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Favorite Spaghetti Westerns
4.Giu La Testa
5.Fistful Of Dollars
6.Face To Face
12.The Big Gundown
13.Run, Man, Run (Corri, Uomo, Corri)
14.Bullet for the General (El Chucho, qui�n sabe?)
15.Death Rides A Horse
17.Day Of Anger
20.Bullet for Sandoval
23.My Name is Nobody
24.A Pistol For Ringo
26.Cemetery Without Crosses
28.The Price Of Power
29.L'Uomo, L'Orgoglio, La Vendetta (Man, His Pride and His Vengeance)
30.They Call Him Cemetery
31.Any Gun Can Play
32.They Call Me Trinity
33.Light The Fuse...Sartana Is Coming
36.The Ruthless Four (Ognuno per se)
37.If You Meet Sartana Pray for Your Death
41.I Am Sartana Your Angel Of Death
42.The Bounty Killer
43.The Strangers Gundown (Django Il Bastardo)
44.10.000 dollari per un massacro
45.Five Man Army
46.Have a Good Funeral, My Friend... Sartana Will Pay
47.Long Days Of Vengeance
49.The Grand Duel
50.Si pu� fare... amigo (Can Be Done, Amigo)
52.Return Of Ringo
54.The Hills Run Red
55.Vengeance (Joko invoca Dio... e muori)
56.Ballad Of A Pistolero
57.And for a Roof a Sky Full of Stars
58.Amore, piombo e furore (China 9 Liberty 37)
59.No Room To Die
60.Today We Kill...Tomorrow We Die (Today It's Me...Tomorrow You)
61.Se sei vivo spara (Django, Kill... If You Live, Shoot! )
62.The Stranger Returns
63.My Name Is Pecos
65.And Santana Killed Them All (Lo irritarono ... E Santana fece Piazza pulita) (Un Par de asesinos)
67.California (Adios California)
68.Mille dollari sul nero (Blood At Sundown)
69.Seven Winchesters For A Massacre
70.I Want Him Dead ( Lo voglio morto )
71.Ben & Charlie
72.A Man Called Apocalypse Joe
73.Those Dirty Dogs (Campa carogna... la taglia cresce)
74.Sartana's Here... Trade Your Pistol for a Coffin
75.What Am I Doing In The Middle Of A Revolution
76.Bury Them Deep (All'ultimo sangue...To the Last Drops of Blood)
78.Fast Hand Is Still My Name
80.Per pochi dollari ancora (Fort Yuma Gold)
81.Taste Of Killing
83.Spara, Gringo, Spara
84.One More To Hell
86.Heads You Die... Tails I Kill You ...They Call Me Hallelujah
90.Long Live Your Death
91.Taste of Vengeance
92.One Silver Dollar
93.Death Played the Flute
94.$100,000 Per Killing
95.Dead Aim (Arde, Baby Arde).... (Lucky Johnny)
96.Drummer of Vengeance
97.Find A Place To Die
98.Four of the Apocalypse
99.Trinity Is Still My Name
100.Un Dollaro tra i denti (A Dollar Between the Teeth)....(A Stranger in Town)
101.Django 2: il grande ritorno (Django Strikes Again)
102.Seven Dollars On The Red
103.A Coffin For The Sheriff
104.The Greatest Robbery in the West
105.Red Blood Yellow Gold
106.Three Crosses Not to Die (No Graves on Boot Hill )
107.A Reason to Live, a Reason to Die (Massacre At Fort Holman)
109.Long Days Of Hate (I lunghi Giorni dell'Odio..;..This Man Can't Die)
110.Deaf Smith and Johnny Ears
111.Death Does Not Count the Dollars (Death at Owell Rock)
112.A Genius, Two Partners and a Dupe
113.Minute to Pray..Second to Die
114.Return Of Sabata
115.Between God, the Devil and a Winchester
117.Shoot The Living..Pray For The Dead
118.Comin' At Ya
119.Stranger And The Gunfighter
120.Chuck Mool (Ciakmull - L'uomo della vendetta)
122.Roy Colt and Winchester Jack
123.Belle Starr Story
124.Gunfight At Red Sands
125.On the Third Day Arrived the Crow
130.Trinita e Sartana figli di... (Trinity and Sartana... Those Dirty S.O.B.s )
131.Samurai (Il Bianco, il giallo, il nero)
133.Era Sam Wallach... lo chiamavano 'cos� sia' (His Name Was Sam Walbash, But They Call Him Amen)
134.The Relentless Four (I Quattro inesorabili)
135.Cavalca E Uccidi (Brandy) (Ride And Kill)
Lo straniero di silenzio (1968)
Stranger In A Strange Land
You gotta hand it to Tony Anthony. The man definitely thought outside of the box. Not content with recycled "revenge for a slaughtered family" or "gang of vicious thugs control a town" plots.......he co-wrote & starred in a series of films as "The Stranger", which, coincidentally, no pun intended, got stranger & stranger as they went along.
