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Jack Beauregard, once the greatest gunslinger of the Old West, only wants to move to Europe and retire in peace, but a young gunfighter, known only as "Nobody," idolizes him and wants to see him go out in a blaze of glory. He arranges for Jack to face the 150-man gang known as The Wild Bunch and earn his place in history.Written by
The events take place in 1899. At the cemetery, Jack says the date is June 3, 1899. See more »
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Fact is, you saved my life today. But I'd rather it was my fault I got shot than your fault I didn't.
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very likely the funniest spaghetti western ever made, or at least most kidding with the genre conventions
Sergio Leone picked a good director to helm his production of My Name is Nobody, as Tonino Valerii brings a sensibility that wouldn't of been the same had Leone taken the helm. It's not that Valerii steers too far away from certain trademarks of the quintessential spaghetti western director: expansive close-ups, beautiful master-shots showing the sprawling landscapes of the deserts and small towns of the old west, and of course Ennio Morricone. But this time there's a change of the guard in terms of homage- now it's not just going for an epic quality, but full-on comedy stylings.
There's room to compare this to old westerns with Henry Fonda just as much as there's comparison to the Three Stooges. Or Buster Keaton. Because nothing is taken too seriously, it ends up having some strong underlying statements about gunslingers in the old west, the young catching up with the old, and the old 'times they are a changing' logic that comes with the territory.
The tone is light, though at the same time there's still that level of ultra-cool suspense that can be found in Leone's work. Valerii takes it up a notch in the direction of something a little less violent, however (the film is technically rated PG, despite quite a few dozen deaths at one point). Terrence Hill is the title character, a guy who's strikingly handsome but perpetually goofy, who takes on as a big challenge Jack Bouregarde (Fonda, his last western, a good one to go out on, if not as great as his previous role as Frank), who's a hero gunslinger. Nobody has fixed a 'Wild Bunch' to come after him, and to what end? Much of the film focuses on Nobody, until the second half when Nobody keeps prodding on Jack with his vague threats in the guise of 'fairy tales' his grandfather used to tell him.
And all the while it's consistently hilarious material, particularly if you know Leone's stuff well (eg the gag from For a Few Dollars More where shooting a hat holds as much danger as comic timing), and tries at least to plug into the viewer who's in on the joke of not just an homaged western and homaged Leone western (Morricone's score has tones from Once Upon a Time in the West, but comes close to sounding like a coffee commercial at times), but an homage to silent comedies and slapstick.
Where else, for example, will you see a gunslinger such as Nobody fight off a potential assailant in a bar by just continually slapping him around as if Moe Howard possessed him for a full minute? How about the gun being slung up at 16 frames-per-second? Or a montage within an action sequence with Jack versus the 'Wild Bunch' where freeze-frames of reactions from Nobody and pages from 'history' showing Jack killing off the posse pop up? And there's a fun-house/mirror scene that comes about as close to The Lady From Shanghai as the most memorable in all cinema.
Some of it might just be all silly-by-proxy; it's a big belly laugh to see Hill with a serious face hold a stick still in the air waiting for a bug to go underwater to catch a fish. In fact Hill is strangely enough a huge part to the success of the film by sticking to his two-dimensional profile with just the best bits of subversion: looking at his eyes one can't always tell whether he's being serious, crazy, or just plain joking around, like in the saloon. He wouldn't work as the typical bad-ass, stoic Leone anti-hero/villain, but Valerii understands how to handle his abilities. Same goes for Fonda, only he doesn't have to go too far to be effective: all he needs to do is to keep a silence going, a look that says everything that needs to be said (albeit he lays it on heavy in the final letter, something that definitely would not be in a typical Leone film).
And yet even with all of Valerii's kidding moments and high-spirits (watch out little guy on stilts!), there is some genuine artistry at work too, as when the Wild Bunch is seen coming ahead through the desert (the wide-reaching over-head angle is the best shot in the film), and it reveals that there could be some worth in checking out other obscurer efforts of his. As it stands, I could watch it anytime it's on TV, if only as a pick-me-up if it's a soggy day. For fans of the western it is a must-see, if only for the fun of it all, and to get a pure in-joke regarding Sam Peckinpah.
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