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10,000 Ways to Die: A Director's Take on the Spaghetti Western [Paperback]

Alex Cox
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Kamera Books (1 May 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1842433040
  • ISBN-13: 978-1842433041
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16 x 2.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 576,732 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Alexander Cox is a British film director, screenwriter, nonfiction author and sometime actor, notable for his idiosyncratic style and approach to scripts.

Cox has previously cited Luis Buñuel and Akira Kurosawa as influences,[2] as well as the great Western movie directors Sergio Leone, Sam Peckinpah, and John Ford.

While he once directed films for Universal Pictures, such as Repo Man and Walker, since the late 1980s, he has found himself on a self-described blacklist, and turned to producing independent films.

Alex Cox has written 3 books in total, his Latest being 10,000 Ways to Die published by Kamera Books in 2008

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read 10 Dec 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I'm a big fan of Howard Hughes' book "Once Upon A Time in the Italian West", which I think is a must have for any self-respecting fan of the genre.

Using that as my benchmark, I was initially a little underwhelmed and disappointed in "10,00 Ways to Die" on a first read-through. The two authors employ very different approaches. Hughes looks at a core set of films in great detail and uses that framework to comment briefly and in passing on a wider range of related films including sequels. The Cox book, on the other hand, looks at a much wider range of films, including such neglected works as "Arizona Colt", Requiescant", "Johnny Hamlet", "Bandidos" and "The Price Of Power" that Hughes ignores, but generally covers them in less detail.

Hughes is very good on aspects such the inspiration for the films, the actors, the locations and the music. He is also pretty even-handed in his approach. Cox has little to say about the music (he admits he has a tin ear for a good tune) and is much more partisan - which is great as I like opinionated authors. But on the other hand, Cox brings his perspective both as a film maker and also as an enthusiast to the genre and his book is full of fascinating observations that you won't find anywhere else. My only complaint is that the ending of the book seems to me to be rather abrupt, almost as if Cox had a hard page limit imposed by his publishers and he realised that he was fast approaching it!

Conclusion? The more I read "10,000 Ways to Die" the more it grows on me. Cox has great enthusiasm for the genre (as has Hughes) and a quirky yet very readable and informative writing style. Ultimately, I think you need both books and I'm glad I have them.
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Good, Bad, and Ugly book? 22 July 2009
I have been a fan of Italian Westerns for many years, so I relish any new book that comes out on the market. This one I had mixed feelings about.I was enthusiastic to read about the films, but I kept tutting in annoyance. On the plus side, there's some fine observations about the top directors and films, and at last someone praises the Mexi-Western TEPEPA featuring Orson Welles.However,there are a lot of put-downs and a few errors. The author asks why Clint Eastwood didn't keep the gold at the end of A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS? Because he wasn't a thief and didn't want the Mexican Government on his tail. As he said to one of the Rojos: "I don't like to take money unless I've earned it". I wouldn't say that A PROFESSIONAL GUN and DAY OF ANGER were the best ever Spaghettis, but to call them "plodding" is a bit harsh.For years the english-speaking version of THE BIG GUNDOWN has been mutilated, but Cox thinks we can still do WITHOUT the scenes that were cut. An Italian Western fan APPROVING of a key genre film being cut by 20 minutes is a bit hard to swallow! And it isn't Edda Dell'Orso "screeching" on the score, but Christy. Cox thinks he ought to defend a terrible Western called RITA IN THE WEST that has song and dance numbers and bullets colliding in the air,but he dismisses the TRINITY films and refers to a serious (and brilliant) film like FACE TO FACE as "silly" in places.Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but isn't the author's perspective a little peculiar here? Eastwood fans will be disappointed as he is referred to as "lucky" and "uninspired". Fans of the those wonderful scores will be starved of criticism as Mr.Cox admits he is "tone deaf". And those who like film stills will have seen them all before in the slim 8 pages in the middle. All in all, i think I'll stick with authors Howard Hughes and Christopher Frayling.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant book 28 Jan 2010
I really enjoyed this book. It's insightful and interesting. Now I just have to watch all the films, so that I can re-read the book.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars INVALUABLE REFERENCE!!! 31 July 2009
By Richard J. Oravitz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Alex Cox's book, along with Howard Hughes' ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE ITALIAN WEST, are absolutely the only two books you need on the subject. Frayling concentrates mostly on Leone, and although I enjoy his commentary, all of his books kind of meld together. Weisser's SPAGHETTI WESTERNS, still my most referenced book, is too full of errors. The 3-vol. WESTERN ALL 'ITALIANA (Bruschini) is fun but loses alot in the translation. Fridlund's THE SPAGHETTI WESTERN...well, you can really get lost in all those charts and diagrams and ellipses.
Cox really gives you an exciting ride down the Spaghetti Trail; informative (a director's take), yet funny/witty as well, pulling no punches, calling a gringo a gringo. If he thinks a certain movie stinks he lets you know. He especially hates annoying cute characters, old timers that are suppose to be funny and bothersome children. His opinions are his own, not some re-hashing of some other critic/writer. A very good read, easy to grasp, hard to put down. And a lot of movies are covered, by many directors. Not just more Leone worship.
AN ESSENTIAL PURCHASE AND READ for Spaghetti Western fans. Buy this.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 10,000 ways to hate Clint 6 Sep 2009
By J. Hoppe - Published on Amazon.com
Very good overview of early Spaghettis with a brilliant critique of the overly complex Sartana movies. Lots of overly enthusiastic Sollima stroking and Eastwood bashing. I strongly disagree with many of Cox's assertions and conclusions but it's a fun enlightening read.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Filmmaker Alex Cox's distinctive opinions of the Spaghetti Western genre. 3 Dec 2009
By Terry McCarty - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Alex Cox (best known to cineastes as the auteur of REPO MAN, SID AND NANCY and the underappreciated HIGHWAY PATROLMAN)has written an opinionated, informative book analyzing what he considers key films from all stages of the Italian Western's lifespan (roughly the mid-60s to the late 1970s).

