Hellbenders / I crudeli (1967)

3.5 out of 5

Joseph Cotten dreams of reviving the confederacy and this is the premise for a western heist and road movie. With a black humour, and a complete eschewing of white hat conventions, there are only rogues where there are often anti-heroes. Also, as with Django, the much underrated Hellbenders has an incredibly imaginative use of a coffin.

By, on the whole, placing a single stagecoach and its occupants at the centre of the action, what director Sergio Corbucci seems to have manage is to presage Mario Bava's Rabid Dogs somewhat. Indeed, there is another, coincidental, Bava connection here: the use of Tor Caldara.

One scene, rich in religious iconography and set in a graveyard upon a stormy night, is a slice of pure, Gothic western, genius. Even alone, this would be worth the price of admission.

Return of Ringo, The / Il ritorno di Ringo (1965)

4.0 out of 5

Upon return from war, Giuliano Gemma, as Ringo, wears blackface in an attempt to infiltrate the Mexicans who have overrun the town of his birth. Believed dead, thus incognito, Ringo seethes. He visits the graves of his family and is forced to stand by while witnessing his wife in the arms of another. Understandably, Ringo blows his top. The film gets pretty violent.

Always stylish, and at times incredibly atmospheric, director and former peplum scribe Duccio Tessari here makes frequent use of wind machines in order to foreshadow imminent doom. Nieves Navarro, the future Susan Scott and Mrs. Luciano Ercoli, returns and reads the cards after making her début in A Pistol for Ringo. Also back for another go are Lorella De Luca, Fernando Sancho and the quirky Manuel Muñiz. It's a sequel. A good one too.

California (1977)

3.0 out of 5

Appropriately for its later position within the cycle, this enjoyable, meandering, revenge and "girlfriend in peril" western from Michele Lupo, with its ruination and ramshackle towns, ponders a period of transition. Here, in this Italian and Spanish co-production, anachronistic bounty hunters inhabit a world in which order and democracy is being established in the wake of the American Civil War. However, the results are stylistically closer to Fulci's western from the period than any of the Leone inspired classics.

Nevertheless, by the way of continuum, fans will, no doubt, note the presence of genre veterans such as William "Banjo" Berger, Franco Ressel and Romano Puppo alongside star Giuliano Gemma.

Mother of Tears / La terza madre (2007)

2.5 out of 5

Some computer generated fire and a screeching monkey represent just two of the attractions visited in this somewhat middling conclusion to Dario Argento's series of Mother films. While, for fans, this may provide the opportunity for some fun from spotting subtle, and not-so-subtle, references to earlier works this may be negated somewhat by the presence of rock chick witches.

These, combined with a more contemporary score by Claudio Simonetti, makes any stylistic connection with golden age Italian exploitation cinema limited at best. This is despite the casting of cult veterans such as ,Philippe Leroy and Udo Kier. As a result, despite the film being blessed with plenty of stylish and above average trademark gore effects, this was unlikely to be considered the return to form that fans of the maestro would have hoped for.

Maurizio Merli header graphic courtesy of Paddy O'Neill of Foxyfide Graphics