Author Topic: Spaghetti Westerns as against "real" westerns  (Read 2846 times)

Jake Thingray

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Spaghetti Westerns as against "real" westerns
« on: September 05, 2010, 01:26:01 AM »
I love Spaghettis, but find genuine, American westerns almost uniformly tedious. What does everyone else think?

Tokyo Sexwhale

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Re: Spaghetti Westerns as against "real" westerns
« Reply #1 on: September 05, 2010, 02:05:29 AM »
I'd agree, The Good The Bad and The Ugly is probably my favourite film of any genre; and I also love the other Eastwood spaghetti-westerns. 

However, pretty much anything with John Wayne is an instant turn-off, reminding me of dull Sunday afternoons in the 80s.

An tSaoi

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Re: Spaghetti Westerns as against "real" westerns
« Reply #2 on: September 05, 2010, 04:26:17 AM »
For a genre that charters such a dangerous and revolutionary era as the American Old West, many American Westerns are safe and formulaic. It got to the point where they were so laughably repetitive that a backlash was inevitable. The Spaghetti Western phenomenon is interesting in the fact that the makers both loved US Westerns and were sick of the derivative nature of them; they appreciated the genre, but wanted to avoid the time-worn traps those films often fell into. It was the right balance of thinking "These films are great, but also often shit. Let's fix that".

Granted my knowledge of Spaghetti Westerns starts and ends with Sergio Leone, but he took the good parts of American Westerns (like the ambiguous anti-hero you'd occasionally get), while dispensing with the lacking parts (the clear-cut divide between good and evil, where the good guys wear white hats and the bad guys wear black ones). The recurring wholesome schoolmarm types you get in John Wayne flicks were replaced with common whores, and none of the men are wholly moral. That makes for an altogether more interesting and less watered-down take on that part of American history, although neither schools of film are probably accurate (even the most infamous Wild West towns had surprisingly low murder rates in real life).

The best thing about the Leone Westerns is that they leave out the distasteful 'Red Injuns' nonsense you get in the American variety. So many regular westerns are simply racist in their depiction of Native Americans.

Re: Spaghetti Westerns as against "real" westerns
« Reply #3 on: September 05, 2010, 04:59:05 AM »
I just started watching, 'El Topo' at nearly five in the morning. I wish I hadn't.


trench

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Re: Spaghetti Westerns as against "real" westerns
« Reply #4 on: September 05, 2010, 06:23:18 AM »
I can't watch the American Westerns at all, they're just too clean cut, and indeed, clean. The Spaghettis were always more gritty in their portrayal of The West, and just downright dirty. The sets were filthy and the actors were filthy-looking. Leone aside, I'd recommend "Django", directed by Sergio Corbucci and starring the great Franco Nero, "Django Kill, If You Live, Shoot!", one of the many, many unofficial Django sequels, starring Tomas Milian and Ray Lovelock, two of Italian genre films most popular actors (as was Nero to be fair), and finally, "Keoma", which also starred Franco Nero (and Woody Strode). Directed by Enzo G. Castellari (director of the original "Inglorious Bastards" amongst numerous other great features), the soundtrack of this one needs to be heard to be believed, you'll either love it or hate it.

Have a watch at this Blue Underground produced documentary, "The Spaghetti West", great stuff :

The Spaghetti West - Part (1) of Six

Oh, "El Topo", unreal. Make sure to watch "The Holy Mountain". Not a Western, just a fantastically funny head-fuck with amazing imagery.

CaledonianGonzo

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Re: Spaghetti Westerns as against "real" westerns
« Reply #5 on: September 05, 2010, 07:33:47 AM »
It's a bit of a broad brush to write off the entire canon of American Westerns as being too morally straightforward and metaphorically 'clean'.  A lot of the early examples are populated by stereotypes and cliches, but movies like The Searchers aren't all as straightforward as they might sometimes appear.  Is The Man With No Name really any more true to life than Gary Cooper in High Noon?

Post-dating the Leone movies, American movies like McCabe & Mrs Miller are also the antithesis of John Wayne-style mythbuilding.  And, while it's by no means a movie (yet), Cormac McCarthy's novel 'Blood Meridian' is the ultimate in Western revisionism.

