Category Archives: Spaghetti Westerns

Turkish Westerns: Chicago Reader and Dirty Pictures

chicago turkish westerns

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.

dity pictures

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

ed groman

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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According to The Wrap :”MGM Hit With $5 Million Lawsuit Over Classic Clint Eastwood, Marlon Brando Films”

the wrpa

Fistful of Dollars (1964) was involved in legal disputes upon its release due to copyright infringement on Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo (The Bodyguard) (1961) — of course, that film infringed on Dashiell Hammet’s novel The Red Harvest. Well, it has recently been reported that the legal issues around rights and royalties for the Dollars films continue. Obviously, these are valuable properties.

According to Pamela Chelin at The Wrap:

Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer Inc. has been hit with a lawsuit by P.E.A. Films, Inc. alleging a breach of contract over the classic films “Last Tango in Paris” starring Marlon Brando, and Clint Eastwood‘s “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” and “For a Few Dollars More.”

P.E.A. Films owns the rights to these films, and seeks to terminate MGM’s licenses, alleging that MGM failed to provide accurate and honest accounting statements with revenue and expenses for the films, nor did they provide timely payment of amounts due to P.E.A. They seek termination of their agreement with MGM on the grounds that they claim MGM breached the agreements.

P.E.A. further seeks a full accounting of all sums due from MGM, as well as more than $5 million in damages.

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Interesting definition from Urban Dictionary

urban
Spaghetti Western culture is everywhere! I came across this entry from Urban Dictionary recently:
A Curry Western is the Indian film industry’s (known colloquially as Bollywood) version of a spaghetti western which features the protagonist(s) and villian(s). The similaritiesbetween the traditional spaghetti western and the curry western is that either the protagonist(s) or the villian(s) will be daciots/bandits/robbers. The difference betweenthe two would be the use of traditional filmmaking rules in a curry western which features in all Indian films and that is music, there will be a minimum of one or two of either a sad song or a happier/livelier song or a combination of both.
Sholay (1975) is the most famous curry western in Bollywood. Widely hailed as one of the best movies to be ever made in Bollywood, it tells the tale of three men, Veeru (played by Dharmendra), Thakur Baldev Singh (Sanjeev Kumar) and Jai (Amitabh Bachan) who join forces to catch an ruthless dacoit Gabbar Singh (played by Ajmad Khan).

Box Office Information (as obtained by Wikipedia):

Sholay was released on 15 August 1975 in Mumbai. On 11 October 1975, the film was released in several other Indian film distribution districts. It earned Rs. 1,62,41,00,000equivalent to US$ 88 million, after adjusting for inflation and remains the highest grossing movie of all-time in the history of Indian Cinema.

At Mumbai’s Minerva theater, it was shown in regular shows for three continuous years, and then in matinee shows for two more years. Even in 240th week of its release, Sholay was packing the theaters. Sholay grossed about 35 crore rupees in its first run, a record thatremained unbroken for the next nineteen years.Sholay ran for more than five years.

Beküldő: rgp2130 2010. április 13.
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Joe Kaiser “Clint Eastwood Western Review”

 

There are not enough Spaghetti Western reviews on Youtube! Here, Joe Kaiser does his part by reviewing Leone’s Dollars films. Joe looks like an enthusiastic movie fan that likes to share his experiences of watching different movies. He is not a spaghetti western expert, but it is cool to hear what a normal (non-obsessed Eurowestern geek-freak) thinks about some of the films.

What is really cool is how he picks up on how Cline Eastwood’s Man With No Name always ends up helping out another character at some pivotal point in the movie. In Episode 2 of the Django Rising Podcast, I briefly talked about the protagonist in an Italian western. They are often times called anti-heroes. The idea is that they do the opposite of what a typical western hero would do. Supposedly, they are ultimately amoral and cynical. But this is not the case at all. In fact, movies with characters like that rarely work for audiences. Instead, Leone and Eastwood agreed to cut out most of the expository dialogue for the Man With No Name in Fistful of Dollars (1964). That had a wonderful effect. The audience is not really sure why the character is doing what he is doing. In fact, he ends up freeing Marisol and her family, then liberating the town . . . and he makes a fortune. But this is what happens in many classic Hollywood westerns. But in a classic Hollywood western, the hero usually justifies his violence. Not in the Italian western . . . the laconic hero does not bother excusing himself. That is what makes him an ‘anti-hero’: he doesn’t make excuses for his violence.

In later Italian westerns, the heroes do make ‘excuses.’ Sometimes they do it for revenge. Over the course of 13 years (1964-1977) he number of fictional wives, mothers, and sisters that are raped and murdered to provide a motivation for the hero is staggering and, ultimately, monotonous. In other movies, the heroes are motivated by a cause. There are the Zapata westerns like A Bullet For The General and Tepepa.

What is an ‘excuse’? Well, by that I mean a justified reason. And the reasons that justify actions are specific to a culture and political regime. So in Hollywood westerns, there was a particular set of justifications (‘ideology’) for the actions of the heroes. In late 1960s Italy, many of the filmmakers were populists or socialists, so their justifications reflected there time, place, and beliefs.

Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood did something slightly different. They stripped the western film of its timeliness  and made it more timeless, in a sense. They found the underlying mythic structure of the story. This is where the force of the genre comes from. This is why it is compelling. This is more important than finding excuses for why the Man With No Name does what he does. There are deeper reasons that transcend the political and cultural climate both of their time (mid-1960s) and our time (mid-2010s).

