Tag Archives: Italian Film

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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“Vincenzoni was known as a spaghetti western scribe, to his chagrin”

RIP Vincenzoni

“Vincenzoni was known as a spaghetti western scribe, to his chagrin”

Co-writer of For A few Dollars More and The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly. From a syndicated New York Times column from last year, whenVincenzoni died.

Luciano Vincenzoni, an urbane Italian screenwriter who worked with Billy Wilder, Dino De Laurentiis and other giants of film but to his dismay was best known for writing two spaghetti westerns starring a young Clint Eastwood, died Sunday in Rome. He was 87.

The cause was cancer, said Federico Vincenzoni, a grandson.

Vincenzoni contributed to about 70 films, chiefly as a screenwriter or script doctor. His humorous touch could be found in films like “Seduced and Abandoned,” which he made with Pietro Germi in 1964, and “The Best of Enemies,” which De Laurentiis, the producer, released in the United States in 1962.

But to the general public Vincenzoni was most associated with “For a Few Dollars More” and “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” two hugely successful Italian-made westerns directed by Sergio Leone that are now recognized as classics.

“I have written movies that won prizes at Cannes and Venice,” he told Sir Christopher Frayling, a cultural historian and Leone biographer. “These were screenplays for which we suffered on paper for months. Do you know how long it took me to write ‘For a Few Dollars More’? Nine days.”

vincenzoni2

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Swide’s Valentina Zannoi on “Giuliano Gemma: Spaghetti Westerns’ Angel Face”

swide

Nice, short introduction to the films of Gemma.

Born in 1938, Giuliano Gemma began his acting career as a stuntman due to his physical prowess. His talent as an actor and his leading man looks though did not go unnoticed, and director Dino Risi first offered him a speaking part next to Alberto Sordi in the critically acclaimed Venezia, la Luna e Tu in 1958.

Gemma’s real break however came in 1959 in an unaccredited role, he was cast as a centurion inWilliam Wyler’s Ben Hur. His looks, and physique then lead him to star in the ironic take on the mythological genre with Arrivano i Titani, (1962) which was a huge success both at home and abroad.

Taking a brief hiatus from the more action based movies, Gemma makes appearances in Visconti’sThe Leopard in 1963, and more from the franchise like Angelica and Angelica alla Corte del Re.

His real success and status as a heartthrob known worldwide was christened with the Spaghetti Western films, where he starred in many oeuvres directed by the biggest names like Duccio Tessari,Tonino Valerii and Sergio Corbucci.

Gemma interpreted over 100 films in his career and later in life moved towards the tv screen.

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Great documentary “K. Khan’s ITALIAN CINEMA: The Life & Times of RICHARD HARRISON”

From Youtube description:

Khalid’s Interview with one of the top stars of Italian Spaghetti Westerns, and EuroSpy secret agent and heist films from 1960s-1970s era, Mr. Richard Harrison, of The Invincible Gladiator, 100,000 Dollars for Ringo, Gunfight at Red Sands, and Agent 077: Spies Killed in Beirut [ Secret Agent Fireball ], and many other adventure films made in Europe and Asia.

I don’t know how you can be a cult movie fan and not have a fondness for Richard Harrison (IMBD, SWDB). He was in some hilariously terrible movies like Ninja Terminator, but he was also in a few Spaghetti western classics. This is a cool interview covering his experiences working in Italian during the Western/Spy movie cycle between 1963 and 1975.




If you are interested, here are two of Richard Harrison’s best Spaghetti westerns. Vengeance (My rating: 7.25/10) is a good film in the trippy, ‘acid’ western vein of Death Sentence or Matalo!. Gunfight At Red Sands (My rating: 6.75/10) is one of the best pre-Leone Spaghetti westerns and the first with an Ennio Morricome score. Sure, its a little hokey, but I have always enjoyed it. Supposedly, it had an influence on Leone’s Fistful of Dollars in terms of story.


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