Johnny Hamlet / Quella sporca storia nel West (Enzo G. Castellari, 1968)

(ENNIOO) #61

Hate cardboard ones…as I always mess them up.

(ENNIOO) #62

Love the opening to this one. I have to think for a moment am I watching a Spaghetti western. Lots of wonderful scenes and images, and yes I like the score. Probably my favourite Spaghetti Roland role, like the way he always pops up to help out. Best western for me by this director so far, and first time I watched with an english dub.

(Sanjuro) #63

Where did you get the English dub of this? Is it good?

(Sanjuro) #64

Just watched this one (Italian with subs, Koch DVD). As a SW, pretty good - some great scenes, especially the crucifixion, & I love the song. As a loose adaptation of Hamlet, I was a little disappointed.

I knew it wasn’t going to be a scene-for-scene retelling, but I thought some of the plot changes were missed opportunities. E.g. one of the most famous scenes in the play is when Polonius spies on Hamlet, hidden behind a curtain, & Hamlet stabs him, believing it to be Claudius. This could have worked really well in a SW (a shooting instead of a stabbing), but instead it was skipped altogether, & the Polonius character outlives Ophelia.

In the play Hamlet’s friends gradually turn against him (Ophelia, Laertes, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern) but in Johnny Hamlet Ross & Guild are enemies from the outset & there doesn’t seem to be a Laertes equivalent at all. His only friends are Horaz & Ophelia, who remain loyal throughout. & Of course it should have ended with some sort of rigged duel, like in the play. Surely there would have been an inventive way of putting that in a SW context.

(Stanton) #65

I also think viewed as a Hamlet adaptation it is a joke.

But the play inspired the film at least to some unusual images. Some of them have a certain beauty.

(ENNIOO) #66

In a trade. Excellent picture quality as uses the Koch dvd as source print.

(Chris_Casey) #67

Well, in my opinion, a loose adaptation is exactly what this film is—it is not a rigid adaptation.
I don’t think Corbucci (who created the basic concept and wrote the original screenplay) was really trying to do an exact transfer of Shakespeare’s play to the realm of the Western.
The play was merely an inspiration or a springboard for ideas.

I think it succeeds as a “loose” adaptation quite well.
However, if the viewer is expecting Castellari’s film to be a precise transfer of all of the play’s elements to a Western setting, then I can understand how they might be disappointed.

(korano) #68

Since so many people are familiar with Hamlet, I think it would have been cliche to follow it as close as possible. And ruin wurprise and /or suspense.

(jesse james) #69

In my opinion, that is a quite original film. The idea about Johnny being hanged on a cross is something unique in this genre. And I also thing that the camera swinging around the hero’s head in the cemetery was also an innovative idea. But I think most people who have watched this film are not familiar with the play. I am Greek and I can tell you that besides our ancient philosophers we are hardly studying our own writers, let alone foreign literature.

(scherpschutter) #70

If you are Greek, and interested in your own writers, The Forgotten Pistolero could be the film for you; this is my review of the movie:

(The Stranger) #71

First, so much time has to be: Welcome to the forum, Jesse James. 8)

Sorry, but the idea is not so innovative. Giulio Questi used this idea a year earlier in DJANGO KILL IF YOU LIVE, SHOOT!.
And that has more religious significance. As in many SW.
The idea of adaptation of the Shakespeare story in the SW may not be bad, but has not succeeded in the implementation.
But the idea had indeed Corbucci. And Corbucci would have made sure better this film than Castellari.

But I agree that the camera work is first class. But for me, this is the only highlight in this film. :wink:
Sorry, and of course the beautiful locations.

(jesse james) #72

This is a great review. Thanks a lot. I have watched this film “the forgotten pistolero” more than once but it had never crossed my mind to make this correlation. The musical score is indeed magnificent and I listened to it along with other soundtracks every now and then.

(davidf) #73

not a great SW but i’d agree it looks great. i too at the beginning thought what the hell’s this, i thought it was going to be in the play’s verse! i never expected it to follow shakespeare’s plot that closely, it’s a fricking Spaghetti western for christ’s sake! the fist fights were hilarously awful, even i could see the punches were miles off! easily watchable, with some good moments but some boring as well, could have been better. 6/10

(Sanjuro) #74

Agreed. I think the way this is presented as a SW adaptation of Hamlet (e.g. in its international title) is a bit misleading, when this only accounts for some aspects of the story & imagery.

Aside from these aspects, it seems a lot like a dry run for Keoma: the prodigal son returning to a town where everyone (including his own family) is against him, suffering beatings & crucifixion, before a final shoot-out inside some kind of barn or shed (if I remember right) in both cases.

(Systematicer) #75

I just found my new non-Leone favorite.

The first 30 minutes of ‘Johnny Hamlet’ might be the most inspired in all of Spaghetti Western. The movie opens with a misty nightmare scene that immediately let’s you feel the mindset of the war-struck antihero. He awakens by an actor reciting Shakespeare with the chosen text being very appropriate. After that we get a scene of Johnny finding his father’s grave which is on a cemetery in a cave. The scene has a surreal feel to it and impresses with its moving camera. Then he comes home to his mother after having been away fighting in war for two years to find her having a jolly hot time with his uncle, Johnny’s father’s brother. Johnny is understandably flabbergasted learning that his father got killed and finding his mom living together with his uncle all on the same day. After that Johnny meets his old flame who got married while he was away. When asking her what she knows about the killing of his father she refuses to talk, out of fear apparently. That’s when two guy shows up advising Johnny not to ask so many questions and a fistfight ensues. Johnny is saved by an old friend (and a good friend of his father’s) who’s a tough guy and enjoys this kind of thing.

And that’s how this thing starts. Yes, it’s an adaption of Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’. Not only is this revenge story like made for a Spaghetti Western but the film doesn’t even struggle with the complex source material. The directing is inspired and clever (in those first 30 minutes I was especially impressed by the prevailing theme of melancholy) but beyond anything else it is well-written. Instead of feeling constructed the plot development feels remarkably natural with the individual characters simply following their own interests. Nevertheless this is a Spaghetti Western through and through with everything we’ve come to expect from films of this subgenre, including shootouts and a fine score. A bit of Spaghetti Western routine sets in after the magnificent beginning and while the action is merely competent the film thanks to its writing nevertheless manages to stay interesting until the showdown.

It’s an extremely well-working mix of low-brow and high-brow cinema, if you will, with elements that fans of only low-brow cinema would call “artsy”. ‘Johnny Hamlet’ is not only a new Spaghetti Western favorite but even an unexpected Shakespeare adaption favorite. If you are a fan of both of those “genres” I reckon this is a must-see.

(sartana1968) #76

i loved this SW cool characters, good story, the music has too emotional
especialy loved horst frank character, it can break many top 20s as like mine
enzo castelari’s best for me
my rating 4,5 out of 5 :smiley:
some slow moments but no boring at all
easy one of the best SWs ever made!

(jesse james) #77

I easily agree to your comments about the film, it is one of the great samples of the genre. There was one thing I did not like however: Johnny always seemed to need Gilbet Roland’s help, which is not my idea of a sw hero.

(sartana1968) #78

i had listen the opening music over a million times!!!

(ENNIOO) #79

Not many times then.

(Jimbo (The Lizard King)) #80

I really, really want to see this one and I am tempted to import the Koch but shipping fees to the US is a killer.

Also while I’m a big proponent of viewing films in their original language, watching a Eurowestern not dubbed in English and with subtitles is just off to me.

If only the Koch version had an English dub that would push me over the edge.