He..along with director Ferdinando Baldi, brought "Zatoichi" to the Spaghetti West w/ Blindman in 1971... fought against Moors and Vikings in Spain in 1976's "Get Mean",...& ushered in a modest 3d revival w/ 1981's "Comin' At Ya".
This, the third collaboration with Director Luigi Vanzi...."The Silent Stranger" predates a bunch of East-meets-West Spaghetti Westerns, including 1971's "Red Sun", "Fighting Fists of Shanghai Joe" in '72...and "The Stranger and the Gunfighter" in '73.
I was, for the most part, pleasantly surprised...by this Italian/Japanese/American co-production. There's a pretty good script..a mixture of Spaghetti Western violence...a number of well-staged Samurai sword fights which aren't bad at all....nicely done, & a lot of humor.
Plodding through the snow in the Klondike.........The Stranger has a run-in with bandits who are attempting to rob a young Japanese man of an apparently valuable scroll. The Stranger manages to kill the bandits, but the young Japanese man is shot. He tells The Stranger that the owner of the scroll will pay him $20,000 for its return. Entrusted to return this mysterious scroll to its rightful owner, & looking forward to a big payday.. The Stranger and his trusty horse board a ship for Japan. Once there, he discovers that two powerful warlords have been vying for control of a village and both parties claim that the scroll is rightfully theirs. The Stranger realizes that the only way to save his hide....and get his money, is to play both sides against each other.
Yes, this is yet another twist on Yojimbo, ...adding the old fish out of water bit...having a gunfighter battle both with & against samurai in Japan.
A dispute between the American producer and distributor MGM kept it from being seen in USA theaters until 1975. ..seven years after it was produced.
A little "Yojimbo"...a bit of "Ran"...a "Fistful" of other stuff...it's fun.
"Chi era quell'uomo mascherato"? ("Who Was That Masked Man?")
Capturing the spirit of Zorro ...The Lone Ranger..Robin Hood.....a large dose of Clark Kent...Batman & Robin...yes, even Mighty Mouse..."Starblack' mixes tongue in cheek humor...high camp...A lot of good Spaghetti Western action ..into a pretty entertaining movie.
Robert Woods stars as Johnny Blyth...who returns home after striking out on his own..building a ranch in Colorado..(at least that's his cover story)...accompanied by his deaf mute sidekick (yes, just like Zorro & his Bernardo)...to discover (?) his father dead..under mysterious & shady circumstances.....his mother remarried to his uncle...his dead father's brother..the respected Judge King. The locals are being squeezed by a gang of cutthroats led by the well scrubbed but slimy 'Curry', saloon owner..banker..money lender...supporting a very profitable business driving people to financial ruin......then seizing their homes & assets.
Curry's thugs are beginning to encounter an obstacle to their terrorizing & killing of landowners...in the form of a masked protector...his face completely covered by a black mask....who rides a white stallion (like the Lone Ranger, yup).....carrying a black star, which he always leaves at the scene , as a symbol of justice. Zorro has his Z...Starblack has silver badges.
