The phrase 'Spaghetti Western' was originally created by Italian journalist Alfonso Sancha as a derogatory name for this genre of Western films that emerged in the mid-1960s in the wake of Italian director Sergio Leone's much copied film-making style and international box-office success. Most were filmed on location in Italy or Spain. These movies were originally released in Italian as well, but most of the films featured multilingual casts therefor sound was post-synched. These films mostly directed by Italians and filmed in Italy or Spain with an international cast. We will be showing some of the most famous and most violent films while contrasting them with comedic and political or Zapata spaghetti westerns.
July 3, 2012 - Django 1966 6:00 in the Candle Room 9:00 on the patio - This film was commercially very successful and spawned hundreds of imitators. If you see any movie today that has "Django" in the title it refers to this movie. The grim specter of death which seems to lurk outside every frame, represented by the coffin which the film revolves around, can also be seen in later westerns like Clint Eastwood's High Plains Drifter (1973), while echoes and references can be seen in many facets of pop culture - from the notable ear-slicing scene in Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs (1992) to Takeshi Miike's bizarre tribute (also featuring Tarantino) Sukiyaki Western Django (2007). Tarantino is realseing a new film this fall entitled Django Unchained containing a ton of spaghetti western references though the story line has nothing to do with the original Django except for it's tail coating naming convention. A great piece of genre entertainment, and a terrific entering point for those interested in Spaghetti Westerns. Django is directed by Sergio Corbucci and starring Franco Nero in the eponymous role. Django remains a tightly plotted and violent piece of pulp cinema. The film earned a reputation as being one of the most violent films ever made up to that point.
July 5, 2012 - Once Upon a Time in the West 6:00 in the Candle Room 9:00 on the patio (Italian: C'era una volta il West) is a 1968 Italian epic spaghetti western film directed by Sergio Leone for Paramount Pictures. It stars bad guy Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson as his nemesis, Jason Robards as a bandit, and Claudia Cardinale as a newly widowed homesteader with a past as a prostitute. The screenplay was written by Leone and Sergio Donati, from a story devised by Leone, Bernardo Bertolucci, and Dario Argento. The widescreen cinematography was by Tonino Delli Colli, and Ennio Morricone provided the film score. Many people have compared Leone's works to opera... slow, languid,and beautiful. In ordinary opera though, it is the musical beauty that is important, yet in Once Upon a Time, the quality of the music is matched and even surpassed by the incredible direction. Camera movements that climb, swoop, and zoom abound, a perfect match for the sweeping majestic music.
After directing The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Leone decided to retire from westerns but Leone accepted an offer from Paramount to produce another Western film in order to have the opportunity to work with his favorite actor, Henry Fonda. He recruited Bertolucci and Argento to devise the plot of the film, researching other Western films in the process. After Clint Eastwood turned down an offer to play the villain's nemesis, Bronson was offered the role. The original version by the director was 166 minutes (2 hours and 46 minutes) when it was first released on December 21, 1968. This was the version that was to be shown in European cinemas and was a box office success. However, for the US release on May 28, 1969, the movie was edited down to 145 minutes (2 hours and 25 minutes) by Paramount and it was greeted with a mostly negative critical response and was a financial flop. The film is now generally acknowledged as a masterpiece and one of the best western films ever made. In 2009, it was named to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant and will be preserved for all time.
July 10 - The Price of Power 6:00 in the Candle Room 9:00 on the patio - Politics and assassinations are the theme of this excellent Euro Western directed by Tonino Valerii. aka 'IL PREZZO DEL POTERE'; 'MUERTE DE UN PRESIDENTE' throws historical fact to the wind in some spots but who can nitpick with the thrilling screenplay by Massimo Patrizi. Euro Actor Giuliano Gemma is excellent as the hero of the piece who while trying to avenge his fathers death gets sucked into the assassination of President Garfield played eloquently by Hollywood stalwart Van Johnson. In a plot which parallels the Kennedy assassination , this also takes place in Dallas and shows the corrupt machinations behind the scenes as the sheriff who is in cahoots with other political figures to get rid of the commander in chief implicates a black man who is innocent. He then is murdered on the way to jail just as Lee Harvey Oswald was shot by Jack Ruby. Gemma is forced to expose the murderers and is rewarded by finding the traitors who killed his father. You'll also spot Euro stalwart Fernando Rey as the bank official responsible for the Presidents murder.
There is not a wasted moment in the entire films running time and thanks to the incredible photography from future action director Stelvio Massi and a sweeping music score by Luis Enrique Bacalov, this film emerges as one of the best Euro Westerns, just gritty enough to enter into Spaghetti territory. Valerii was no slouch when it came to the Western genre, he also gave us 'MY NAME IS NOBODY'-1973 which he made with Sergio Leone and the excellent 'DAY OF ANGER'-1967 also with Gemma and Lee Van Cleef. This film, however, emerges as his true masterpiece, an intricate woven tale of blackmail, revenge, and atonement. For all you Western fans out there who thought you had seen them all, be here July 10 and revel in one of the greatest Westerns of the Sixties. Powerful and highly recommended.
