Tag Archives: Cult Film

Spaghetti Western Theater: Sartana the Gravedigger

For Episode 2 of the Django Rising Podcast, I will be reviewing Sartana the Gravedigger (1969). If you don’t have access to a better copy of the film, it is up on Youtube! Enjoy.

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Weaving authenticity and meaning in genre film: “SHOOTING ‘SIX BULLETS TO HELL’ IN ALMERIA’

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Danny Garcia had an interesting post late last year over at his A Spaniard In The Workz blog. In it, he briefly wrote about wrapping up shooting on a low budget western titled ‘Six Bullets To Hell’. He wrote:

They said we were crazy. And yes, it was hot, it was dusty, it was real hard work but it was also great fun to shoot a real Spaghetti Western with a bunch of great actors and a great crew right in the middle of July AND right in the hottest spot of Spain: the desert of Tabernas in Almería

Almería had been the European Hollywood in the 60’s and 70’s, a good number of films where shot in that area of Spain every year. Fifty years ago, there’d be a couple of movies shot there everyday. Everybody in the small town of Tabernas would be somehow involved in the productions: the shops, the restaurants, horse wranglers, drivers, electricians, carpenters, extras, etc.

The great Frank Braña (R.I.P.), who worked in Almería hundreds of times (even with the Master Sergio Leone in all his westerns) told me there wasn’t a single hotel in Almería when they started shooting there in 1964. The cinema industry helped that city grow big time. . .

. . . As fans of the old Spaghetti Westerns, this was the perfect chance for all of us to shoot in legendary sets like the Oasys (aka MiniHollywood), Sergio Leone’s set, the very same set he built with Carlo Simi in 1965 for For a Few Dollars More (and was also used in classics like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Hannie Caulder, Doc, etc) and also at Fort Bravo, where Ringo Starr did Blindman and where greats like Lee Van Cleef, Jack Palance or Charles Bronson starred in great westerns like Death Rides a Horse, Chato’s Land, etc. So we were literally standing on the footsteps of giants.

What stuck me as I read this was how it showed just how profoundly the Italian westerns of the 1960s-70s completely transmuted the Western genre. The term ‘Spaghetti western’ was coined by American film critics that wanted to mark out these Italian films as cheap knock-offs and fakes. In fact, this is how the Italian filmmakers initially viewed them as well. Look at how the names of directors and actors were changed in order to fool Italian audiences into believing that these were American productions. The most famously example is, of course, Sergio Leone appearing under the alias ‘Bob Robertson’ in the opening credits for Fistful of Dollars (1964) (an alias that actually goes back to his director father and the silent film era).

After Leone had the resources to make big budget productions, he made an interesting choice. He planned on shooting much of his masterpiece Once Upon A Time In The West (1968) in the ‘real West,’ Monument Valley, Arizona. Of course, this was John Ford country. Here, the legendary American director had filmed many of his most iconic Westerns. In deciding to film there, Leone was creating a link with these places, locations, and films. From them, he was gaining something . . . authenticity.

However, after the economic, artistic, and cultural success of Leone and other European filmmakers in remaking the Western from Italian, Spanish, or German perspective things changed. Today, when young filmmakers want to give their films a link to the classic cinematic images and experiences of the past, they don’t travel to John Ford country. They travel to Leone country, the Almerian desert in Spain. In his blog post, Danny Garcia promotes his film by focusing on the locations and actors that provide a link to the Eurowestern boom of the 1960s.

As Chritopher Frayling points out in this great biography of Sergio Leone: Something To Do With DeathLeone inverted the situations and rhetoric of the Hollywood Western to create new and interesting effects. Perhaps this is the ultimately the most interesting inversion that he accomplished.