Given Cox's leftist political views, he tends to put more emphasis on the works of, say, cult figure Sergio Corbucci (THE GREAT SILENCE is a particular Cox favorite)over the more well-known Sergio Leone. Cox devotes a chapter to a fascinating film from Tonino Valerii called THE PRICE OF POWER (which can be found on Volume 3 of the DVD collection THE SPAGHETTI WESTERN BIBLE). THE PRICE OF POWER is a Western allegory loosely inspired by the JFK assassination, with Van Johnson playing the Kennedy equivalent.

Recommended to both Spaghetti Western newcomers and fans who might welcome a different take on the genre.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining read on the subject 20 July 2009
By Hondo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
When I read Alex Cox' line "...full of half-assed semiotics and other attenuated academic nonsense," it brought a smile to my face, since it reminded me of Christopher Frayling's book. This book is so much better. The juvenile anti-Americanism, trendy academic junk and communism/marxism of Frayling is largely absent here. But never fear-- instead you get at least 100 references to "racism" and sexism. After all, there is a pervasive misogyny in these Italowesterns and Mexicans, in particular, are usually portrayed as outrageously vile bandits or incredibly stupid and passive peones. As a result of reading these books it would seem that the Italian directors, who had to put up with censorship and cuts in the '60s because of torture and excessive violence, would have bigger problems today with charges of "racism" and "sexism."

The chapters in this book are organized by the year the movies came out. 51 films are highlighted, but many more are covered in the transition paragraphs between the featured movies. I have found Cox' comments useful and enlightening. Of course he is opinionated, but that's what we want in a book of this type.

Frayling's book was filled with silliness, such as his insistence that John Ford, the godfather of the Western movie, was not really an American at all, but rather an Irishman. Ford was a second-generation American, as am I, but nobody has ever told me that I'm not a real American, that I'm actually a German. The silliest comment from Cox comes on page 285, where he writes that British politicans and media people who insist on a special relationship with the US should ponder that a Hollywood studio financed a film (Sergio Leone's "Giu la Testa") which featured an Irish revolutionary played by an American actor who kills 2 British soldiers in the province of Ireland. This is absurd on the face of it-- as if movies should determine foreign policy. All the more so when one remembers just how many Italowesterns treat the subject of American intervention in the Third World. Ireland, you know...

I want to mention a few things about his review of "The Return of Ringo," one of my favorite Italowesterns. Cox does a good job discussing why most heroes wore the blue during the Civil War [but see the discussion for a refutation] and clearly likes Tessari's direction, but the strange political comments come on page 79. Ringo appears to Paco Fuentes in a dust storm, finally decked-out in his spotless US Cavalry uniform. Cox wonders: "Is this fantastical scene racist? Maybe." Paco is dressed in his aristocratic Mexican finery and Ringo is dressed in the best he can do at the time. Surely (maybe not) Cox can see that Ringo has a legitimate problem with Paco-- he has killed his father, a US senator, taken over the family estate and now is forcing his wife Hally into marriage? But Ringo should worry about being "racist" to Paco? Maybe not, to Cox, as he continues, because "...Paco is a low-down child-threatener, and by the Rainbow-of-Diversity Coalition which Ringo has assembled to defeat the foe..." Politically correct CYA, it would seem. I suppose that Cox thinks that whites should never engage in conflict or competition with "people of color" lest they be considered "racist."

Cox is very squeamish about women being beaten (The Big Gundown/La Resa dei Conti) and Blacks beaten ("The Price of Power"), but he laments the fact that the massacre of Christians in "Four of the Apocalypse" occurs off-screen and he didn't get to see it. He also loves it when "capitalists" get whacked. It makes me think that he would have been a good Chekist and perhaps an enthusiastic agitprop film-maker.

Despite the political silliness I like this book and recommend it to all who love these films.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and Fun 17 Oct 2009
By Eric W. Carlson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
10,000 Ways to Die offers a great guide to the world of the Spaghetti Western without being overly theoretical. It's a practical look at the important films and directors of Italian westerns through the sixties and seventies, highlighting common themes, archetypes, and characters. Cox' writing is accessible and fun, and he is honest about his opinion of the films. If he doesn't like a film, he won't devote many pages to it. Because of this, the book acts as a movie-watching guide, turning the reader on to films he/she would never have picked up before reading the book. If you're interested in westerns or film in general, pick it up.
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