Django Kill (If You Live Shoot) 9:00 pm showing only - Django Kill (If You Live Shoot) is a prime example of the Italian "spaghetti" western as horror movie, probably the most violent western ever made. Director Giulio Questi gives the film a haunting, surreal veneer that suits well the many horrific elements. The film is woozy and is sometimes Feliniesque.
The spaghetti western genre spawned several great films, such as Leone's Once Upon A Time In The West and Enzo G. Castellari's little-seen Keoma which are part of this series. The long cycle of spaghetti westerns (1961-1975) began with Sergio Leone's, A Fistful of Dollars. As we pointed out earlier, Sergio Corbucci's 1966 slaughterfest Django was one of the most financially successful spaghettis which spawned innumerable Django sequels. Unrelated films were retitled to cash in on the Djano's popularity. Such was the case with this film, If You're Alive, Shoot! retitled Django Kill! Django Kill! was made during spaghetti western's peak period, the late sixties. It hits all the bases of the genre: excessive violence, a stoic, Eastwood-esque anti-hero, the ugliest desert landscapes you'll ever see, and did I say excessive violence?
July 12, 2012 A Fistful Of Dollars - A Fistful of Dollars was the first in a trilogy of Spaghetti Westerns about "The Man with No Name." (The other two, For a Few Dollars More and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, were made in 1965 and 1966, respectively.) It's actually a misnomer - Eastwood's character has a name, although it changes for each of the films (here, it's "Joe") - but it made for a good marketing device. All three movies were released in the United States during 1967, and, to one degree or another, they ultimately influenced nearly every Western made thereafter (including Sam Peckinpah's landmark The Wild Bunch and Eastwood's own Unforgiven).
A Fistful of Dollars is a remake of Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo, with guns replacing swords, the setting shifted from Japan to the Old West, and Eastwood standing in for Toshiro Mifune. Yojimbo's look and themes in turn were in part inspired by the Western genre, in particular the films of John Ford. Leone and his production company failed to secure the remake rights to Kurosawa's film, resulting in a lawsuit that delayed Fistful's release in North America for three years. In Yojimbo, the protagonist defeats a man who carries a gun, while he carries only a knife and a sword; in the equivalent scene in Fistful, Eastwood's pistol-wielding character survives being shot by a rifle by hiding an iron plate under his clothes to serve as a shield against bullets.
The element that differentiates A Fistful of Dollars from the majority of its predecessors is its gritty, un-romanticized view of the Old West. Although there are some grandly impressive landscape shots, Leone is more concerned with emphasizing the dirt and grit of this setting than its scenic beauty. His characters are not clean-cut good guys and black-to-the-core bad guys, either. Joe is out for himself, and, on those rare occasions when he experiences pangs of conscience, he's almost ashamed of them. Most traditional Westerns have clearly defined lines separating heroes from villains; only in spaghetti westerns do both sides begin to stray into the gray areas in between. Leone also makes frequent use of the close-up, and oftentimes his characters are shown to be sweating and bleeding. Traditional Westerns tend to present violence as relatively clean and bloodless; Leone makes it messy. This approach adds a little more tension to the gunfights. There's not such a sense of surety that the protagonist will or should win.
The score is by veteran composer Ennio Morricone (working under the "Americanized" pseudonym of Dan Savio). As was true of Leone and Eastwood, Morricone's scores in all three "Man with No Name" movies became iconic of the trilogy.
July 17, 2012 For A Few Dollars More (Italian: Per qualche dollaro in più) is a 1965 film directed by Sergio Leone and starring Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Gian Maria Volonté. German actor Klaus Kinski also plays a supporting role as a secondary villain and is the second part of what is referred to as the Dollars Trilogy.
