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260x126

TEN THOUSAND WAYS TO DIE

If you are interested in Italian Westerns, you might enjoy my book Ten Thousand Ways To Die, which deals with this subject as a chronology. It's published by Kamera Books in London.

ITALIAN WESTERNS OFFSCREEN Brussels, March 2010

The Cinematek and the Cine Nova in Brussels screened fourteen genuine Spaghetti Westerns - many of them very rare, and all on 35mm - together with a Jess Franco retrospective and a screening of STRAIGHT TO HELL. It was an excellent cross-section of Italian Westerns, including the inevitable Leone classics (FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE, THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY) and Corbucci favourites (DJANGO, THE MERCENARY/A PROFESSIONAL GUN, but also priceless rareties, including the last 35mm print of THE BIG SILENCE, Lizzani's REQUIESCANT and Petroni's TEPEPA. These are great films, and there is Western horror with AND GOD SAID TO CAIN... Western JFK conspiracies with THE PRICE OF POWER... An art Western, CEMETERY WITHOUT CROSSES... Plus Questi's DJANGO KILL/SE SEI VIVO SPARA! - the most insane, Surrealist Western of all time.

(Afer the fact... REQUIESCANT was a 16mm print, subtitled in Danish, in good shape. THE PRICE OF POWER was in too bad condition to ship from Italy, we were told! Everything else was 35mm -- a wonderful collection of pictures...)

LA RESA DEI CONTI (a.k.a. THE BIG GUNDOWN, 1966) - a classic Italian Western, directed by Sergio Sollima. After the DOLLARS films, this is Lee Van Cleef's best character - as a Texas lawman with political ambitions, hired to track down an innocent fugitive: Tomas Milian. The score is one of Morricone's best; sets and costumes were by Carlo Simi. An excellent cat-and-mouse story, interweaved with politics: American aristocrats are racist perverts, Europeans fanatical militarists. This print is, apparently, the longest version extant.

SE SEI VIVO SPARA (a.k.a. DJANGO KILL, 1967) is marvellous, an entirely Surrealist Italian Western, directed by Giulio Questi. NAVAJO JOE has Surreal moments thanks to the hypocritical bourgeois presence of Fernando Rey; but SE SEI VIVO SPARA is a Surrealist film. It's strange, hypnotic and disturbing in its theme, in its editing strategy (the script was co-written by the editor, Franco 'Kim' Arcalli), in its characters, and in its location - the decaying Colmenar Western set near Madrid, where A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS was made. Like Questi and Arcali's previous collaboration, LA MORTE HA FATTO L'UOVA / A CURIOUS WAY TO LOVE, the film is violent, mystifying, impossible to predict. Questi said he wanted to recount his experiences as a young partisan, in the mountains, in the Second World Wor: "I never liked Italian Westerns. I made one, and to tell the truth, I only like one: the one I made myself."

TEPEPA (a.k.a. BLOOD & GUNS, 1968) is an excellent Mexican Revolution story, directed by Giulio Petroni. John Steiner is a wooden gringo, but Tomas Milian as the social bandit and Orson Welles as the reactionary army colonel are outstanding. They have good debates about power and the Revolution, and their showdown is strongly acted and well staged. Francisco Marin's location photography turns Tabernas, Albaricoces, and Guadix into the white-walled Mexico of the 1920s. Much irony and moral ambiguity; very influential on Leone's DUCK YOU SUCKER. Only Damiano Damiani's QUIEN SABE? / A BULLET FOR THE GENERAL (1966) is better.

E DIO DISSE A CAINO (a.k.a. AND GOD SAID TO CAIN, 1969) is a Gothic Western directed by Antonio Margheritti, better known for his horror films. It observes near-classic unities: taking place in one location within the space of one night. Klaus Kinski is the revenge-driven hero, clad in a black cape and a red shirt, entering town via a well in the graveyard, sliding in and out of shadows like a ghost. E DIO DISSE... has the claustrophobic, over-dressed air of a horror film. For an Italian Western, the bad guys are very un-villainous: the Acobar clan seem pleasant and a bit childish, yet they are doomed to be destroyed by the implacable, languid, weird Gary Hamilton. There are no flashbacks; conventional exposition is almost entirely ignored. A fine film.

DA UOMO A UOMO (DEATH RIDES A HORSE, 1967) is a solid revenge Western by Petroni, starring Lee Van Cleef and John Philip Law. Great locations in Almeria, and great Morricone Music. TEPEPA is even better!

IL MERCENARIO (a.k.a THE MERCENARY/A PROFESSIONAL GUN, 1969) is Corbucci's bigger-budget Mexican Revolution drama. The lazy director remade it as COMPANEROS in 1970. Both films star Franco Nero - as a European mercenary - and Jack Palance - as an evil, eccentric American arms dealer. Here, Tony Musante is the social bandit. The stories are very similar; the films have the same flashback structure. This is probably the better of the two.

IL PREZZO DEL POTERE (a.k.a. THE PRICE OF POWER, 1969) The director, Tonino Valerii, was Sergio Leone's assistant; he made two very signifigant Westerns of his own, EL MIO NOME E NESSUNO and this one: a political thriller, set in Dallas, Texas, about a conspiracy to assassinate the President! An excellent picture, it was shot on the locations of ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST.

CEMETERY WITHOUT CROSSES (1968), is a French Western with very little dialogue, great moral ambiguity, and a fantastic art department. It was directed by its star, the actor Robert Hossein, and Sergio Leone, allegedly, directed one of several striking scenes.

BLINDMAN (1971) is probably the best of the Tony Anthony films. One of the producers was Allen Klein, the former Beatles manager. Ringo Starr appears as a Mexican bandit. The art department is good. 'Nuff said.

DJANGO (1966). You know DJANGO. Jimmy Cliff's inspiration in THE HARDER THEY COME, and the first Italian Western which didn't use an American lead, or hide behind "American" pseudonyms for its cast and crew. The hyper-violent inspiration for hundreds of sequals, none of them as good.

IL GRANDE SILENZIO (a.k.a. THE BIG SILENCE, 1967) Corbucci's masterwork. Not to be confused with the recent documentary about monks, INTO A GREAT SILENCE, this is perhaps the best of all Italian Westerns, and one of the greatest Westerns ever made. Suppresed by a Hollywood movie studio, which feared it.

see the full OFFSCREEN SCHEDULE here

see the 2007 VENICE BIENNALE SCHEDULE here