Tag Archives: Spaghetti Westerns

Interesting definition from Urban Dictionary

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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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Great introduction to the Spaghetti Western at Infini-Tropolis

infitropolis

 

If you are looking for a good introduction to the Italian western, check out this article by ‘Sergei Kowalski’ at Infini-Tropolis. Covers all the basics quickly.

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Explain yourself: film critics and their shorthand

incritc

Among contemporary film critics, there is a shorthand that communicates alot of information about a film quickly. One example of this shorthand is calling something a ‘spaghetti western.’ The terms is generally used to evoke memories of Sergio Leone’s Dollars films, which by now most of the film literate world are intimately familiar with. But I often find the use of the term just lazy.

For instance, in a review of The American (2010)a recent Hollywood film starring George Clooney, there is a well-written and thoughtful review at incritic. However, the author titles it The American: Reinventing the Spaghetti Western. Sounds like an interesting title, right? But nowhere does he explain why the film is like a spaghetti western nor how the genre is being ‘reinvented.’ So the author is trying to build up the significance of an over-looked movie he or she liked by creating a linkage to the classic movies of Sergio Leone. The final lines just add to the confusion:

 

The American is actually fully Italian, then: beautiful, deliberate, spare, symbolic, Catholic, overly sentimental. And a throwback to the great Italian Neorealismo of the Sixties.

The respected, self-consciously artistic directors of the Neorealism and the opportunistic, pulp directors of the popular cinema were two distinct traditions of filmmaking. Largely made up of Northerns from cities like Milan, filmmakers like de Sica, Rosselini, Fellini, and Visconti were respected internationally. At least early in their development, they created a cinema focused on Italian lives and experiences. The popular filmmakers Leone, Corbucci, Bava, and others tended to be Southerners. They made movies in whatever genre money could raised for at the time. I think most people would agree that there movies had a subtext of significance drawn from the lives and experiences of people in Italy, but this submerged under the surface formulas of giallos, westerns, police films, spy films, peplum, etc.

In other words, it at first seems strange to say that The American combines the very different approaches to filmmaking of the spaghetti western and neorealism. This is not to say that these two traditions did not influence each other because they certainly did. It is also not to say that the director and screenwriter did not make a decision to make a film combining features from each. But only that this is not explained by the author. Instead, we are left with a cryptic shorthand, a few ambiguous gestures that tell the reader too little about the film.

 

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Scherpschutter on “Kill or Be Killed” (1966)

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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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The 50th anniversary of Fistful of Dollars . . .

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. . . 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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A ‘Eurotrash” fan discovers the Spaghetti Western

icpress

 

Decent list of the best Spaghetti Westerns by Icpress at Letterboxd. Here is how she describes here motivations for the list:

I’ve only recently decided to get serious about watching Spaghetti Westerns (or, more generally, Eurowesterns) despite having been a devoted fan of Italian genres like the giallo, the poliziotteschi (Eurocrime), and all things Eurohorror for years now. Westerns, on their period surface, didn’t immediately appeal to me, and I always seemed to find an excuse not to get serious about tracking them down.

The two things that changed my mind in recent months were: 1. the desire to find more movies featuring my favorite Italian genre stars–the chance to see Nieves Navarro or Luciano Rossi or Anthony Steffen or Tomas Milian or Gian Maria Volonte in new roles finally reached its tipping point, and 2. the Blu-ray release of *The Big Gundown*, which seemed a good (and tempting) place to start. I also picked up the FAB Press book *Any Gun Can Play*, which has so far proved to be an invaluable guide to finding (and better appreciating) what I’ve watched so far.

So: This list will serve as my record of what I’ve watched and, in the notes section, what I’ve thought. I will also include a list of the Eurowesterns I’ve not yet seen but would most like to–this list will come both from recommendations from other Letterboxd/Mubi users, as well as the the reading I’m doing in *AGCP*. Please recommend movies as you feel so moved; I’d also like to eventually dip the toe of my boot in the pre-Spaghetti Western pool, so those recs are welcome as well.

Like with my Giallo and Eurocrime lists, the first 20 will be ranked in order of preference, the rest listed chronologically. Because I’ve just passed the 20-movie mark in the genre, this current top 20 (as of 02/03/14) is bound to change drastically in the coming months, as I get more and more entries under my belt.

It should be interesting to follow here progress! She had good taste. I too really like Face to Face, The Big Gundown, Django Kill, Cemetery Without Crosses, Death Sentence, Massacre Time, Deadlock  . . .  putting those films at the top of the list makes sense to me.