After the box-office success of A Fistful of Dollars in Italy, director Sergio Leone and his new producer, Alberto Grimaldi, wanted to begin production of a sequel, but they needed to get Clint Eastwood to agree to star in it. Eastwood was not ready to commit to a second film when he had not even seen the first. Quickly, the filmmakers rushed an Italian-language print (a U.S. version did not yet exist) of Per un pugno di Dollari to him. The star then gathered a group of friends for a debut screening at CBS Production Center. The audience may not have understood Italian, but in terms of style and action, the film spoke well. "Everybody enjoyed it just as much as if it had been in English", Eastwood recalled. Soon, he was on the phone with the filmmakers' representative: "Yeah, I'll work for that director again", he said. Charles Bronson was again approached for a starring role but he passed. Instead, Lee Van Cleef accepted the role. Eastwood received $50,000 for returning in the sequel, while Van Cleef received $17,000. The film was shot in Almería, Spain, with interiors done at Rome's Cinecittà Studios.The production designer, Carlo Simi built the town of "El Paso" in the Almería desert: it still exists, as a tourist attraction
July 18 The Good the Bad and Ugly (Italian: Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo) made in 1966 directed by Sergio Leone, starring Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, and Eli Wallach in the title roles. The screenplay based on a story by Vincenzoni and Leone. Director of photography Tonino Delli Colli was responsible for the film's sweeping widescreen cinematography and Ennio Morricone composed the famous film score, including its main theme. It is the third film in the Dollars Trilogy following A Fistful of Dollars (1964) and For a Few Dollars More (1965). The plot revolves around three gunslingers competing to find a fortune in buried Confederate gold amid the violent chaos of gunfights, hangings, American Civil War battles and prison camps.
July 19 Duck, You Sucker 6:00 showing (Italian: Giù la testa), also known as A Fistful of Dynamite and Once Upon a Time… the Revolution, is a 1971 Zapata Western film directed by Sergio Leone and starring Rod Steiger and James Coburn. Sergio Leone's elliptical style and good performances from Rod Steiger and James Coburn combine to produce a vastly entertaining film (1971), also known as A Fistful of Dynamite, about the aftermath of the Mexican revolution. Coburn, a fugitive from the Irish “troubles,” and Steiger, a Mexican bandit, team up to rob a bank and unwillingly become the focus of the counterrevolutionary forces. A marvelous sense of detail and spectacular effects. Duck, You Sucker was banned from Mexico until 1979 because the government thought it portrayed the Mexican revolution in a bad light.
A Bullet For The General 9:00 showing is a 1966 film which stars Gian Maria Volonté, Klaus Kinski, Lou Castel and Martine Beswick. Originally entitled El Chucho, quién sabe?, it is the story of El Chucho, the bandit, and Bill Tate (or El Nino) who is a counter-revolutionary in Mexico. Chucho soon learns that social revolution is more important than mere money. This is one of the more famous Zapata Westerns, a subgenre of the spaghetti western which deals with the radicalizing of bad men and bandits into revolutionaries when they are confronted with injustice. There is a very anti-American allegorical layer to this film - those who expect to be offended by that may want to pass it by. El Chuncho, for all his violent, criminal savvy, is politically naive, and easily manipulated by Tate. Tate, on the other hand, represents the idea that any action is blessed as long there is a tall enough dollar sign behind it. When El Chuncho is placed between nationless greed and belonging to his people, though, he makes a choice that speaks for the entire film. "Don't buy bread - buy dynamite!"
July 24, 2012 My Name is Nobody 1973 (Italian: Il mio nome è Nessuno, also known as Lonesome Gun) is a Spaghetti Western comedy film. The film was directed by Tonino Valerii and, in some scenes, by Sergio Leone. It was written by Leone, Fulvio Morsella and Ernesto Gastaldi. Leone was also the uncredited executive producer. The cast includes Terence Hill, Henry Fonda, and Jean Martin. Jack Beauregard (Henry Fonda) is a tired, aging legendary gunslinger who just wants to retire in peace in Europe to get away from young gunmen constantly trying to test themselves against the master. The film opens with three rascals ambushing Beauregard in a barbershop. After Beauregard has dispatched them, the barber's son asks his father if there is anyone in the world faster than Beauregard, to which the barber replies "Faster than him? Nobody!"
By the 1970s, the spaghetti Western had almost become a parody of itself. The serious westerns were primarily violent, low-budget films that were barely distributed outside of Italy. Meanwhile, slapstick parodies of the genre were becoming more popular. Sergio Leone and his team decided that if anyone was going to make the ultimate "joke" version of the genre, they should be the ones. Terence Hill was cast not only for box-office, but because he had in a short time become something of an icon of the genre. Hill had started the comedy spaghetti craze with the hugely successful movies They Call Me Trinity and its sequel Trinity Is Still My Name. With the casting of the classic Westerner Henry Fonda, the contrast between the old and new (dying) West was clear.
July 25 Der Schuh des Manitu (Manitou's Shoe) (2001) was seen by over 11.7 million people, one of the most successful German films to date. We threw it in the mix here because Manitou's Shoe hilariously refers to dozens of classic spaghetti westerns with it's jokes.. It was very difficult to find an English version of the movie. Even if you don't understand a word of German, the visual jokes are hilarious and references to the spaghetti westerns shown in this series are easy to identify. We will be showing an English dubbed version. Besides after all this violence, a little comedy lightens things up. I think it is funnier than Blazing Saddles, partly because it is German.