Tag Archives: Spanish Western

Fedra West (1968) – Main Titles by Piero Picconi

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Simon Abrams “After ‘Django’ came ‘The Great Silence,’ a spaghetti western about bounty killers in Utah”

After 'Django' came 'The Great Silence,' a spaghetti western about bounty killers in Utah   Capital New York

At Captial New York, Simon Abrams wrote a piece lauding Corbucci’s second movie in what you might call the “Django series.” Sergio Corbucci had a habit of remaking the same movie over and over if it were successful. After Django (1966), he essentially made two variations on the plot/character/theme in The Great Silence (1968) and The Specialist (1969). 

Abrams writes:

The Great Silence is an atypical spaghetti western in the sense that Corbucci doesn’t emphasize black humor and surreally sadistic scenes of violence as much as he does in a film like Django. . . 

. . .The Great Silence is an unconventional spaghetti western that takes place, as an intertitle imperiously announces, one “Winter [in] 1899,” in Snowhill, Utah. This is, in other words, a film set in a specific historical moment. And yet it has no more respect for rules than any other spaghetti western: Amorality and a fatalistic air of pessimism dominate Corbucci’s film. . . 

. . . The Great Silence stands up as well as it does today because it takes that intense cynicism we’ve come to associate with the spaghetti western and given it a new context. Tarantino would do well to draw on as much of that sort of innovation as he can.

However, Abrams misses the point when he writes that in The Great Silence “Corbucci doesn’t emphasize black humor and surreally sadistic scenes of violence as much as he does in a film like Django”. The Great Silence plays as though it is an intense, serious, cynical tragedy. And, in some ways, it is. . . almost. When you look at Corbucci’s entire oeuvre, you will find that he makes irreverent burlesques of the Western genre that almost verge on spoofs. He is always putting the audience on. In fact, that is what I think that is going in The Great Silence. I will not ruin the experience with spoilers, but I will ask to think about what Corbucci is actually up to after the impact of the movie passes over you. 

In a future podcast, I will cover the movies of Corbucci. It may be awhile, however, as I have a lot of topic I would love to talk about.

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Context of the Spanish Western

Somewhat interesting video about what was going in Spain at the time that the Marchent brothers, Leon Klimovsky, and others were making westerns. The Marchent family was close to Franco.

The Spanish westerns are something of a enigma to me. The typical story involves a doomed main character whose innocent actions lead to disastrous results. In these movies, violence corrupts the protagonist, making it necessary for society to purge them. This fascinating and strange story has to have something do with the fallout of the Spanish Civil War and life in Franco’s Spain. Does anyone know anything about this? If so, please leave a comment below!

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Quick Review: Dead in Tombstone

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Hi! I watched an interesting film on Netflix that I thought I should put up a few quick notes on.

Jayson Kennedy has a great review of the direct to video Dead in Tombstone (2012) at his blog, basement of ghoulish decadence.

Danny Trejo in an action “horror western” was an inevitability, but the Western genre is deceptively complex. To produce even a “decent” example a convincing drama needs to be constructed around punctuated violence. The screenplay, penned by the duo behind the awful killer clown slasher Drive Thru (2007), instead strings along action sequences with scattered bits of shallow exposition. In that respect, Dead in Tombstone succeeds and shows how well a measly five million dollars, and major studio backing, can be utilized. The Deadwood aesthetic is in full effect with a western town backlot and actors drenched in that unnatural “readymade rustic” grit. Frenzied editing hampers most nuance of the camerawork, but the sound design is extremely impressive and the film never once sounds its low cost.

Matt at Ruthless Reviews also has a fun review of the film:

Holy shit, dude. An old fashioned Western starring Danny Trejo, Mickey Rourke, and Anthony Michael Hall! What’s this review doing in the Shithouse? This just might be the best film of the year

I agree with Jayson that the acting is very bad and the characters under-developed. Furthermore, the gunfights are energetic but brain dead . . . too often there are dozens of men shooting in close confines to the Trejo, but they almost never hit him. However, while there is some Bad and Ugly to this movie, there is also some Good. The Romanian locations are great. Next, this movie feels like a real grindhouse spaghetti western ~ shabby, gritty, ragged and cheap. Most importantly, it not only imitates Western alla’Italiana style, but the screenwriter and director actually understood the basic formula of an spaghetti western. As direct-to-video American clones go, this is not too bad. In fact, I enjoyed it more that I enjoyed Tarantino’s Django Unchained . . .

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In an earlier blog post, I wrote about the mythical/ritualistic plot of the Italian western. Basically, the character is killed and then reborn in a classic ‘liminal’ narrative. In their rite of passage, they usually end of saving the town . . . even though their explicit motivations are always selfish.

Dead in Tombstone is very similar to And God Said To Cain and Django the Bastard with its Gothic elements and spectral protagonist that returns from the grave to extract revenge for a wrong done to them. Django Kill!, Twice A Judas, and Ciakmull also have similar structures. . . with characters ‘returning from the dead.” This movie catches that element well. However, in those movies the characters only figuratively or narratively returned from death. In this movie, Danny Trjeo repeatedly moves from God’s County (the town of Edenland) to Hell and back. This is an interesting variant of this basic story.

This movie gets a 6.75 / 10 on my rating scale. Its worth a watch if you are fan of the genre.

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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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Short review: Apache Fury (1964, José María Elorrieta)

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Apache Fury (1964, José María Elorrieta)

El hombre de la diligencia

7/10 on the Eurowestern rating scale:

Why so high? A pleasant surprise. Quality direction by Elorrieta elevates this early Spanish b-western above similar movies by directors like Klimovsky. Intelligent use of widescreen, staging, composition in depth, texture, and camera movements reduce the need for multiple shots. At the same time, this technique saves the movie from the static feel of so many other low budget Spanish westerns. Solid low budget film-making ~~ this is why I rate this movie a little higher than I would have expected going in to it. Pan and scan versions would remove this element from the movie and make it much less interesting. However, the mass action is shot in a much more pedestrian manner.

A small group of people at a stage station fight Geronimo’s Apaches and each other in a bid to stay alive. There are a few silly, awkward scenes (including a stage coach attack), but for the most part it works. A very interesting review of this could be written, placing this movie in its context of Fascist Spain. This film is something of a companion piece to Kliimovsky’s inferior Ballad For A Bounty Killer, with the same sets and much of the same cast.

Like other early Spanish westerns, this movie is “leisurely paced” with lots of dialogue, so if you are looking for lots of action this movie will not satisfy you. However, it should be noted that it is no slower or talky than the most near-contemporary b-grade American Indian v. Calvary siege films on which it was modeled.

I am now eager to see José María Elorrieta’s other film in the same vein ~~ Massacre At Fort Grant (1964). Vengeance of Pancho Villa (1967) is increasingly widely available. It is not as successful as this movie, but it is a fairly average Spanish western of middling quality (I gave it 5.75 / 10 stars). He also directed a late western If You Shoot . . . You Live! (1979) that I have not seen available. If you know where to get a copy, I would like to know.

Note: I watched a fairly faded Spanish language version. A fansub .srt was available, but seemed damaged or incomplete.

~~ El Vengador Errante

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