Category Archives: Cult Films

Turkish Westerns: Chicago Reader and Dirty Pictures

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A few days ago, I reblogged The Physical Impossibility of Rad’s great introduction to Turkish cinema. Well, the following for these completely off-the-wall, cartoonish movies continues to grow. Recently, the Doc Films series at the University of Chicago screened Yilmaz Güney’s The Hungry Wolves(1969). Ben Sachs of the Chicago Reader’s The Bleader blog wrote this about the film he was lucky enough to see on the big screen:

Spectacle may be an odd word to describe productions as evidently cheap as Yilmaz Güney’s, which abound with slapdash editing and bare-bones sets. Yet the films I saw at Doc Films’s Güney series this Saturday afternoon—Bride of the Earth (1968) and The Hungry Wolves(1969)—conveyed a mythic sense of landscape and story, often using one to reinforce the other. Violent crowd-pleasers in the spaghetti western mold, both took place in desolate, godforsaken regions of Turkey that proved ideal backdrops for the elemental conflicts of cowboy movies (I assumed that Güney exaggerated the desolation of these settings, but given my general ignorance about rural Turkey in the 1960s, I may be wrong).The Hungry Wolves was particularly inventive in its use of snowy tundras, a sharp contrast from the deserts and mountains of most westerns: in one scene, Güney, playing a Clint Eastwood-style badass, shoots down bandits from the inside of an igloo!

Güney reminds us that cinematic spectacle has less to do with production values than with an enthusiasm for what movies can do.

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I also came across a review by shootgringoshoot at the Dirty Pictures forum. I just watched the movie one month ago and really enjoyed it, as well. It is a rip-off of the Sergio Sollima Cuchillo westerns The Big Gundown (1967) and Run Man Run (1969), with a nutty Turkish b-movie twist on the proceedings.

He writes:

One of my favourite turkish westerns! prefer it above many italian made westerns!
Yimaz köksal is a nice acter …. in this movie he plays Cuchillo (named after tomas milian in run man run) a carecter clearly inspired by the terence hill trinity figure and tomas milian in run man run.
Daglarin Oglu (video title…even the sleeve says Dag Kurdu) has everything a good turkish western should have; crazy comic style carecters, obscure violence, chicks, special weapons, over the top fighting scene’s and cool gadgets …. in this movie a trinity like contruction, a wagen that is pulled by cuchilio’s horse.

the camera work is much better as in the avarage turkish western, long landscape views and other creative/borrowed camera actions.

the story has some holes in the plot and every now and than its a bit unclear what is going on, but that didnt spoil the fun of watching this movie. I enjoyed every minute of the movie, another great turkish western for the collection.

Check out the rest of the review here.

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Fred Blosser on Sergio Martino’s Spaghetti Westerns

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Fred Blosser has a good review of the two Spaghetti Westerns by Italian b-movie cult director Sergio Martino.

Sergio Leone pioneered the Spaghetti Western.  Sergio Corbucci and Sergio Sollima made significant contributions to the genre in Leone’s footsteps.  When fans think of Spaghettis, those are the three Sergios who usually spring to mind.  But there was also a fourth Sergio in the Italian West  – Sergio Martino – who directed two interesting entries on his way to bigger fame in other Italian B-movie genres in the late ‘70s and the 1980s with “Slaves of the Cannibal God” and “2019: After the Fall of New York” . . .
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“Echoes of the Spaghetti Western” in Kundo: Age of the Rampant . . .

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In a review of Kundo: Age of the Rampant (2014), a historically-based Korean action film, Washington Post reviewer Mark Jenkins brings up spaghetti westerns briefly:

The history lesson pretty much stops there, however. The movie owes less to real events and more to Chinese kung fu flicks — yes, there’s a battling monk — and Akira Kurosawa’s classic “Seven Samurai.” And the Ennio Morricone-derived score is just one echo of the spaghetti westerns that also inspired “The Good, the Bad, the Weird,” a 2008 Korean romp.

This is an interesting way to talk about the influence of the Italian Western on contemporary cinema . . . ‘echoes.’

Much of contemporary cinema (really, since the early 1990s) has been about filmmakers trying to stitch together the cinematic rhetoric of the past into something new. Tarantino is the master of this (though I thought that Django Unchained (2012) was a failure).

What is interesting to me is that this type of cinema was initiated by the popular European filmmakers that Tarantino often makes reference to. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, German cinemas were filled with movies the pointed back to the silent adventure films of the Weimar era before the rise of the Nazis. Upon his return to Germany, Fritz Lang remade Joe May’s epic The Indian Tomb (1921) (IMDB) as a two part film in 1959. In The 1000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse (1960) then returned to the character of the insane criminal mastermind Dr. Mabuse he had first introduced to film in Dr. Mabuse the Gambler (1922) and The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933). These movies combined the cartoonish and exotic serial aesthetic with the contemporary pulp of Hollywood or the Bond-inspired spy movies.