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Learning to see beyond Django: Christopher Forsley of PopMatters on “Minnesota Clay” (1964)

minne clay

At PopMatters, there is an interesting review of Sergio Corbucci’s second western Minnesota Clay (1964) by Christopher Forsley. Since Quentin Tarantino popularized Corbucci’s Django (1966) among film geeks and hipsters, the ‘other’ Sergio has been a great deal of attention. Here is what Christopher had to say:

It’s hard not to compare Minnesota Clay (1964) to A Fistful of Dollars(1964). Not only were they filmed at the same time, released the same year, and both made by men named Sergio—Sergio Corbucci in the first case and Sergio Leone in the second—but they also used the same source material to tell similar stories. The source material used was Dashiell Hammett’s early hardboiled detective novel, Red Harvest (1929), along with Akira Kurosowa‘s cinematic samurai version of that novel, Yojimbo(1961). The stories told involve marksmen who, after arriving to towns in turmoil due to on-going gang wars, pin one gang against the other to bring gold to their pockets and peace to the citizens.

Minnesota Clay and A Fistful of Dollars are also two of the earliest offerings from the two greatest Spaghetti Western directors. But whileA Fistful of Dollars became an international sensation, launching and then guiding the genre in the years that followed, Minnesota Clay was in comparison a quickly forgotten box-office bust. One reason for its failure was the bad-timing that left it in the shadow of Leone’s groundbreaking film, but another was its mediocrity, which becomes especially obvious when you compare it to Corbucci’s later triumphs like Django (1966), The Great Silence (1968), and Companeros (1970).

 

He continues:

Structurally, Corbucci tells his story with just as much craft as Leone, and the plot of Minnesota Clay, like A Fistful of Dollars, is an entertaining one. But unlike A Fistful of Dollars, nearly every element surrounding the plot is bland. For most of Minnesota Clay’s 91 minute runtime, I felt as though I was watching one of the many nondescript American westerns that the Hollywood studio system shitted out during the ‘40s. The costumes are too clean and colorful, and the sets are too well lighted and swept.

 

While Forsley is a bit harsh at times, he does admit that the film isn’t terrible, only that he found it bland.

51jSFOzUAgL._SL500_SY300_What I found interesting about this article was not its analysis. I differ with Forsley’s conclusion about the film, but I would not have when I first started watching Eurowesterns. As with most people, my introduction to the genre was through the Dollars trilogy, then Once Upon A Time In The West (1968). In the early 1990s, you simply couldn’t get your hands on most other spaghetti westerns. I was able, however, able to get my hands on a couple of VHS tapes including a washed version of Day of Anger (1968). When I first saw this film, I was disappointed. I wanted to see another film like For A Few Dollars More (1964). But this movie was “too clean and colorful, and the sets are too well lighted and swept.” The hero was clean cut Giuliano Gemma. The music was a little cheesy (I thought then).

Later, when the internet became ubiquitous, venues like the Spaghetti Western Web Board allowed me to trade duped tapes with other fans. Since then, there has been a Renaissance of the genre in DVDs, peer-to-peer sharing, and even Youtube. Seeing a wider range of films, I slowly was acculturated to the genre. When WildEast released their great DVD version I gave Day of Anger another chance . . . and it is now a favorite.

In other words, I had to learn to see beyond Leone.

If Forsley continues to pursue the genre, I predict that he will eventually have the same experience. He will need to see beyond Django and CompanerosMinessota Clay is a decent b-western effort with the first appearance of a number of Corbucci’s recurrent themes. It does look a bit like an American b-western, but there a number of films made in this imitative aesthetic that are enjoyable: In A Colt’s Shadow (1965), Gunmen of the Rio Grande (1964), Bullets Don’t Argue (1964), etc. If you are willing to accept these films for what they are — and not reject them for what they are not — you will find that they are enjoyable, decent b-westerns (and Day of Anger is a classic . . .).

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Scherpschutter on “Kill or Be Killed” (1966)

kill or be killed

Scherpschutter has a great review of “Kill or Be Killed” (1966) up at the Spaghetti Western Database. His reviews are always perceptive and well written.

In other words: this movie is hodgepodge; it freely borrows form Hollywood classics but we have arrived in 1966 and the style is mostly Italian; Boccia (working as Amerigo Anton) handles some of the material well, but doesn’t know what to do with those scenes set on the Drumond ranch and therefore the second part of the movie occasionally feels like a Hollywood B-movie; there’s even a would-be funny old man of the grumpy type, who talks to his dog (who is smarter than he and saves the hero’s life). The ending echoes the final events of a knight’s tale, with our chivalrous hero – fancied dead by his sweetheart – arriving just in time to prevent the poor lady from marrying the black Knight – sorry, the evil Chester Griffith.

It would take Boccia one more effort to strike the right chords; his Kill the Wickeds, made one year later, is often called a minor genre classic. But even this small entry isn’t all bad; the shootouts are quite good, but there aren’t enough of them (it’s not a particularly violent movie) and the brief and sudden action moments are better than this protracted finale, which goes on far too long; the best scene, is the one with Ringo surprising four opponents in the main street (a clear reference to the famous scene from Tessari’s A Pistol for Ringo set on the children’s playgound). The score is a grab bag of tunes, some bad, some good, but hardly ever creating a real spaghetti western atmosphere. Kill or be Killed is not as bad as some may tell you, but I can only recommend it to aficionados. If you’re relatively new to the genre, there are many other entries you should check out first.

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Lifetime Achievement Award for Bud Spencer and Terence Hill (2010)

Italian audio. “Delivery of the 2010 David di Donatello Award for Lifetime Achievement at the greatest pair of splendid actors for over 40 years we have been graced with unforgettable comedies … Terence Hill and Bud Spencer ! Thank you for all that you wanted to give away!”

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‘Luis Bacalov – Il grande duello aka The Grand Duel (1972)’

The ‘Spaghetti Western music enjoy” Channel on Youtube has a number of great full scores up currently. Here is the memorable score for the twilight western ‘Grand Duel’ (1972).

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