Doomy Dwyer

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Re: Spaghetti Westerns as against "real" westerns
« Reply #6 on: September 05, 2010, 09:26:54 AM »
I tend to lean towards the spaghetti, but there have been some great American westerns that are far from formulaic and straightforward - 'High Noon', 'The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance', later stuff like 'A Man Called Horse' and 'The Long Riders'[nb]Which is an out and out monster of a film, and I think features The Band, unless I've gone plumb loco.[/nb]. Clint Eastwood took a lot of the elements he learnt from working with Sergio Leone and used them to muddy up his films and give them that nastier edge as in 'High Plains Drifter' and 'Unforgiven'. Even a relatively lighter work like 'The Outlaw Josey Wales' isn't your standard Hollwood toss. I don't really know enough about the subject to come up with a coherent answer, but ignorance and typing is how I'm livin' so here it is.

I know it's not a film per se, but 'Deadwood' left me a bit underwhelmed. It's supposed to be gritty and dirty and it is but in a clean way. Nobody looks as if they stink to hell. Maybe it's just that Timothy Olyphant, he looked like he'd faint at the first whiff of horse shit. Same with the Brad Pitt and the boys in that Jesse James film, which looked like a load of GQ models had been dressed up in some meticulously distressed threadbare period garments and given guns to play with. I can't really comment as I abandoned ship on both things, might re-investigate 'Deadwood' though. Brad Pitt on the other hand can kiss my arse.

In summary then: If they look like they'd stink and fuck your pets=Good Western. If they look like they're wearing ladies underwear and fancy cologne=Bad Western.

Famous Mortimer

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Re: Spaghetti Westerns as against "real" westerns
« Reply #7 on: September 05, 2010, 09:32:53 AM »
Anyone else see the Rich Hall thing on Westerns? I started off being interested in it then became ever more bored with the fact that like Ruby Wax in the 80s, Rich Hall is now British TV's go-to American. He absolutely despised Leone's films, almost entirely because they had political views he disagreed with, and ignored tons of films to crowbar his point in. Boring.

Vitalstatistix

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Re: Spaghetti Westerns as against "real" westerns
« Reply #8 on: September 05, 2010, 01:13:49 PM »
Anyone else see the Rich Hall thing on Westerns? I started off being interested in it then became ever more bored with the fact that like Ruby Wax in the 80s, Rich Hall is now British TV's go-to American. He absolutely despised Leone's films, almost entirely because they had political views he disagreed with, and ignored tons of films to crowbar his point in. Boring.

I thought it was great. Informative, entertaining, intelligent, humorous. I learnt about plenty of interesting-sounding Westerns from over the years which I intend to investigate. His passion for the genre, and the way he mostly talked about those films which broke against convention and tackled contemporary political issues, gave the docu more substance than I was expecting. I thought it was hilarious that he completely dismissed the Leone films, as I always thought they were critically untouchable.

I agree with Gonzo - you can't dismiss all American Westerns - plenty of directors (most notably John Ford and Sam Peckinpah) have revised the genre's conventions to the point where there's a huge range of styles to be found.

Deadwood is absolutely sublime, too. 

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Re: Spaghetti Westerns as against "real" westerns
« Reply #9 on: September 05, 2010, 01:52:45 PM »
Make sure to watch "The Holy Mountain". Not a Western, just a fantastically funny head-fuck with amazing imagery.

I have seen this as part of a film module I did in my 1st year at Aber Uni.  It is truely a WTF film.

hamble

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Re: Spaghetti Westerns as against "real" westerns
« Reply #10 on: September 05, 2010, 02:10:52 PM »
I adore spaghetti westerns...
Gian Maria Volonte,Eli Wallach,Clint,and of course Woody Strode all 'spin my spurs',as it were.
(thinking about it the only bad thing that stands out in all of the Spaghetti westerns I have seen is James Coburns attempt at the Irish accent in A fistful Of Dynamite aka Duck ,you Sucker..luckily Rod Steigers performance makes up for it.)
I will,however,hold my hands up(sorry) to watching lots of American westerns,many sanitised to the point of being squeaky,sometimes twice.

Serge

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Re: Spaghetti Westerns as against "real" westerns
« Reply #11 on: September 05, 2010, 02:27:32 PM »
I love the Leone spaghetti westerns, but, like An tSaoi, that's pretty much where my knowledge of the genre begins and ends. I love the slowness of the films, and the fact that Leone obviously picked the bit part actors on the way they looked rather than any actual acting ability! I think a hatred of John Wayne put me off watching 'classical' westerns, but maybe one day I'll bother to get around to seeing a few.

