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).