Woods plays it straight..and plays it well..both as the dashing, swashbuckling Starblack...& the mild mannered, guitar strumming, somewhat meek & cowardly Johnny.
It's obvious that this is in the hands of a good director..the guy knew his Western movies..knew the old 40s serials..& without a ton of money, fashioned a nice little nod to them.....in the true spirit of old time good guy B Westerns...comic book super heroes..and old time movie serials........complete with secret tunnels..deception.....very hammy bad guys..and all not necessarily being as it appears to be......featuring our hero getting into dangerous predicaments & getting out of them..sometimes inexplicably....with an uncanny knack for always being in the right place at the right time..
......but there's no doubt we're firmly in Spaghettiville---> due to whippings...knives in the forehead...a rape followed by a stunning scene....a moment not only one of the best resolutions in Spaghetti Westerns..but in Movieland itself...I cheered.
Grimaldi was obviously aware of Leone..it shows ...but at a time when copies and simple variations of "Dollars" ..& "Django" were flying out of Texas Hollywood..he went in his own direction. He also wrote the dialogue..& threw in some wonderful lines.....like "gotta go where people need our help" ...I was waiting for.... ''ma'am"..ha ha..just like the old movies.....in one early scene..after Starblack has saved the day...a woman looks up at him adoringly...uttering "Starblack"...a simple hoot of a scene.
Some of the camera shots are spot on terrific.. innovative & fresh..such as peeking through a noose ....overhead shots....shots from behind..from inside a moving miner's cart......& violently funny..like when Starblack knocks off 10 guys like shooting ducks.
Both a tribute..a spoof..AND playing it straight.. a fairly difficult blend to pull off......it's clear that there's a genuine affection for his subject matter & his characters. ............the too often obligatory comic saloon fight was actually pretty good..the stunts were well done...the fights choreographed well...some nice moments in the score..nice whistling theme.. and Robert Woods really sings.- which, as it is, turns out to be integral to the plot.
Of course the German version called him Django.......w/ the great title "Django - Black God of Death". .brrrrrrrr!!! Call it a popcorn & pasta flick...perfect for a Saturday afternoon matinée, perhaps..maybe w/ some cartoons & a newsreel and then.......
"Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear.... A fiery horse with the speed of light, A cloud of dust, and a hearty "Ciao-Yo, Argento...... Via" !!!!!!!
Hey..it's not high art...but I give it a "Bravo" anyway.
Comin' at Ya! (1981)
A Fistful Of "Wo-o-o-o-oa-hhhhhhhhh"
By 1981, the heyday of the Spaghetti Western was over..that golden era finished..played out...& pretty much left for dead. A few interesting stragglers trickled out..."Mannaja" in '77..Lucio Fulci delivered "Silver Saddle" in '78.. & Michele Lupo's "Buddy Goes West" in '81. The previously bustling sets in Almeria & other Spanish locations were abandoned...& allowed to fall into disrepair. Director Ferdinando Baldi & Producer/Actor Tony Anthony, who ten years earlier had collaborated on adapting & bringing the blind swordsman "Zatoichi" to the Spaghetti West..resulting in the entertaining ........"Blindman",.............decided to do it again.......... filming a loose remake of Blindman in Spain.
Producer Tony Anthony decided to film it in 3-D...to give it life... to make it stand out...& that's precisely what it did. Originally called YENDO HACIA TI (GOING TOWARDS YOU) ,... Filmways picked up the film for North American distribution, re-named it COMIN' AT YA! ...it wound up making a bundle at the box office...grossing $12,000,000 in the USA...becoming the 23rd highest grossing Western ever among all post 1980-present Westerns... & sparking a modest 3D revival.
Anthony stars as H.H. Hart...who's not given any backstory but I'd project him as a former gunslinger. His wife, Abilene, is played by the gorgeous Victoria (TIE ME UP! TIE ME DOWN!) Abril. Gene (TREASURE OF THE FOUR CROWNS) Quintano plays the sleazy leader of the bad guys, Pike...unfortunately he plays it badly, in a terrible performance.. Quintano also had a hand in the script. Pike's fat, disgusting brother, Polk, is played by Ricardo (ARK OF THE SUN GOD) Palacios.