 

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Kill Screen on a new Spaghetti Western-Inspired Videogame “Secret Ponchos”

kill screen response

 

Zach Budgor at Kill Screen has written an interesting piece on a new Spaghetti western inspired videogame “Secret Ponchos”: SECRET PONCHOS TURNS THE DESOLATE SPAGHETTI WESTERN INTO CHAOTIC MULTIPLAYER

The piece start off invoking imagery from Sergio Leone’s films:

“They’re so cool to watch, but not so much fun to play,” says Yousuf Mapara of the western standoff. You know the type: Eastwood’s standing against a long flat horizon, eyes permanently squinted against the frontier sun. The camera’s tight against those eyes, searching. They give nothing away. Cut to his hand on a revolver grip.

His opponent’s eyes are wild, nervous. Eastwood again, grimacing. The other man pulls but Eastwood’s pistol is already up, up and firing, and the sadsack falls to the ground in dust and blood. Probably a lot of blood.

So maybe it’s fun to write, too. But Mapara’s not shooting a film, or writing an action scene; he’s developing Secret Ponchos, an isometric multiplayer shooter that pulls deep from the spaghetti western bottle.

And the author shows he knows a thing or two about the better known Spaghetti westerns:

Sergio Leone’s Dollars Trilogy is the most recognizable of these films: A Fistful of Dollars (1964),For a Few Dollars More (1965), and The Good the Bad and the Ugly (1966). A close second isDjango (1966), which is a little stranger: Django lugs around a coffin with a gatling gun inside. The final shootout sees him fanning a pistol with crushed fingers. The film spawned innumerable sequels, most of them completely unrelated. From there it’s a crapshoot, directors feeding off each other and themselves: The Beyond legend Lucio Fulci’s Four of the Apocalypse (1975) ups the brutality quotient considerably, as you’d expect.

 The concept behind the game sounds cool, especially the bounty system:

Take the standoff: in a spaghetti western, the standoff is the climax. Mapara says there’s “not a lot of action” in the typical spaghetti western, but “a lot of buildup.” But a multiplayer shooter doesn’t have a specific climax.

”We realized the standoff in the game has to happen differently,” Mapara says. “Really what a standoff is about is that moment in the film when the two characters have everything on the line and then they meet. And we thought, okay, well that we can do. So we started playing with the idea of heavy consequences when two people meet.”

This translated into a bounty system, where a player’s bounty rises or falls based on the arc of the match—but the loser’s bounty goes down, while the winner’s rises. Doing well makes you a more desirable target.

To Mapara, the key to the multiplayer is “understanding your opponent.” Every outlaw has specific moves that are executed fighting game-style with a combination of directions and buttons. Each of these moves has a recognizable tell, and can be countered by another character’s moves—“controlling range and timing,” as Mapara describes it.

However, this game seems to suffer from the same misunderstanding of Italian westerns that most American filmmakers have in the past when they try and incorporate elements of the Spaghetti western into their work:

To Mapara, the spaghetti western is darker than the traditional western (such as the black hat/white hat morality of 1953’s Shane), with a “certain style” that the Secret Ponchos team is looking to evoke. Crucial to that style was the music of prolific composer Ennio Morricone, whose western scores Mapara describes as “eerie instrumentals complemented with tragic trumpets” that lent beauty and gravity to the films. This rush of films from the late 60s were more violent and auteur-led than most previous Westerns; the gaggle of them were called “spaghetti” westerns because of the surplus of Italian filmmakers working on them.

Throughout the piece, the game designer and author focus on superficial aspects of the genre, such as the visuals and the music. And that is cool. The style of the classic Italian western is great and an essential part of the experience of one of these movies. They are the aesthetic hooks that draw the audience in.

But when it comes to the issue of what these movies are about, these two completely miss the mark. They imply that the movies are cynical and have a “darker’ outlook than the “traditional” Hollywood western. I don’t buy this at all. If this were the case, why does the hero usually end up saving society in the end? Think about Fistful of Dollars (1964). Sure The Man With No Name rides into town to make a profit, playing warring gangs against each other. But after he is beaten and nearly killed, he returns to town to save some of the townspeople that he has befriended. In effect, he purges the town of the evil, violent men that had been destroying it. That sounds . . . an awful lot like the outcome of the traditional western.