I know it's not a film per se, but 'Deadwood' left me a bit underwhelmed. It's supposed to be gritty and dirty and it is but in a clean way. Nobody looks as if they stink to hell. Maybe it's just that Timothy Olyphant, he looked like he'd faint at the first whiff of horse shit.

Nobody?



And I'd say the Farnum and Calamity Jane don't exactly look like models of hygiene, either. Though I know what you mean about Timothy Olyphant.

Looking for that image of Richardson, I came across a picture of the epic fight between Dan and Captain Turner, which ends in such a way that I actually sat up and shouted, "Fucking hell!" and had to rewind to make sure I'd seen what I just thought I'd seen...

Oh, and talking of Jodorowsky, I finally got around to seeing 'El Topo' last year and it was even more mental than I'd even imagined it could be. I've been trying to track down a copy of 'Holy Mountain' ever since, but it only seems to exist in the box set at the moment...

Doomy Dwyer

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Re: Spaghetti Westerns as against "real" westerns
« Reply #12 on: September 05, 2010, 03:39:13 PM »
Since I made my original post about cleanliness in 'Deadwood' I've been bedeviled by images of Lovejoy's longjohns. Perhaps I was a little harsh in my judgement. I'm definitely going to give it another go soon. The novel by Pete Dexter which I presume the series is based upon is fantastic. Now that is grimy.

Re: Spaghetti Westerns as against "real" westerns
« Reply #13 on: September 06, 2010, 12:59:13 PM »
Rather surprised that no one has mentioned the collaborations between Anthony Mann and James Stewart during the 1950’s.

Martin Scorsese says Mann was a huge influence and Peckinpah certainly followed in his footsteps.

Mann’s Westerns, particularly the ones with Stewart, had a huge influence on the overall genre – there’s a pretty good article here. Whereas earlier films had a clearly defined and simplistic morality with simplistic and straightforward heroes, Stewart’s characters were obsessive, ambiguous and arguably psychological unstable. In The Naked Spur, for instance, there’s a good case to be made that Stewart is playing an anti-hero.  Mann brought Noir-sensibilities to the Western and sometimes it wasn’t that easy to separate the good guys from the bad.

As well as the psychological aspect that proved to be influential, Mann used the scenery to fantastic effect – often reflecting the character’s inner feelings.

Also, they were violent and brutal. For example, in The Man From Laramie, Stewart’s character has his shooting hand forcibly held out, which someone then shoots at point blank range.

There were also other excellent Westerns if the Fifties, such as 3:10 to Yuma.

Although I’m not a fan of John Wayne, The Shootist, one of his later films is a marvellous – a legendary gunslinger dying of cancer.

For this who diss American Westerns, check out The Shooting, from 1967. The lead is played by the magnificent Warrant Oates and Jack Nicholson co-stars (and co-wrote) in this low-budget and rather mysterious tale.

As Corbucci has been mentioned, The Great Silence is a must.


Phil_A

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Re: Spaghetti Westerns as against "real" westerns
« Reply #14 on: September 06, 2010, 01:59:00 PM »
I think there a plenty of good lesser known American westerns.
Has anyone ever seen "Terror In A Texas Town"? I saw it on FilmFour a few years ago, and was genuinely blown away(no pun intended).

More recently(well, fifteen years ago), Jim Jarmusche's "Dead Man" was a great modern(or possibly post-modern) take on the genre. It's kind of how I imagine Franz Kakfa would've written a western.

Famous Mortimer

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Re: Spaghetti Westerns as against "real" westerns
« Reply #15 on: September 06, 2010, 02:07:21 PM »
I thought it was hilarious that he completely dismissed the Leone films, as I always thought they were critically untouchable.
I've heard them dismissed plenty of times, for all sorts of reasons, it was just Hall's pissed me off. I don't think they're anywhere near as untouchable as you make out...but, lest we forget, they're all absolutely brilliant which is why they deserve every positive review they get.

I'll give you informative and entertaining, but humourous? Hall is among the least funny people to call themselves a comedian and get as many TV gigs as he's had. Maybe I'm biased in that I've seen him in his Otis Lee Crenshaw character and thought it fell badly between two stools - nowhere near funny enough to work as comedy, and not interesting / foot-tapping enough to work as music.