After an opening credits sequence in which beans spill all over the camera, bullets fire at the audience, a snake slithers out of a basket.., and hands reach out for the viewer's face... this recycled, slightly fiddled & diddled with clone of "Blindman"....... ....gets going as Hart embarks on a rescue mission after his wife is kidnapped, he lies shot & left for dead......the priest shot & killed... by the Thompson brothers (Gene Quintano, Ricardo Palacios)...in the little border chapel...as they exchange their vows...anticipating and influencing the chapel massacre in "Kill Bill".
We discover that the Thompsons & their gang have been kidnapping women all over the territory in order to sell them to Mexican brothels... taking them all down to Mexico to be sold to the highest bidder. Hart follows, carrying a pump shotgun , blasting his way through the bad guys, getting beaten up several times (an Anthony trademark...he always gets pummeled a lot). After capturing one of the brothers and giving him a beating. ..he then tracks down the other brother/rest of the gang, hoping to release the captive women...& save his wife. Release...escape..recapture..& murder ensue.
As Hart continues on his quest, we're treated to guys falling downstairs (in slooooow motion), spinning fiery pinwheels (for the five minute recap at the end), an attack of bats, spiders, scurrying (and hungry) rats, flaming arrows (the best part...& the 3D works), and even a baby's bare bottom.
As the gang kills time in a windswept ghost town waiting for Hart to show up ...it's an excuse for more gimmicks....yo-yos...paddleballs... playing cards flipped at you....as Hart, despite being greatly outnumbered... rides into town to save his wife....& exact his revenge. The explosive finale works well in 3D...or maybe I was just sufficiently cross eyed by that time.
The old, abandoned, crumbling, delapidated sets work well.......conveying an air of desolation & desperation.
Carlo Savina scored a lot of Spaghetti Westerns...all low budget "B" stuff. Here he contributes a spare, elegiac score......using ambient voices pleasingly. His best moments are during a 5 minute replay of its best 3D moments after the movie.....which I'm guessing was probably the original opening credits title tune.
I've always liked Anthony...although he never achieved the status of a Nero, Eastwood or a Garko ... he always gave a good performance...was one of the most likable SW "heroes"..as well as being a talented writer & producer.....& Baldi...never accorded the reverence of a Leone, a Corbucci.. always delivered the goods.......never afraid to take chances.
When presented in the theater...........viewers used polarized (gray lenses) to gain the 3-D experience. The DVD utilizes Anaglyph 3-D, centering around the wearing of glasses with red and blue lenses...to effect the illusion of depth. It's best to view the movie in a fully darkened room with the red lens over the right eye...as it appears to be Reverse Anaglyph. The close, foreground shots don't work too well...........the foreground objects that are supposed to loom out at you are always breaking up & tend to produce a "ghosting" effect, which ruins the overall illusion. ..The 3-D actually works best............producing pretty good depth effects, in the regular shots...the medium & background shots.
Could it stand on its own...w/out the 3d...something to be watched & watched again? No. The story...pretty much paint by numbers, point a--> point b--> point c.............doesn't warrant repeated viewings. That being said...I'll watch it again........not for the story..but for the 3D.
In 1983...Baldi & Anthony collaborated on another 3D movie.."Treasure of the Four Crowns "....which marked the final on-screen performance by Tony Anthony, though he continued working for a time as a television producer. From his experience working on the 3D film techniques for this movie, Tony Anthony now manufactures specialized lenses for the medical industry.
Grab some buttered popcorn......a Giant Coca-Cola...an x-large box of Junior Mints...& check it out.
The Gringo Of Monte Cristo
The memorable main theme of composer Armando Trovaioli's sole Western score, a slow and stately trumpet soaring over acoustic guitar and rolling percussion, kicks off 1966's Long Days Of Vengeance.