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Gordon Mitchell Film List!

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Gordon Mitchell plays a memorable supporting role in Sartana the Gravedigger, the topic of Episode 2 of the Django Rising Podcast. Here is a great list of his many films.

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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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“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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Ryan at Lost Laowai on “Shangdown — The Way of the Spur”, a Spaghetti-inspired Eastern

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Ryan at Lost Laowai published a post titled “Shangdown — Interview with Shanghai spaghetti western director Jakob Montrasio” that was interesting:

When Shanghai-based expat Jakob Montrasio first told me he was directing a spaghetti western set in his adopted city, I’m sure I blinked uncomprehendingly. The movie, Shangdown: The Way of the Spur is an east-meets-west kung fu cowboy mashup.

This Bruce with boots (or Clint with a kick) premise for a film seemed strange and intriguing, so I decided to probe a bit further into what the movie was all about. My interview with Jakob is below. But first, how about a more official synopsis (and a trailer):

Guerino, a cowboy from Italy, travels to Shanghai in search of his sister Elisa, who was working as a model in China but mysteriously vanished. In Shanghai, Guerino finds an unlikely ally in Jieikai, a local Chinese, whose girlfriend also mysteriously disappeared while working in the same modeling agency. During their search to uncover the truth, they are dragged into a dark world of criminality, corruption and human smuggling affairs. When things take a bad turn and innocent people start getting killed left and right, Guerino takes the matter into his own hands in order to save his sister before it’s too late… Driven by his thirst for vengeance and his desire for justice, he vows to take down every single link to this chain of smuggling affair following his one and only rule: kick first, ask questions later. . . 

From the interview:

LLW: What was your interest in melding the Spaghetti Western-Kung Fu Action genres? Do you think there are similarities between the two styles?

JM: The Spaghetti Western and the Martial Arts Eastern are, from a plot point of view, actually quite similar. Usually they have a lead actor who ends up fighting someone much bigger than him, out of personal conflict or due to a need for help — or simply for money. There are, of course, differences in the sets, the actual action and some more things. For example, Spaghetti Westerns from Leone have the famous stare-downs, because the actual shooting is quite quick – one shot and the enemy is down; whereas martial arts are exciting through the moves and stunts. We combine those two and mash them up.

The last mashup in this style that I’ve seen was the Sukiyaki Western Django, but there they used guns and shot and shot and shot … I didn’t like that very much. I think using martial arts in a Western that’s shot in the East is much more exciting.

LLW: It’s interesting to me that Leone’s Dollars Trilogy kicked off with a remake of the Japanese filmYojimbo. These films all seem to mix up Asian and European directors, actors and locations; and use principally a North American “Western” concept of cowboys and gunslingers — does this say something about the universality of these themes and how they are accepted and understood across cultures? How do you think that plays out in Shangdown?

JM: I think the typical David versus Goliath concept appeals to the audience, and Akira Kurosawa’s films are pretty much quoted in every western, whether on purpose or not. I wonder where he got his inspiration from. It doesn’t matter where you are, what culture you’re in, if you see someone fighting or tricking out someone bigger than himself, it’s exciting.

My personal favorite Kurosawa film is The Seven Samurai, which was also remade into the Western The Magnificent Seven, and the topic of it is simply honor. The honorable samurai take on a huge enemy knowing that they wont make it, but try anyway, to help the poor village people. It’s fun to see that! Tragic in the end, but fun! John Woo’s Hong Kong films have the very same topic, but he transfered it into the cops of the southern metropolis. In a way, he’s referencing The Seven Samurai at the end ofHard Boiled, when Chow Yun-Fat saves the baby from the exploding hospital.

Also, 2010 and 2011, with stuff like Cowboys & Aliens from Iron Man director Jon Favreau, are years of the cowboy comeback. Even videogames sell cowboys well; look at Red Dead Redemption, pretty much the best game of the year. Cowboys are really “in” again and martial arts will always be.

I don’t think Jakob Montrasio really understands spaghetti westerns very well. He says that they are about”fighting or tricking out someone bigger than [the hero]”. There is usually a bit more going on than that, I think. The heroes not only meet their equals, but they are knocked down and humbled a bit (think of all the beatings of the hero in almost every spaghetti western). But that is okay. Shangdown – Way of the Spur looks like it might be fun, though the images of an American in a black duster and cowboy hat in Shanghai are a little out-of-place. This movie might be worth checking out, though. There has been a resurgence of the Spaghetti-inspired western in straight-to-streaming-video b-movies over the past few years. Some have been decent.

 

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