Harald Reinl and others continued the Dr. Mabuse series through several other films. At the same time, the krimi films based on Edgar Wallace mysteries and the WInnetou films became popular. All of these movies looked to the earlier cultural forms to recreate a new popular German cinema.

While the German’s may have started this reuse of cultural artifacts, it was the Italians who mastered the re-use of past cinema to tell the stories that they were most interested in. The early Italian Westerns were largely pastiches of the Hollywood Western, but when Sergio Leone burst onto the scene with Fistful of Dollars (1964), the spaghetti western moved beyond pastiche or imitation. Leone did deliberately recreate moments, situations, and plots from his favorite American Western films. However, he did this in order to use to tell his own stories. And, due to the familiarity of audiences with these cinematic forms, he was able to invert, distort, or twist them in order to achieve new effects. Sergio Corbucci used the same techniques, though he was perhaps a bit more irreverent and crude. This same technique is essentially what Quentin Tarantino does in his films.

So it is quite interesting that Italian Westerns are a constant reference in this type of cinema, whether made in the US, Korea, or elsewhere. The popular pulp filmmakers of the early 1960s invented this approach to film. While I really like movies like Pulp Fiction (1994) or Sin City (2005), I have to admit that I think that the Italians did it better 50 years ago.

 

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Kevin Phipps at AV Club on Spaghetti Westerns for the unitiated

Spaghetti Westerns · Gateways To Geekery · The A.V. Club

 

Good introduction to the genre by Kevin Phipps. 

Pop culture can be as forbidding as it is inviting, particularly in areas that invite geeky obsession: The more devotion a genre or series or subculture inspires, the easier it is for the uninitiated to feel like they’re on the outside looking in. But geeks aren’t born; they’re made. And sometimes it only takes the right starting point to bring newbies into various intimidatingly vast obsessions. Gateways To Geekery is our regular attempt to help those who want to be enthralled, but aren’t sure where to start. . .

. . .Geek obsession: Spaghetti Westerns

Why it’s daunting: Europe’s fascination with the American West dates back to before the Old West could rightly be called old. German author Karl May began writing about the Native American hero Winnetou and his German blood brother Old Shatterhand in the 1890s, and his stories seeped into the water of European popular fiction and inspired several films from the 1920s through the 1960s. So it wasn’t that odd, really, that Italian director Sergio Leone would decide to shoot a Western in Europe: It had been done before. But the 1964 release of A Fistful Of Dollars, starring minor U.S. television star Clint Eastwood, started a deluge of European Westerns. They quickly came to be known as spaghetti Westerns, thanks to Leone and the number of Italian directors making them, but they were often European co-productions shot in southern Spain with casts drawn from across Europe and the United States. Between 1964 and 1976, hundreds of spaghetti Westerns saw the light of day. As with any vibrant genre, the quality varies greatly from film to film. Furthermore, Leone’s work tends to overshadow his contemporaries’, meaning a lot of good-to-great movies tend to get overlooked by those who stick with the master.

 

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More News On Tarantino’s Next Western Project

Tarantino at Comic-Con: Confirms New Western After All, Jacquline Sahagian at Entertainment Cheat Sheet.

Quentin Tarantino made an appearance at Comic-Con over the weekend to confirm that his beleaguered Western The Hateful Eight is moving forward as planned despite a script leak earlier this year that made the iconoclastic director declare that he would shelve the project.

According to Deadline, after a fan asked about the status of The Hateful Eight, the director said that he’s continuing with the film, though he didn’t give any more details. Before his panel at Comic-Con, Deadline reported that a source had told the publication that Tarantino is in the process of locking everyone in to begin shooting in early 2015. . .

. . . A few months later, Tarantino came back from all that controversy by staging a rock star-level reading of the first draft of the script at Film Independent in Hollywood in April. Actors present for the reading included Samuel L. Jackson, who played Major Marquis Warren; Kurt Russell, who played the bounty hunter John “The Hangman” Ruth; Amber Tamblyn, who played The Hangman’s prisoner, Daisy Domergue; and Bruce Dern, who played Confederate Gen. Smithers. The other actors on hand were James Parks, Walton Goggins, Denis Menochet, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Dana Gourrier, Zoe Bell, and James Remar. The reading lasted three and a half hours and gave viewers the chance to catch a rare glimpse into Tarantino’s creative process as he directed the actors through their parts.