In fact, take a step back from the bounty killing and bank robbing and you will see that most Spaghetti westerns play out like traditional westerns in one way or another. Why have these movies struck generations of Americans as being so ammoral when they clearly are not? These are not American movies. These are Italian movies. What made Sergio Leone such a genius was his ability to translate the American western into an Italian cultural idiom. The characters are motivated differently. They view the world differently. They dramatize conflicts faced by Italian and not American audiences. But even if the bounty killers in For A Few Dollars More (1965) are motivated primarily by profit, they still perform the same service to their fictional world that a John Wayne or Roy Rogers did to theirs.

This is the genre that produced the populist revolutionary rhetoric of the Zapata westerns like A Bullet For The General (1966). This is not a genre defined by ammoral cynicism. It is not even that dark, though it is violent. Spaghetti westerns are strangely optimistic.

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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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Edd ‘Kookie’ Byrnes at Memphis Film Festival

Edd Byrnes

Toughest, ‘ginchiest’ stars come out to celebrate Westerns at Memphis Film Festival by John Beifus, The Commerical Appeal

Cool information about the career of Edd Byrnes. It would appear he followed Eastwood and Burt Reynolds to Italy to try and break out of popular TV shows and into film. Edd Byrnes starred in a number of notable Spaghetti Westerns, including Any Gun Can Play7 Winchesters for a Massacre, and Red Blood Yellow Gold.

Edd Byrnes, 80, was a slang-spouting, hair-combing hipster known as “Kookie” from 1958-1963 on the ABC private-detective series “77 Sunset Strip.”

A predecessor to “the Fonz,” Kookie became a cultural phenomenon. In 1959, Byrnes and Connie Stevens recorded a hit novelty single, “Kookie, Kookie (Lend Me Your Comb),” and fans emulated the character’s jive jargon. “I’m so far out I’m, like, still orbiting,” said Kookie, whose synonyms for “very good” included “ginchy” and “the maximum utmost.”

“Writers wrote all the jive talk and all the stuff I used to say,” Byrnes said. “It was all news to me; it was foreign to me. When the record with Connie Stevens came about, I said, ‘I’m not a singer,’ and they said, ‘You’re gonna talk-sing, like Rex Harrison.'” . . .

. . . Both Conrad and Byrnes have struggled with alcohol during their careers, but both men say they no longer have “smog on the noggin,” to quote one of Kookie’s lines.

Byrnes arrived in Hollywood on Sept. 30, 1955, the same day James Dean died in a car wreck, but he said the date did not prove to be a bad omen in a busy career that enabled him to work with such directors as William Wellman (“Darby’s Ranger”) and Roger Corman (“The Secret Invasion”), and that brought him a burst of renewed fame in 1978 when he was cast as Vince Fontaine in the musical “Grease.”

“My son always reminds me, ‘You drove out to California, you had $300, you were a high-school dropout.’ For a guy like that, I’ve been blessed.”

 

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Good review of Little Rita of the West . . .

. . . by Randy Johnson at Not The Baseball Pitcher.

 

Talk about your odd ball movies: a spaghetti western musical. Lots of songs, jokes, even some real spaghetti action. The idea behind it was to boost the career of Italian singer Rita Pavone. Little Rita was her actual nicknme. 4.89 feet tall and about 86 pounds. Boost her career? Since I never heard of this film until I stumbled across it on Youtube, probably not a lot. Possibly in Italy.

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Jandê Saavedra Farias Short “Lindonéia – Western Comics”

Art and animation for the comic book sequences in the short film “Lindonéia” by Tainá Vital and Raquel Gandra. Inspired by old italian Tex comics.

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Payment in Blood (Suite)

Francesco de Masi

Francesco de Masi

Francesco de Masi

Francesco de Masi

Enjoyable Francesco de Masi score from Enzo Castellari’s first, fun 1967 spaghetti western Payment in Blood aka 7 Winchesters For A Massacre.

Valdez244 does some nice ‘suites’ of numerous film scores, putting alot of work into his Youtube videos.

Sette+Winchester+per+un+Massacro+front Francesco De Masi - 7 Winchester Per Un Massacro - Front

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