Heroes only slightly less evil than villains
October 24, 2009 8:01 AM   Subscribe

In their heyday in the 1960s and '70s, "spaghetti westerns" redefined a genre. The Spaghetti Western Database has a Beginner's Guide to the Spaghetti Western, a tribute to Sergio Leone, and Top 20 viewing lists, including Quentin Tarantino's favorites. A Fistful of Pasta has its own Essential Top 20 and an article about Spaghetti Westerns and Politics. Shobary's Spaghetti Westerns has trailers and bloopers.

More on the history of the subgenre from Images Journal.

More to explore at A Fistful of Westerns.
posted by amyms (24 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
Spaghetti westerns bridged the Pacific, too, bringing Japanese actors into the fold. A couple of gems:

Five Man Army. Peter Graves ("Mission Impossible") fighting with bandits in Mexico. Tamba Testuro ("You Only Live Twice" and uncountable Japanese movies) rocks it hard as a samurai. Music courtesy of Ennio Morricone.

Red Sun. A buddy flick with Charles Bronson and Toshiro Mifune as leads. While not technically a spaghetti western, it borrows liberally from the genre. Bronson and Mifune were international box office stars in the year of release (1971).
posted by Gordion Knott at 8:25 AM on October 24, 2009

Darn, I've got tickets to see the Spaghetti Western Orchestra and only now realized it's not a full orchestra and they seem pretty lame.
posted by furtive at 8:27 AM on October 24, 2009

Great post! Now I have more movies to add to my must-see list.
posted by djeo at 8:36 AM on October 24, 2009

Keen stuff! The spaghetti western orchestra I wish I had caught was Ennio Morricone at the Hollywood Bowl, but luckily for me (and sadly for those who had planned on attending), it was canceled.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:37 AM on October 24, 2009

Neat. A while back I was going to start exploring different genres of film, and my inaugural picture was A Fistful of Dollars, which I enjoyed a lot. Maybe now, a year later, I'll resume my exploration instead of watching David Attenborough constantly.
posted by palidor at 8:44 AM on October 24, 2009

it was canceled.

Ah-a-ah-a -aaaaahhh!
Wah - waaah - waaaaaah...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:45 AM on October 24, 2009 [2 favorites]

Hmmm might have to fire up my unwatched blu-ray copy of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly tonight.
posted by autodidact at 8:47 AM on October 24, 2009


posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:50 AM on October 24, 2009

Oh man. Awesome post.
posted by Artw at 9:19 AM on October 24, 2009

Squints at post with narrowed eyes, spits out cheroot and doesn't say a word.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:29 AM on October 24, 2009 [5 favorites]

posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:34 AM on October 24, 2009

Sergio Corbucci's Django has the greatest theme and intro ever.
posted by permafrost at 10:37 AM on October 24, 2009

There was a wonderful mashup of Arcade Fire's song, My Body is a Cage using some of Leone's footage. Arcade Fire liked it too - they put it on their site at one point.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 10:55 AM on October 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Ohhh, Thanks for this! You've hit on one of my favorite topics! It's interesting to note that an Italian director (Leone) filming in Spain, was able to create a closer depiction of the wild west in America than Americans were able to.

From what I understand*, previous to the spaghetti westerns, the Italian movie makers had found that making low cost horror slasher pics was a huge success. Because of the low cost the studios had no problem in creating a huge glut in the market of unoriginal, mostly B-grade flicks. Obviously there came a bit of a lull as the viewers became accustomed. Then came along Leone. Western's were nothing new but what he made was wholly something different. His success was a huge surprise to everyone, including Eastwood who did the small European film to make some money on the side. What came next was another huge glut to the market. Most of all the previous horror film directors started making, again mostly B-grade, westerns. This is where you can also see the huge difference, between Italian and US films, as far as in how much graphic violence is shown.

Obviously all of Leone's films were not great, unlike Once Upon A Time In The West (the most awesomest I think), such as A Fistul Of Dynamite but still a good watch. Leone's last western (and from what my memory can recall as a bad paraphrase "the final/last of the Italian westerns"), Mio nome è Nessuno, Il / My Name Is Nobody (which was really hard to find a copy of until lately) is actually a very interesting meta-commentary on what the Spaghetti Western had become. He took an existing unorigonal character/story and built around that. Which was something he didn't do but, again, was common for other Italian movie makers. It's comedic elements were directly related to the over-the-top-character that ubiquitously existed in the genre that he origianlly created.

An often overlooked goodie that was hugley popular in Europe, but largely ignored in America was Compañeros made by Corbucci. He also made another favorite The Great Silence. Of which I'm not sure why, it's ahhhh....not your usual Spaghetti Western and maybe a bit more heavy handed in it's realism.

To see the sheer unoriginality of the Italian movie makers go ahead and look at what the popular Corbucci film Django spawned.

*Take what I say with a grain of salt, as I've picked up most of this as pieces over the years.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:47 PM on October 24, 2009 [3 favorites]

I've been meaning to make a FPP about Sergio Sollima's Italo-westerns starring Tomas Milian - The Big Gundown, Run Man Run and Face to Face - which to me are among the greatest films ever made. And Tomas Milian deserves some respect while he's still alive.

There's a scene in Run Man Run, where Tomas's character is put in charge of a Salvation Army soup kitchen, that I think has to be one of the greatest speeches ever made in a film. To put it in context, his films were very popular in the third world. You really have to see it.
posted by chrisgregory at 3:45 PM on October 24, 2009

"Get three coffins ready."
posted by Ron Thanagar at 4:06 PM on October 24, 2009

Good post. I made a related post on Karl May some time ago.
posted by tellurian at 4:54 PM on October 24, 2009

*eats full pan of black beans, burps at post, resettles on travois, goes back to sleep*
posted by Smedleyman at 8:39 PM on October 24, 2009

This brings back memories. As a kid I really liked the Bud Spencer/Terence Hill movies.
posted by Pendragon at 11:51 AM on October 25, 2009

hmmm, I thought it was peplum's decline that led indirectly to the rise of the Italian westerns. I thought the Italians didn't do slasher pics until after Halloween's success. I'm recalling this from the DVD extras of Leone's 1961 "The Colossus of Rhodes".

wildeast.net has an intro piece to the subject. It is too bad that their "Fistful of Trailers" DVD is sold out. Luckily, it appears the For a Few Previews More disc is still available.
posted by infowar at 7:24 PM on October 25, 2009

Hhmmm.... On closer inspection, according to this article, it looks like there might have been a collision of sorts between the genres. Apparently both of the genres spawned around the same time. Spaghetti westerns popped up around '61, while the Giallo (slasher) films popped up around '63. Although both became prototypical in their formats in '64 with Sergio Leone and Mario Brava respectively.
posted by P.o.B. at 9:30 PM on October 25, 2009

ahhh. I always considered Giallo distinct from slasher films and more a phenom of the 70s.

thanks for clearing it up.
posted by infowar at 4:27 AM on October 26, 2009

Sergio Leone + Ennio Morricone = Spaghetti Western = Classic 20th Century Art!

We watched My Name is Nobody again last night. Excellent.


Story credits for Once Upon A Time in The West: Bernardo Bertolucci and Dario Argento.
posted by ovvl at 5:15 PM on October 26, 2009

Several are now on Hulu. The "Man With No Name" trilogy, plus Hang 'Em High.
posted by halcyon_daze at 4:21 PM on November 3, 2009

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