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Most Wanted Western Movies Presents Their Top 20 Spaghetti Westerns

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Good list, especially for someone just beginning to explore the genre. The top 5 are all movies by Sergio Leone and all of the films are Italian. Spanish and German westerns are an acquired taste, though I would imagine that fans of Leone would really enjoy the German director Roland Click’s neo-spaghetti western Deadlock (Trailer).

To check out my ratings (of 350+ Eurowesterns) start here.

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“Only God Forgives” and the spaghetti western

I really enjoyed Nicholas Winding Refn’s recent Only God Forgives (2013), though I guess I am in the minority. The movie was mezmorizing in the theatre with its rich visuals and incredible score. The movie makes obvious references to the spaghetti westerns of the 1960s and 1970s, so I thought I would poke around on the internet and see what I could find on this.


Interesting comment
in a short review Nicholas Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives by M. Faust at ARTVOICE:

Gosling is also in Refn’s newest film, but don’t be expecting Drive II. Only God Forgives has a title recalling the 1968 spaghetti western Chiedi perdono a Dio… non a me (God Forgives, I Don’t). It concludes with a dedication to Refn’s friend Alejandro Jodorowsky that should have been put at the beginning of the film so that audiences familiar with Jodorowsky’s hallucinogenic oeuvre (El Topo, The Holy Mountain, Santa Sangre) would have some idea what to expect.

Looking more into this, I find this from an interview of Refn’s at We Are Movie Geeks by Melissa Howland:

You’re films kind of have a Spaghetti Western feel to them. A kind of Clint Eastwood, Sergio Leone quality – where your leading man is a “man with no name”… the strong, silent type. I’m curious if those types of movies influence you? Where do you find influence and inspiration?

NICOLAS WINDING REFN: I get influence from everywhere, of course. I’m a child of cinema. I like cinema. I can’t get enough of it. But then again, I could be looking out the window, I could be staring out a plane, I could be going on a bus brining my kids to kindergarten. I could be hearing a piece of music. Music a lot! It’s very inspiring because I don’t do drugs anymore, so music enhances my emotion, which is what you tap into to be creative. You tap into your emotions. So, it’s all over. I try not to be dogmatic about anything. I don’t get up at 9 o’clock every morning and start working unless I have to. If I don’t have to I do it at night.

From Brent Mcknight at Beyond Hollywood:

With films like “Drive,” “Bronson,” and “Valhalla Rising” on his resume, anything Nicolas Winding Refn does immediately leap frogs to the top of my must see list, especially when it involves teaming up with his handsome man muse Ryan Gosling. You can imagine that as soon as I heard about their new collaboration, “Only God Forgives,” described as a Muay Thai spaghetti western, my anticipation meter went through the roof. The trailers, posters, and pictures, all indicate a quiet, tense film, punctuated by sharp bursts of brutal violence.

Ryan Latanzio at Thompson on Hollywood:

Before the film started, Winding Refn told us that while “Drive” was like “doing cocaine all night,” “Only God Forgives” is more of “an old school acid trip.” But this film — nocturnal, deathly quiet and far more sinister — is also a more sleepy psychotropic experience. It’s David Lynch goes to Thailand to direct a spaghetti western on quaaludes

Rebecca Baker, Rushes Magazine:

The latest creation from the Dutch film maker is the red-fluorescent-twin of Drive, Only God Forgives,where Martinez’ noted piece, ‘Wanna Fight’, combines influences from the Spaghetti Western scores by Ennio Morricone to the minimalist pieces by Philip Glass. “Morricone was a strong influence in the ‘Wanna Fight’ piece, as the pipe organ is the acknowledgment of the God element,” he laughs, “while Philip Glass was an influence through his style of repetitive-minimalism with the Synthesiser.”

Glass and Morricone were not the only influences to be added to Martinez’ soundtrack, “Nicolas kept talking about these Italian horror films, so I watched a couple by Dario Argento,” who is best known for the Giallo sub-genre. “I think Brian Eno and some other composers wrote the scores for those films. That’s what I like about O-G-F the score is a mixture of influences and not just one.”

Russ Fisher, Film: Blogging the Reel World:

It’s easy to hope for, or insist on a declaration. For this movie, “I am a spaghetti western.”

Refn: Then you’re like “With my knowledge, I can categorize that.” Then it’s like, you define it, but then where is the fun? Where is the experience beyond that?