Re: Spaghetti Westerns as against "real" westerns
« Reply #16 on: September 06, 2010, 02:11:20 PM »
The Searchers is a superb Western, as good as anything that Leone did in my humble opinion. On the Leone tip, I must nominate Once Upon A Time as his best film. Fonda in a role which was quite shocking when you consider his wholesome image at the time is superb as the ruthless killer. The whole cast is great as is the story and the climax which has been debated much more articulately by others still sends shivers down my spine when I watch it.

Re: Spaghetti Westerns as against "real" westerns
« Reply #17 on: September 06, 2010, 02:14:30 PM »
Oh and would it be a bit over the top to consider The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford  one of the greatest western films ever?

Re: Spaghetti Westerns as against "real" westerns
« Reply #18 on: September 06, 2010, 02:29:16 PM »
I think there a plenty of good lesser known American westerns.
Has anyone ever seen "Terror In A Texas Town"? I saw it on FilmFour a few years ago, and was genuinely blown away(no pun intended)….
Yes, some quite unusual touches and I think, quite a respected one.

…More recently(well, fifteen years ago), Jim Jarmusche's "Dead Man" was a great modern(or possibly post-modern) take on the genre. It's kind of how I imagine Franz Kakfa would've written a western.
Rather interestingly, that take was first written for Peckinpah by Rudy Wurlitzer
(who wrote [i[Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid[/i]). The script (Zebulon did the rounds in Hollywood for a quite and few years. Jarmusch has been accused of plagiarism – but at the very least, it’s incredibly indebted to Wurlitizer’s script. It’s well worth a read.

I’ve been meaning to get it for a while, but a couple of years ago, Wurlitzer adapted the story into a novel The Drop Edge of Yonder, which got some great reviews - http://www.rudywurlitzer.com/dropedge.htm http://www.twodollarradio.com/books-dropedge.htm

Re: Spaghetti Westerns as against "real" westerns
« Reply #19 on: September 06, 2010, 02:51:05 PM »
The Searchers is a superb Western, as good as anything that Leone did in my humble opinion. On the Leone tip, I must nominate Once Upon A Time as his best film. Fonda in a role which was quite shocking when you consider his wholesome image at the time is superb as the ruthless killer. The whole cast is great as is the story and the climax which has been debated much more articulately by others still sends shivers down my spine when I watch it.
The Searchers is a landmark film – good call.

These days I think many would agree with you with Once Upon a Time in the West being Leone’s best – although personally, I’m not a huge fan of myself and have never really liked Fonda.

Leone did cast him in that role for exactly those reasons, but Fonda was starting to take on less wholesome roles. Firecreek came out slightly before Once Upon a Time in the West.

In Firecreek, Fonda and his trio of gunmen (including Jack Elam and James Best, perhaps best known - no pun intended - for his portrayal of the sherriff in The Dukes of Hazzard) arrive in a small-town, whose part-time sheriff is played by Fonda’s real-life best friend, James Stewart. After peaceful inaction leads to the gang murdering a young man with learning difficulties, Stewart stands up to them alone in a style reminiscent of High Noon.

I recently read a biography of Stewart’s that said the film did poorly, but it’s one that I think a lot going for it. Fonda’s character is pretty interesting.

Re: Spaghetti Westerns as against "real" westerns
« Reply #20 on: September 06, 2010, 02:52:58 PM »
Oh and would it be a bit over the top to consider The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford  one of the greatest western films ever?
Not if you think of it that highly! Personally, I think it's a very fine film - but there are so many more westerns that work better for me.

Re: Spaghetti Westerns as against "real" westerns
« Reply #21 on: September 06, 2010, 05:46:14 PM »
As Corbucci has been mentioned, The Great Silence is a must.

Seconded. Highly recommended for fans of the Leone spaghetti westerns. I'd also recommend Face To Face and A Bullet For The General.

Re: Spaghetti Westerns as against "real" westerns
« Reply #22 on: September 06, 2010, 10:12:39 PM »
The Wild Bunch is by far my favourite non-Spaghetti Western (although it feels like one), but I do like the Spaghetti ones the most. Great music, comedy, lots of sleazy characters and just that dirty old west feel that is missing from a lot of the old American ones.

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Re: Spaghetti Westerns as against "real" westerns
« Reply #23 on: September 06, 2010, 11:04:39 PM »
The spaghetti ones have their strengths, but mainly they seem to be down to presenting lead characters of consummate cool, be it the Man with No Name, Django, or Sabata. They're a lot of style, but with few exceptions not much substance.