As 2 prisoners carry out a daring escape from a harsh, brutal military prison....we get our first look at Ted Barnett......, who, as we discover later, is serving his 3rd year of a sentence of 30 at hard labor...framed for the murder of an Army Colonel...as part of an elaborate plan involving & including the murder of his father....slave labor..gun running.. & the ownership & control of a railroad.
The story quotes quite clearly from it's inspiration .... "The Count of Monte Cristo". Guiliano Gemma, as Barnett..looking very much like the imprisoned Edmond Dantes....plots revenge against those who betrayed him. After making his escape, ...and a NOT your typical day at the barber shop...he manages to find some helpers for his plan to exact revenge...from a traveling medicine show..who are VERY aware of the $10,000 bounty now on his head.
The only Western directed by Florestano Vancini ........he makes use of a good plot...with definite noirish elements-- fall guy out for revenge.. the shady former lover , here played by Nieves Navarro , as the femme fatale, who may have access to evidence implicating the conspirators............greed, redemption and payback. It's a good story...one could see it used in an 40's B&W potboiler...as well as a lean, mean 50s American Western..but here it gets the Spaghetti treatment. ...there's even a bit of ninja fare thrown in..to good effect, I might add..as it plays into the final showdown..from which some will walk away unbowed, but none will walk away unbloodied.
Of course no Gemma film would be complete without the former stuntman's trademark athleticism.....he shows off his gymnast roots...but this is a slightly darker Gemma...the smile & the humor are there.....but also the grit of an avenger as one by one the conspirators are confronted......as evidenced by the lengths to which he'll go as he attempts to set the sides up for a fall...and by what he sets himself up for to carry out his plan.
A good supporting cast....which, atypically for most Italian Westerns, features 2 strong female supporting characters...the fetching Navarro....and a nice turn by Gabriella Giorgelli as the aptly named, sweet but feisty Dulcie...who proves equally adept w/ a guitar or rifle.
The catchy & varied score contains a variety of themes & influences...ranging from Morricone to Toots Thielman's harmonica soundtracks. The stunning main theme appeared in Tarantino's "Kill Bill", during the "Origin of O-Ren Ishii" anime sequence.
An interesting story..well told.. badly dubbed... nicely filmed....a nice fit somewhere in the middle of anyone's Spaghetti Western collection.
Mille dollari sul nero (1966)
Euripides on the Range
The sound of a plaintive solo trumpet.......a tight shot of Anthony Steffen as ex con Johnny Liston... introduces this slightly mad..somewhat fascinating...often bad but never dull Spaghetti Western from 1966. After spending 12 yrs in prison for a murder he didn't commit, he encounters a deadly ambush as he returns to town ........only to find it under the boot of a gang of vicious thugs...led by none other than his brother, Sartana (No..not THAT Sartana)....a loony self styled 'General' commanding the forces of a brutal protection racket. Johnny also discovers his former lover, Manuela, in his camp...(which looks kinda like a combination Aztec temple/fort built into the side of a mountain..) He visits his wacked out mother.....living in what looks (architecturally) like a Greek Temple...the "queen", if you will..of the town..deluded & under the spell of luxury & power...anointed by her mad son's butchery.
Quite a morning...huh?
Directed by Alberto Cardone..a/k/a Albert Cardiff...best known for his work as assistant director on "Ben-Hur"..& second unit director on "Barbarella"...., this was Gianni Garko's first Western...and it's quite a debut. You've never..& never will again..see Garko like this...as a cruel, crazed, , psychotic maniac....with 3 entire towns under his domination......whose citizens are forced to pay tribute.........in return for his "protection".
Oozing with classical themes & references...elements of Greek tragedy...Shakespearean drama....high Italian opera..( I half expected to see someone break into an aria at any moment... a Greek chorus commenting on the action wouldn't have been a surprise, either)....Oedipal themes...religious parables (Cain & Abel)...A Christian passion play of resurrection & redemption......all stirred and whipped into a very 'Italian' melodrama. ..and quite violent (babies, women..all's fair game here) Western.
As far as I know...this was the only pairing of Steffen & Garko, who star as the conflicted brothers..............and probably the first use of "Sartana" as a character's name.
