Book Review: Tonino Valerii: The Films

Most spaghetti western fans know of the famed Italian director Sergio Leone, a maverick that changed the western film genre and has been heavily influential on future directors such as Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Martin Scorsese, Emir Kusturica, Takashi Miike, and John Woo.  He is considered to be the originator of the spaghetti western and four out of the five westerns that he directed could easily be included in a top 25 list of the greatest westerns ever made. His gangster drama Once Upon a Time in America may have been considered a classic at the time that it was released if it weren’t for the major cuts that the studio made, cutting out almost two hours of the four hour long epic. Many books and critical analysis have been devoted to his career, including the seminal Sergio Leone: Something to Do with Death by Christopher Frayling.  
But few are dedicated to the other relevant Italian directors, who contributed quality and influential work in the various Italian subgenres that existed from the 1950’s through the 1990’s. Author Roberto Curti’s book Tonino Valerii: The Films is the first of its kind to explore the life and career of this fine genre director, who delivered several outstanding spaghetti westerns in Day of Anger (1967), The Price of Power (1969), A Reason to Live, a Reason to Die! (1972), My Name is Nobody (1973), and the giallo My Dear Killer (1972). Curti spent years interviewing and getting to know Valerii, as well as conducting interviews with multiple cast and crewmembers that he had worked with throughout his career. It is a wonderfully detailed account and analysis of Valerii’s work, while also being a story about the history of Italian cinema and the host of dramatic changes that occurred in the industry during his long career. In total, Valerii made 14 feature length films, commercials, and several television movies and shows.

It details his early life and unique obsession with cinema at a young age, into attending film school and then working in an assortment of jobs at small production studios. It then goes into his time working with Sergio Leone on Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More. From there, it covers his first directing duties in several spaghetti westerns. Each picture is provided with a production history, synopsis, critical analysis, and how each faired financially. After that he moved onto the erotic subgenre and a giallo, before returning back to his spaghetti western roots. A large chapter is devoted to the spaghetti western My Name is Nobody, because of some highly controversial claims by producer Sergio Leone that he ended up shooting a majority of the movie. This is thoroughly addressed with a mixture of interviews and historical records in order to set the record straight on the subject. From that, he moved onto the poliziotteschi subgenre, then a terrorist movie. He spent almost eight years working on a host of failed projects and a combination of television and commercials, before moving on to do a softcore erotica and then a low grade B-movie American knockoff. He did two more motion pictures and several television programs before calling it a career and moving onto other ventures.

day of anger spaghetti wester, terence hill
Terence Hill (second to left), Valerii (center), and crew on the set of My Name is Nobody
Along with going into detail about the work that he was able to complete, it also goes into a great deal of depth regarding his passion projects that failed to get made. It additionally provides some biographical information about other key cast and crew members that Valerii had contributed with, along with a section in the back containing supplementary interviews from industry professionals that worked with him. What we are left with is an outstanding tale that shows that this man brought a unique and different interpretation to these popular Italian subgenres and deserves to be recognized for his accomplishments.
This comes highly recommended for fans of Italian cinema or any of the pictures that that he created.

This book was published by McFarland and can be purchased online at or by calling their order line (800-53-2187). It is also available as an ebook from all major ebook providers, for a complete list of providers see

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