The classics tell tales - at their best - of characters who do have cool, but have character beyond that. Whether High Noon, The Magnificent Seven, Destry Rides Again (comedy Westerns, well done, can pack as much effect as any serious ones)...hell, even John Wayne in The Searchers (if not much else) carries one hell of a charge.

Each have their joys, but with the spaghettis it's generally more a matter of surface. The better old-school Westerns hit more to the heart.

VegaLA

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Re: Spaghetti Westerns as against "real" westerns
« Reply #24 on: September 07, 2010, 05:11:24 PM »
I have a few Bud Spencer and Terrance Hill movies yet to view, but always had that double act as a comedy duo so have no idea what is in store for me.

I know Zombie Maestro Luci Fulci dabbled with Westerns (as well as anything else that was popular at the time) and I have his 'Four of the apocalypse' on my to view list too.

Anyone caught up with this?

Re: Spaghetti Westerns as against "real" westerns
« Reply #25 on: September 07, 2010, 07:12:44 PM »
Way back in 1978, Alex Cox wrote a book about the Spaghetti Western and it free to download as a PDF via his site. I've mentioned this in another thread and thought this would be a good place to mention it again!

Cox returned to this work to produce 10,000 Ways to Die: A Director's Take on the Spaghetti Western. I haven't read it myself, but I bought it for a mate's birthday and he's been enjoying it. As it's done in chronological order, he found it better to dip into rather than read cover to cover.  It is, unsurprisingly as it's Cox, a very personal view.

Also on the above link, there are PDF for his Moviedrome booklets, which would include one or two Spaghetti Westerns.

Seconded. Highly recommended for fans of the Leone spaghetti westerns. I'd also recommend Face To Face and A Bullet For The General.
Nice shouts - Face To Face was one of the first Spaghetti Westerns I watched (thanks to Moviedrome) and prior to this, I had probably only seen Eastwood/Leone ones and one with Lee Van Cleef that I should try to work out which one it was - I was quite young, I can't remember much but it was quite funny and there was a recurring song which went "If you want to have money/If you want to be rich/ You need to be a dum-dum-dum, dum-dum-due

Moviedrome intro to Face To Face:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HepK-wgP0ec

Re: Spaghetti Westerns as against "real" westerns
« Reply #26 on: September 07, 2010, 07:18:22 PM »
I have a few Bud Spencer and Terrance Hill movies yet to view, but always had that double act as a comedy duo so have no idea what is in store for me....
I've only seen a couple, but I think they're highly entertaining and there's a lot of humour. The first one they appeared in, they're actually not together much and it's quite a dark film.

I think it's Boot Hill that wouldn't be a good place to start - I might be mixing it up with another of theirs, but although it has quite a few fans, many would say it's one of the worst Spaghetti Westerns.

.....I know Zombie Maestro Luci Fulci dabbled with Westerns (as well as anything else that was popular at the time) and I have his 'Four of the apocalypse' on my to view list too.

Anyone caught up with this?
It's on my list! It's meant to have some great elements but rather uneven.

Re: Spaghetti Westerns as against "real" westerns
« Reply #27 on: September 07, 2010, 08:40:41 PM »
I would strongly recommend Peter Fonda's The Hired Hand from 1971. I've never seen anything like it. In terms of 'old-timey' US Westerns, John Ford's My Darling Clementine is fall-down brilliant - very grim and ambiguous and with no John Wayne.

Also highly recommended is Peckinpah's Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid and The Wild Bunch.

Famous Mortimer

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Re: Spaghetti Westerns as against "real" westerns
« Reply #28 on: September 08, 2010, 06:19:17 AM »
I would strongly recommend Peter Fonda's The Hired Hand from 1971. I've never seen anything like it.
Which is proving quite difficult to "obtain" online.

Re: Spaghetti Westerns as against "real" westerns
« Reply #29 on: September 08, 2010, 10:32:50 AM »
I would strongly recommend Peter Fonda's The Hired Hand from 1971…
Another one on my list – I’ve heard so really many good things about it, it’s nice to hear another vote.

…In terms of 'old-timey' US Westerns, John Ford's My Darling Clementine is fall-down brilliant - very grim and ambiguous and with no John Wayne…
It is, although quite a few do argue with good grounds that Mature was miscast as Doc Holliday – I’ve a feeling that the actor felt the same way. Personally, I don’t mind him, but think James Stewart would have been a far better choice and Mature only got the gig because of Ford’s bloody-mindedness.