As Sartana's 'troops' march into a nearby town to collect their booty....Johnny declares "this town's under my protection", setting up some gun battles, which are basically boundary & limit defining contests......leading up to the inevitable confrontation..brother against brother...... & a starkly surreal & well filmed (best in the movie) ending......including, (but not limited to) the fires of Hell.......with the main street of the town acting as the river Styx' path to the Underworld...a biblical quote from Leviticus as we fade..with the heavens darkening & grumbling...(Zeus didn't make an appearance...but that doesn't mean he wasn't in the vicinity......)
Composer Michele Lacerenza was a trumpet player on the Fistful of Dollars score...& manages to come up with a serviceable soundtrack...including the melancholy trumpet theme...numerous Morricone rips--> electric guitar & flute..., organ music...and what sounds like incidental opera music.
While there's no shortage of things gone a little wrong here...there are ridiculous shots of the sun accompanied by cheesy organ music... some absurd dialogue..bad dubbing..... silent film style- like overacting.....& some intense closeups of maniacal laughter...which we all know & love from countless SW...I would never dismiss this as one to avoid.
There's a lot going on here..& while much of didn't work...some of it did...& can be quite a hoot if viewed w/ the right spirit.
It could qualify as a somewhat campy...fascinating failure of a stewpot of themes & references...& w/ the 'Wow' factor of Garko's Spaghetti Western 'debut'...the pairing of Steffen & Garko.... It can be a somewhat bizarre...weirdly entertaining hour and a half or so.
Spaghetti Western w/ a definite twinkle in the eye
The second film in the popular Sartana series is, on the whole, pretty entertaining ..well spun in Carnimeo's typical "Sartana" style....combining a whodunit...w/ elements of a smokey good mystery...with Spaghetti Western action & humor. More than a bit tongue in cheek...yet straining for credibility & often (but not always) hitting the mark.
"Sono Sartana......" hits the ground running...in a snappy opening...as Sartana is implicated in a bank robbery. A $10000 reward on his head insures that he's pursued by bounty hunters....many of whom are known to him already as friends, allies, competitors. There's a good amount of tension & unpredictability as Sartana tries to get to the bottom of it all, as he follows the trail of clues as to who framed him.. as well as the wherabouts of the $$$$$...all the while being stalked by bounty hunters and people trying to get their own grubby little hands on the $$$$$. Unfortunately...those remaining who can shed any light on the issue are knocked off before he can get to them.
The trail takes him to Poker Flats...a gambling town where everybody's a cheat...out for themselves...& can't be trusted. A shady saloon owner...corrupt judge...dishonest sheriff....are but 3 of the slightly twisted characters we meet in this quirky corner of 'Spaghettiville'.
Frank Wolff puts in a nice turn as Buddy Ben...although willing to lend his assistance, you never know exactly where his loyalties or motivations lie............& it's a nice performance.
Kinski delivers one of his most sane Spaghetti Western roles as the unlucky gambler/bounty hunter...........Hot Dead.
Mancuso's music/score has some nice moments...and some lesser ones. Sartana's theme is good..but tends to be overplayed...over & over & over (and over)...........Kinski's theme --> a little banjo tune --> is recognizable as "Santa Claus is coming to town." Interesting choice of melody...to say the least.
All in all...an enjoyable romp.......with enough twists & turns to keep you guessing....... Within a genre filled w / copycats & overused plots...I appreciate any Spaghetti Western that has a different style...w/ at least an attempt at an original plot. "Sono" manages to be intelligent...funny ..pretty brutal w/ a lot of action...& an entirely satisfying conclusion.
Sprinkled throughout are some great names ..Slim Shotgun...Shadow...DeGuello......some great dialogue...the bounty hunter who announces his arrival with "I am death"...& of course Sartana's quip "I'm your gravedigger".
My cherished little copy used for this review is in Italian w/ English subs..so I can't comment on the English dubbed version...nor can I be aware of any changes or differences in the English translation (and there always are differences). Spaghetti Western w/ a definite twinkle.
