When you think of Westerns, if the name Budd Boetticher doesn’t leap to mind, get ready to make room in your canon. One of the most fascinating and iconoclastic figures of postwar Hollywood, Boetticher came to the movies in the 1940s by way of Mexico, after having gagged on the silver spoon he was born with and set out for the territories from Illinois as a young man. An athlete and adventurer, Boetticher became passionate about bullfighting and quickly grew into a local legend south of the border as the only gringo in Mexico crazy enough to get into the ring. The experience led him to a job as technical adviser on Rouben Mamoulian’s Blood and Sand and the rest is history, depending, of course, on which history you read. Fiercely independent in temperament and vision, Boetticher wasn’t long for the classic Hollywood system, but that didn’t stop him and regular collaborators Randolph Scott and screenwriter Burt Kennedy from turning out a series of intensely psychological low-budget Westerns in the late 1950s — including The Tall T, Ride Lonesome and Comanche Station — that set the stage for Sam Peckinpah. (Boetticher was set at one point to direct Ride the High Country). Before what came to be known as the Ranown Cycle (after Scott’s production company with producer Harry Brown), however, Boetticher, Kennedy and Scott first teamed up on Seven Men From Now (1956), a stark tale of frontier revenge starring Scott as Ben Stride, an ex-sheriff hunting down his wife’s killers, and Lee Marvin as an outlaw looking to cash in on Stride’s grim mission. The first of Boetticher’s Westerns to make it to home video, it’s also one of his best. Included on the DVD is a commentary by historian Jim Kitses and an excellent documentary on Boetticher featuring testimonials from Peter Bogdanovich, Clint Eastwood and Quentin Tarantino.

Also released this week:

DVD: The Amazing Race: The Seventh Season; Battlestar Galactica: Season 2.0; The Biggest Loser Workout, Vol. 1; The Brothers Grimm; ER: The Complete Fourth Season; The Exorcism of Emily Rose; Four Brothers; The Great Raid; Hit Me; Ice Men; Man in the Vault; Must Love Dogs; Neil Peart: Anatomy of a Drum Solo; Once Upon a Mattress; Party of Five: The Complete Second Season; Plunder of the Sun; Ring of Fear; Serenity; Tool: Parabola; Tool: Schism; Vodka Lemon.

LA Weekly