Tag Archives: Fistful of Dollars

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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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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The 50th anniversary of Fistful of Dollars . . .

leone

 

. . . has led to considerable recognition for the accomplishments of director Sergio Leone. The American Film Institute had an event showing Leone’s westerns this July:

Sergio Leone
July 3–27

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, which launched Sergio Leone to international stardom (the film’s young star, Clint Eastwood, made out okay, too), AFI Silver presents this selection of the filmmaker’s finest films. Look for a new restoration of Leone’s magnum opus, ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA, out later this year.

The Cinémathèque in Paris is currently showing a retrospective of his work now:

Epic gunfights. Epic running times. Sweeping panoramas of the Wild West (often, in fact, Spain). Harmonicas on the soundtrack. Extreme close-ups and huge depth of field. Trains. Horses. Scowling hitmen with beards. Few cinematic languages are as distinct as that of Sergio Leone, the late Italian maestro of the Spaghetti Western.

Like Stanley Kubrick or David Lean, Leone was a perfectionist who obsessed over style in the manner of a master artisan. Consequently, like those two, he didn’t complete many films in his career. The seven movies that he helmed in his forty-year career form a coherent set: centred as it is on the Spaghetti Western genre, an homage to the Hollywood Western which is itself founded on the shaky fables of the Wild West, his oeuvre is preoccupied with nostalgia and myth. Many of his works, such as the Eastwood-starring ‘Man With No Name’ trilogy, pay tribute to the tropes of early Hollywood cinema while subtly subverting them; his best film, ‘Once Upon a Time in the West‘, threw its audience by casting erstwhile heartthrob Henry Fonda as a sadistic baddie.

Most interesting were the outtakes from Fistful of Dollars (1964) that surface this summer courtesy of the Cineteca Bologna:

 

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Great piece by Simon Gelten “Return of Ringo – my soul was born”

return of ringo my soul is born

Well, my day job has been increasingly busy over the past few weeks and I have not been posting as often as I was earlier during the summer. I will try to make sure that I post a couple times of week on the blog. Episode 2 of the Django Rising Podcast is being put together and should be out on Sunday the 7th of September.

Simon Geltin has really great piece at Planet Spaghetti Western “Return of Ringo – my soul was born” Here is the opening:

Archimedes was having a bath, Newton was sitting under a tree when it happened. All of a sudden these two men knew how the problem that had been tormenting them could be solved. In science and religion the experience is called epiphany, the moment of sudden insight.

Most of us are neither a Newton nor and Archimedes, and even though we watch falling apples or have a bath from time to time, we don’t make any scientific discoveries. And yet we have moments of epiphany. The secular, every-day-experience owes a lot to the descriptions of it by Irish novelist James Joyce (1882-1941). In his stories and novels, characters often experience a moment in which things become manifest to them: a veil seems to be lifted, as if this person’s life is literally revealed. Joyce called these experiences “the moment the soul is born” (1).

I had this experience when I first watched a spaghetti western. In Dutch (movie titles were translated in those days) the movie was calledRingo Keert Terug, meaning Ringo’s Return or Return of Ringo (2). What attracted me most, was the high publicity board above the entrance of the theatre (Cinema Rembrandt in my birthplace, Eindhoven). It was a painting, in harsh colors, of a cowboy, handling his gun with his left hand, supporting his shooting hand with his wounded right arm. The title was also fascinating: Return of Ringo: Where had he been to? Why did he return?

I was a fan of TV-westerns like Rawhide and High Chaparral, and had already seen a couple of westerns in cinema, but this film was different from anything I had experienced before. It looked different and it sounded different. It took me a while to get used to it – a couple of minutes, a quarter of an hour – to realize that this music and the deliberate style of film making were putting me in a trance. Before the film was over, I felt hypnotized.

Simon’s blogs is always a great read. I really recommend it. This post was especially interesting to me because it mirrors my own first experience of the genre. I was 12 or 13 and into western movies and novels. That in and of itself was a little strange. Few American teenagers in the 1990s liked westerns much. One evening, the local UHF channel out of Denver, Colorado was playing For A Few Dollars More (1964). Of course, everyone who lived through the 1980s knew who Clint Eastwood was. But I did not really know much about him. So I decided to watch the film on a television with two bent rabbit ears sprawled out to catch the faint broadcast signal.

I was entranced and amazed. I had never seen anything like it, the way that the stunning visuals and music played off of each other. The film was mysterious. The westerns that I was familiar with expressed different ideas and feelings. They had different rules for making it through a different world. This was something different.

A few months later the same channel showed all three Dollars films in three consecutive nights (Fistful of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More, and The Good The Bad And The Ugly). After watching all three, I was hooked.

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“Echoes of the Spaghetti Western” in Kundo: Age of the Rampant . . .

kundo

 

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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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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