Wednesday, January 7, 2015

BadAzz MoFo’s Book of Spaghetti Westerns by David F. Walker

Only for the “uninformed”
The introduction to this book explains that BadAzz MoFo is the name of a magazine devoted to pop culture, focusing in particular on blaxploitation films. In 1999, author David F. Walker published a spaghetti western edition of the ‘zine, the contents of which comprise this ebook. It contains reviews of 40 different western films, most of which were filmed in Europe by Italian directors during the 1960s. The most valuable thing about this book is its table of contents, which provides a good, varied list of spaghetti westerns that interested parties should see. Most of the reviews are favorable, but not all. They are somewhat loosely arranged in categories—Sergio Leone films, Sergio Corbucci films, films starring Franco Nero, Lee Van Cleef, Terrence Hill/Bud Spencer team-ups, and kung fu westerns, for example.

The reviews themselves are not very enlightening. I’ve seen about half the films covered in the book. For the movies that I have seen, Walker doesn’t provide a whole lot of insight into their production or reception. For the movies that I haven’t seen, I usually chose to skip the paragraph of plot synopsis, so as to avoid spoilers. Walker has certainly watched many spaghetti westerns, but beyond that it doesn’t seem that he’s done much research on the topic other than checking the Internet Movie Database to see what other films were made by certain actors and directors. The reviews are mostly just Walker’s opinions about what’s good, similar to those you might find posted by the Average Joe on Amazon or Netflix. To his credit, he does provide a few insightful comments about the leftist political undertones in many of these films. Although these reviews all appeared in a magazine together, for some reason they’re written as if they were meant to be read individually. The result is that they’re relentlessly repetitive. The most disappointing aspect of the book is that Walker doesn’t really even like spaghetti westerns all that much. He repeatedly stresses that with the exception of a few notable films—the Leones, the Corbuccis—almost all the movies produced in this genre were junk. True lovers of spaghetti westerns, however, are capable of finding much to appreciate in even the lowliest examples of the genre, despite all their faults.

Walker often refers to those who know less about spaghetti westerns than he does as “the uninformed,” though half the time it’s misspelled as “the uniformed.” The book was edited by Spell Check, if it was edited at all. There are lots of typos and missing words. Stylistically, Walker aims for an intelligent but irreverent tone, but often comes across as merely juvenile. It’s hard to take his criticism seriously when he resorts to phrases like “unless you can perform oral sex on yourself, I just ain’t impressed,” or “What do spaghetti westerns and pornos have in common?” Given the book’s title, I didn’t expect the intellectual discourse of a Pauline Kael or Roger Ebert, but I did expect a certain level of education on the subject, perhaps expressed from a Quentin Tarantino-esque perspective. Unfortunately, only newcomers to the genre will really gain much insight from this shallow take on the topic. Spaghetti western enthusiasts hoping to learn more would be better off investigating online sources like Wikipedia, IMDb, or the Spaghetti Western Database.

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