Andrew Johnson, In Reel Deep:

This is a bit of a shame because the rest of the film is captivating.It’s not just Thomas and Pansringarm, but also the city of Bangkok itself and Winding Refn’s bizarre, fascinating fixations on hands and hallways and karaoke that give it some great moments. Winding Refn is a near-master at this point of the post-Western. There are no cowboys or Indians or horses, but the Spaghetti Western influence is painfully obvious and well-crafted, whether it’s mysterious, almost nameless characters, visceral scores or exotic, seemingly limitless locales.

This is the best review that I have seen yet on the film:

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Great Review of “Sukiyaki Western Django” by ETHAN DE SEIFE at LIVECULTURE

Here:

Sukiyaki Western Django is an embodiment of Miike’s inconsistency. It may be the one film of his that best encapsulates all that is good, bad and ugly about his style. A lurid, blood-splattered hodge-podge of a movie, Sukiyaki Western Django (hereafter SWD) is a veritable catalog of genres, emotions, narrational tones … and everything else .

The film’s title begs parsing. The reference to sukiyaki evokes the so-called “spaghetti westerns” made in Italy beginning in the 1960s, but it also works in the sense of the olio I describe. Just like its titular stew, SWD is a combination of whatever ideas, props, story ideas, etc., happened to be on hand at the time. (My preference is to read the title as part of a response to a question asked by a person named Django; viz. “Is this film a spaghetti western?” “No, it’s a sukiyaki western, Django.”) . . .

. . . I found the film’s central story to be fairly incomprehensible, largely because characters’ motives were rarely made clear. So it was difficult to ascertain whycertain actions were committed. (This is not necessarily a bad thing; comprehensibility is often overrated.) In fact, in place of clearly sketched characters with stated goals, Miike substitutes fragments of other films, not all of them westerns. The landmark 1988 anime film Akira is name-checked more than once. . .

. . . Even if SWD isn’t a straight-up western, it depends on, adapts and complicates the format. The film wants to be understood through that lens even as it upends many of that genre’s conventions. And that’s the same process spaghetti westerns went through a half-century ago.

I’m not suggesting Sukiyaki Western Django sets a new template for the western, but it’s impossible to predict the course of a genre’s evolution. Spaghetti had its day; perhaps sukiyaki’s time has come.

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Unleash the Fanboy “Boba Fett Unchained: What Disney Can Learn From Tarantino’s Spaghetti Western”

Interesting piece by Davey Bachar at Unleash the Fanboy:

It goes without saying, Quentin Tarantino’s controversial Django Unchained is undoubtedly an inappropriate film to draw inspiration from for the family oriented “House of Mouse.” However, it does have some lessons to teach.

Disney is having trouble trying to write a Boba Fett movie that will keep the notorious bounty hunter’s reputation intact, while also drawing in a family audience. Disney has had their hit and misses with more mature-themed movies, like the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, but with Boba Fett, the demand for a great story is much higher, especially with how critical fanboys are of the properties they love. Tarantino has never been one to care what people may like, he just comes up with an idea, puts it on paper and follows through, making a movie he wants to make that he shares with the world, whether they want it or not. His most recent film, Django Unchained, was critically acclaimed, but also pissed off many people, who called the western about a slave racist, violent, and disturbing. While it may be those things, underneath, it is an entertaining adventure story about two bounty hunters, going undercover to save a woman one of them loves, and that underlying plot is what Disney needs to look at to find the inspiration needed to make a good Fett movie. . .

I know my little “fan-fiction” is sloppy and dumb, but the point I want to make is this: by utilizing the plot over everything else of Django Unchained, Disney could produce a great new adventure story that doesn’t need to be about any known Star Wars characters, but could be if they wanted to. Ironically, Django fromDjango Unchained and Jango from Attack of the Clones, are namesakes of the original 1966 spaghetti western Django, starring Franco Nero and directed by Sergio Corbucci, so it could work out. In fact, here’s my first casting suggestion: everyone’s favorite Firefly captain Nathan Fillion could play one of the new hunters!

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LA Weekly “Spindrift’s Psychedelic Spaghetti Western Comes to L.A.”

Interesting piece about the continuing cultural impact of spaghetti westerns on popular culture:

The vision of both the band and filmmaker Burke Roberts was to create a cinematic experience — a psychedelic western soundtrack that now (after two years) has a monument: a whiskey-soaked, spaghetti western peyote trip called Spindrift: Ghost of the West. . .

The film premieres this Thursday, July 24 at the Downtown Independent Theater, which includes a live performance of the soundtrack by the band. This will be the first-ever screening of the film.

Spindrift: Ghost of the West is a visual trip through what Rimbaud called a “systematized disorganization of all the senses,” but at the same time, a haunting spaghetti western that chases down a story, sort of. Judging by the trailer, the storytelling is driven more by the marriage between LSD cinematography and western rock ‘n’ roll.

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