Spaghetti Westerns on menu in Venice

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ROME -- More than 30 Spaghetti Westerns will screen in a special sidebar at the upcoming Venice Film Festival, the event's organizers revealed Wednesday at a news conference attended by more than a dozen veterans of the genre.

The sidebar will be hosted by director Quentin Tarantino, a self-professed fan of Spaghetti Western films. Though Tarantino was not on hand for Wednesday's briefing at Rome's Casa del Cinema, he did appear via a short videotaped message.

"A lot of directors who never got their due will now get their due (in this sidebar)," said Tarantino, who hosted the First Secret History of Italian Cinema event in Venice in 2004 and will return this year for the fourth edition.

Spaghetti Westerns are low-budget, violent and minimalist cowboy films marked by unusual camera angles and predominantly made by Italian studios in the 1960s and early 1970s. The genre is probably less known in Italy than in other countries, which is one of the reasons Venice organizers said they wanted to highlight the films in Italy's most venerable festival.

The films of Sergio Leone -- perhaps the best known director in the genre -- are conspicuous by their absence, but organizers said they wanted to focus on lesser-known films, many of them rediscovered and refurbished just for this event.

Among the 32 titles screening are 1965's "Blood for a Silver Dollar" by Giorgio Ferroni; "The Ugly Ones," made in 1966 by Eugenio Martin; 1967's "Death at Owell Rock" from Riccardo Freda; "The Ruthless Four," made that same year by Giorgio Capitani; and Pasquale Squitieri's "Death's Dealer" from 1970.

Additional films uncovered during the selection process will be shown at October's RomaCinemaFest in a program that may also include a film from Leone, who was born in Rome.

Much of the give-and-take at Wednesday's briefing involved the sharing of anecdotes from some of the directors and actors who worked in the genre. One, Carlo Pedersoli, who made about 100 Spaghetti Westerns under the name Bud Spencer, said the genre showed Italian ingenuity at its best.

"These were films we made with almost no budget, and we compensated for it by being creative," Pedersoli said, while explaining that the same overworked horses might be used in scenes from two or three films in the same day. "It proves that professionals can make worthwhile films under almost any circumstances."

The Venice Film Festival runs Aug. 29-Sept. 8.
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