio:  2.35:1 (anamorphic)
Original Runtime:  100 minutes
DVD Runtime:  96 minutes
Synopsis:  In this western comedy classic, an eccentric bounty hunter uses the same crook to collect rewards in each state.
Review:  Competent filmmaker Giulio Petroni, best known for the genre revenge pic Death Rides A Horse, has directed a comedy western that works, a rarity in the spaghetti world. But much of the credit also goes to chameleon actor Tomas Milian. 
Notes:  I believe this is the first DVD release of this title in the US and it's anamorphic too.

Price of Power (1969)
Original Title:  Il prezzo del potere
Starring:  Giuliano Gemma, Van Johnson, Antonio Casas
Directed by:  Tonino Valerii
Music by:  Luis Enríquez Bacalov
Original Aspect Ratio:  2.35:1
DVD Aspect Ratio:  2.35:1
Original Runtime:  113 minutes
DVD Runtime:  108 minutes
Synopsis:  Bill Willer, a former soldier and skilled gunman, discovers an assassination plot and must expose the truth to save the life of an innocent man.
Review:  Unconcerned with historical facts, director Tonino Valerii retells the assassination of Kennedy story with a western motif. Just to set the record straight: the Civil War ended in 1865 and there was a President Garfield, but he wasn't assassinated in Dallas. He was shot in Washington D.C. in 1881.
Notes:  This also appears to be the longest version available.

The Bottom Line
For five dollars, this is a pretty good addition to the collection; especially if you enjoy those comedy westerns. Most of the films are almost in the correct aspect ratio, we get one that's anamorphic and only one that's pan & scan. There are no special features included, but at least we don't get yet another copy of White Commanche.