The Blu-Ray report: Spaghetti
by John Shatzer
Every time that we get
a new home video format I watch as the companies putting out movies run out of
material. They end up digging up all sorts of obscure films to fill their
inventories. As a movie fan this can be both fun and overwhelming. Do I double
dip on a Blu-Ray, or don’t I? What about the releases I’ve never heard of? Well
fear not good readers I’m back again to help you out with the Blu-Ray report.
This time around I thought it would be a nice change of pace to check out some
The first disc I
grabbed was a double feature from Mill Creek Entertainment with 4 Dollars of
Revenge and The Last Gun. I’ve seen the latter so decided to watch 4 Dollars of
Revenge. The movie opens with Captain Dexter returning from the Civil War.
Dexter is a war hero, wealthy, and someone that those in power want to run for
Governor. He is also involved in a love triangle between himself, the lovely
Mercedes, and another army officer. Dexter tries to resign his commission to
pursue politics, but his commanding officer insists that he deliver it, as well
as a shipment of Confederate gold to Washington D.C. personally. So off he goes
but along the way his patrol is ambushed and everyone but Dexter is killed.
Miraculously he survives after being left for dead but soon ends up in prison
after he is framed for the crime of stealing the gold. He escapes and goes
looking for the men who destroyed his life.
Westerns follow the formula of a wronged man getting revenge on those who
wronged him. When done properly it can be a blast and in some ways 4 Dollars of
Revenge nails it. We have many suspects that might be to blame for Dexter’s
predicament. Was it his drunk cousin who keeps asking for money? Perhaps the
fellow officer who is vying for the love of the same woman? Could it be a
political rival that wants to stop Dexter from becoming Governor? Heck it might
just be bandits looking for some gold. The movie gives us many options and I
appreciate that. There is also a gimmick with 4 of the gold coins. Dexter is
given them to remind him of his crime, so when he gets revenge on someone he
leaves a coin behind, which ties into the title 4 Dollars of Revenge. See what
they did there?
Unfortunately, as much
as I liked how the story was setup and the plot device of the coins the movie
has a fatal flaw. It is so damn slow! As an example, when the movie starts we
get scene after scene of Dexter riding into town with people welcoming him
home. After the first couple I figured out that he was well liked. Then we get
a lot of talking as Dexter chats up his fellow officers, his lady, and anyone
else that stops him on the street. Some of this is establishing characters, but
much of it is just filler. Speaking of filler, the camera tends to linger on
scenes long after anything pertinent to the plot has happened. The shots are
nice but I don’t need to see background characters dancing. This makes the
movie feel much longer than its 88-minute runtime.
Again, this Blu-Ray is
from Mill Creek Entertainment, which is a budget releasing company. While it
does boast on the back of the case that it is a new HD transfer I wouldn’t have
high expectations. It looks like they did a transfer from a 35mm print, but it
hasn’t been cleaned up. There are image defects, scratches, and an occasional
pop in the sound. We also don’t get any special features. The biggest advantage
to this disc is that you can normally pick it up in a bargain bin for less than
5 dollars. Still I’m not sure that 4 Dollars of Revenge is a good deal even at
The second disc that I
grabbed is also a budget release from Mill Creek Entertainment and is a double
feature of The Grand Duel and Keoma. I decided on the Lee Van Cleef vehicle The
Grand Duel, which has also been released under the title of The Big Showdown.
Van Cleef plays an ex-sheriff, named Clayton, that is doing all he can to help
a murderer escape the bounty hunters that are trying to bring him in. The man,
Philipp, has a large bounty placed on him after he is accused of killing the
patriarch of the Saxon family. Early on we find out that Clayton knows that he
is innocent, which is why he keeps trying to convince him to run away to
Mexico, but Philipp refuses. He was framed for the murder to get him out of the
way when the Saxon’s killed his father. There was silver found on some
peasant’s land and Phillip’s father was organizing them to stop the Saxon’s
from running them off and stealing the mine. This leads both back to town and a
showdown with the Saxon brothers.
Unlike 4 Dollars of
Revenge just about everything is perfect with The Grand Duel. The gunplay
starts off early and continues until the end credits roll. We get many
shootouts with lots of Saxon henchmen finding their ends at the hands of our
heroes. Lee Van Cleef quietly chews up the scenery portraying a bad ass like
only he can. He is dangerous and knows it even if those challenging him don’t.
As I mentioned above the story of a wronged man getting revenge is common in
Spaghetti Westerns but here it has an added twist. Philipp doesn’t know who he
is looking for! He wants to know who killed his father and who framed him for
the patriarch’s murder. This is a mystery that isn’t resolved until the very
end of the movie and since it isn’t the same person we get a couple of reveals.
entertaining story, lots of gunplay, and Lee Van Cleef. What isn’t to love
here? As an added bonus, I was shocked at how nice the movie looks. When I saw
the Mill Creek Entertainment logo I had low expectations about the transfer.
While the Blu-Ray is bare bones and has no special features, the transfer is
stunning. Like the first Blu-Ray this can be had very cheaply in the bargain
bin of many large retailers. Unlike the that disc this one is worth every penny
for The Grand Duel alone. Add in Keoma, which is a decent movie starring Franco
Nero, and you get a double feature that is a steal. I highly recommend this
Well that is it for
this installment of the Blu-Ray report. I hope that I was able to steer you
away from wasting your money by pointing you to the good buys. If you enjoyed
this please check out my blog at horrordude.blogspot.com for more of my musings
on all things movie related. As always please feel free to email me at email@example.com with
any complaints or compliments! I’m always eager and ready to converse with
another movie fan.
Copyright 2021 John Shatzer