I lunghi giorni dell'odio (1968)
Worth a viewing
In Gianfranco Baldanello's third (of 6) Italian Western...Guy Madison stars as a mercenary undercover agent for the military... in this minor..but on the whole pretty well done western.
Martin Benson hasn't quite made it home from the war..rather working undercover & gaining a reputation as an outlaw. As 3 bad guys he helped to capture are hanging in the wind..he's offered a substantial amount of gold to find the leader of the gun & liquor smuggling operation he's helped to take a bite out of..even as.....gang members are out to get him..& target his family as well. His parents are killed..younger sister raped..& he & his younger brother set out for revenge...also trying to stay alive..as the remaining family members (2 sisters..2 brothers) are still being stalked.
Madison, of course, knows his way around sixguns, fistfights & horses..& it shows. He's as comfortable to watch as wearing an old pair of worn in jeans. There are no 'corrida' type showdowns..but some medium to larger gunfights...& probably pretty much how gunfights really were...shooting people anywhere & anyhow you could..in the back..through windows...whatever works.
Amedeo Tommasi's (The House with Laughing Windows ) first & only Spaghetti Western score is imitation Morricone..but good imitation Morricone......strings & horns w/ the dominant electric guitar..& the title vocal tune is a typical catchy Spaghetti Western pop ballad. Overall , among the best Morricone rips I've ever heard.
So what we have here is kind of a mixture of the pre-Leone SW & some post Leone elements......brutality...rape..nudity...& the the usual bloody messes. I don't believe that a widescreen version of this movie still exists...it's showing up on a lot of those 5..20..50 cheapo Movie packs...the fullscreen is watchable...I do recommend zooming it down to 1/2 if you come across the DVD. It's worth a viewing.
Navajo Joe (1966)
Before 'Django'..before 'Silence'...there was.................
...Navajo Joe...directed by Sergio Corbucci.
I'd rate Navajo Joe a "must see"...for Spaghetti-heads, at least....although I wouldn't place it in my top 10 SW. Somewhere in my top 20's more like it.
It's certainly one of the least 'cartoonish' SW...the themes touched on in the movie are well chosen & well done....the score is soooooooo good............Reynolds is good in the part (he's half Cherokee Indian, by the way)........Joe is not your run of the mill SW character--> it's refreshing to have a hero (as opposed to hero/anti-hero) for a change...he's an 'assassin', & a good one...wiping out 40+ guys is no small feat.
The ending was handled well..& slightly ambiguously...there is room for speculation as to Joe's ultimate fate in the movie....although w/ a little thought...it's pretty clear...& adds to the film's quality & richness. The usual atrocious dubbing....occasionally some excellent dialogue will poke through.
Django il bastardo (1969)
Dead man walking
A tall, gaunt figure...wearing black...face hidden by a wide brimmed hat..places a cross bearing a name & date of death in the ground.......a creepy opening that is almost completely silent except for the howling wind.......so begins director Sergio Garrone's "The Stranger's Gundown", better known in Europe as "Django The Bastard" (Django Il Bastardo). Obtaining an "X" rating on its initial Italian release....it was released in the U.S. in 1974 as "The Stranger's Gundown" ....& has no connection to Corbucci's original "Django"....none..zip...zilch..nada...bupkis.
Here's a rather traditional revenge plot ....but.....revenge, whose origin lies in a dark secret............... & constructed w/ elements of a horror movie as well as a tale of vengeance.
Steffen portrays the title character... a character popularly considered to have inspired the one Clint Eastwood played in High Plains Drifter...not so much a remake..but the latter film clearly derived inspiration from it.
He is a man of few words - & when he does speak, manages to say very little. He walks slowly - . His expression doesn't change much, if at all. Steffen co-authored the screenplay with director Sergio Garrone....who directed 6 other Italian Westerns...then 'graduated' to a bunch of 'captive women in prison' movies. ....the visual style is unique & effective with its appearance and disappearing appearances of 'Django'..................in one very interesting scene 'Django' becomes a shadow, or melts into a shadow..becoming part of it.........it's quite well done. ......The innovative camera angles, which vary from overhead shots to close-ups to fade-in's to hand-held shots contribute to the creepy atmosphere.
The original version of this film has a precredits explanatory scene. The version released in the UK & the US places this scene, the entire reasoning behind "Django"'s motives in the film in a flashback later in the film.........., roughly half way through the film, rather than before the credits, which is how it is presented in the Italian version. I prefer the US edit.... the prehistory of 'Djangos' revenge campaign, spells it all out for you..& .detracts from the air of mystery & "who is this guy?" that supports & sustains the movie's mood. In a rare case...a US/UK edit of an original Italian Western actually improves the film.
I'm not suggesting that Strangers Gundown will find a place among the top non Leone SW...or jump to the top of anybody's list...but this little low budget affair is a pretty good one to take in...interesting, entertaining...& a little different.
Duello nel Texas (1963)
Shape Of Things To Come
1963...Sergio Leone had done 1 film as credited director..."Colossus of Rhodes"..; Clint Eastwood was still best known as "Rowdy Yates" on "Rawhide". Duello Nel Texas was released in Italy in Sept. 1963...Filmed in Northern Spain....using the set that would later be used as the town in FOD & FAFDM. Ricardo Blasco ..directed 8 other films..a couple of Zorro movies...most of his work was as Second Unit Director or Assistant Director. Massimo Dallamano, the cinematographer, went on to be director of photography on both Fistful Of Dollars and FAFDM.
Richard Harrison..had appeared in 1 previous "pre-spaghetti" Western..."El Sabor de la Venganza" (1963) (Gunfight at High Noon (USA) )....& went on to play Ringo in "$100,000 for Ringo"....Rocco in "Vengeance" (.Joko invoca Dio e muori).. & starred in "I'll Forgive You, Before I Kill You" .... .."Aquasanta Joe" & others. Gunfight at Red Sands is also noteworthy for being the first Italian Western to feature a Ennio Morricone score...& if my instincts are correct......a collaboration w/ Bruno Nicolai.
Harrison is Ricardo..a/k/a "Gringo"......who returns from an unsuccessful campaign fighting w/ guerillas in Mexico...& now just wants peace.......to discover that his adoptive father has been killed & the family's gold stolen. So he's gotta..avenge his father..& get the gold back.
This is Harrison without the stubble..not quite the antihero...an avenger...but not "The Stranger"...although he has been away for 4 years.
As for Ennio Morricone's first Western score.....parts of it are quite nice...others are just...OK...Hollywood-style stuff, as requested by the film's producers. ..Of course, early Morricone is very interesting...the title song (A Gringo Like Me) is a different version than the one that's become somewhat familiar...an earlier version w/ a different vocalist. He is also credited as musical director under the name of "Leo Nichols"...which for me is too close to Bruno Nicolai..that I suspect that to be a mistake..& Nicolai to be the true musical director.
The Italian Western was still very much an American Western imitation..but we see the SWlike quirk here & there..a lot of "roots" of what was to come in many films....the weird villain type (giggling..twitching guy)............& there's gold..Mexican revolutionaries...a corrupt sheriff who hates Mexicans....more than a few killings..a couple of not very well done fistfights..a final showdown that's OK.......minor red herrings & misdirection..pretty straightforward. Good bit early..the shootout w/ the Federales...although it does come off as too theatrical. Check out the scene early on when a jeep drives by in the background. Rest of the cast ranges from pretty awful to pretty good... nice turn by Sara Lezana as Lisa..who gets to show off some action chops that a year later became traditionally not done by women in SW.
Gunfight At Red Sands is really a PRE-Spaghetti Western....in tone... & spirit....dramatically & musically. It has more in common with the Hollywood knockoffs produced in Italy pre '64...but SW devotees will definitely notice & appreciate the elements of future films that are there...
The style hadn't arrived yet......nor the twinkle in the eye..but something quite unique and wonderful was just about to be born.
Spaghetti Western? Maybe an Antipasto Western.