Spaghetti Imitations (USA/UK spaghettiesque western)


(korano) #1

I have seen several british made spaghetti imitadors, but few are good. I enjoy the american imitators better. They have the dignity of the American westerns and the dark humour and cinical outlook on situations. What are your guys opinions?


(Squonkamatic) #2

LOL at one point I made myself somewhat unwelcome at the ClintEastwood.net discussion forums (where I used to post under the unfortunate name “Squonko”) by disparaging HANG 'EM HIGH! as a misguided attempt by a Hollywood organization to ape a spaghetti western. At the time I despised it but my feelings about the film have mellowed over the years, it’s not bad it’s just sort of a bit much in spots. The music especially is so overblown & melodramatic as to sort of be parodic, though later I found an appreciation for some of the horror movie elements thrown in (the big climax showdown at the house is actually quite creepy) and any movie with The Skipper, L.Q. Jones AND Ed Begley can’t be all that bad. But the Clint Squad wasn’t too amused.

It’s actually natural to look at Clint’s post-Leone productions and think about spaghetti westerns. I’ve always felt that HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER was an effective distillation of everything that Clint learned while working in Italy, JOE KIDD and PALE RIDER also have qualities to them that are more typical of what you see in Italo westerns than Hollywood productions, even though JOE KIDD (which I think is very under-appreciated) is a John Sturgis film. I like the part in JOE KIDD where Clint cleans the guy’s clock by swinging a water jug, a sort of elaborate killing device that would have been right at home in a spaghetti. THE UNFORGIVEN also has moments that seem lifted from the spaghetti traditions, specifically the emphasis on torture/ordeal segments. Clint even seems to conjure up visions of cheap, lurid B westerns with his reminiscence upon past events, like the delirium monologue where he remembers shooting some guy and having the poor bastard’s teeth blown out of the back of his head.

HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER will always be my favorite Eastwood western (though the very American OUTLAW JOSEY WALES is probably his best) and it was definitely inspired at least in part by THE STRANGER’S GUNDOWN/DJANGO THE BASTARD, with Anthony Steffen playing a spectral vision of a gunfighter from beyond the grave. He also got the soundtrack right on that one with that freaked out Dee Barton electronic/vocal score. There are also the torture/ordeal sequences, the ironic gunplay, the establishment of overtly sexual/adult themes, a totally artificial location, a cast made up entirely of despicable ant-heroic slobs, and a midget who isn’t just comic relief. He appears to have tried to revisit the approach with PALE RIDER though I don’t find that to be as successful of an effort, with Clint playing a would be Preacher ala Halleluja or Reverend Colt.

But Clint is the obvious choice. I think Sam Peckinpah was responding in part to spaghetti westerns with THE WILD BUNCH, or maybe more accurately he had been freed from the yoke of Hollywood convention by the spaghetti approach, and responded with a revolutionary western that used the revolution themes of stuff like TEPAPA and KILLER KID into a framework upon which he wove his tale of cowboys outliving the wild west. PAT GARRETT & BILLY THE KID also has a sort of duality to the relationship between its leads that is evocative of some of the “buddy” spaghettis where the two leads’ friendship defines their personal conflict. The inexplicable walk-on “Alias” role by Bob Dylan has always reminded me as a parody of sorts on the name brand actor imported from the States to give the film box office draw.

The later period existentialist/downer westerns also have a lot of spaghetti influence in them, a favorite of mine is DOC with Stacey Keach, which has the brutal beatings, graphic violence, adult themes, sexuality, sparse set decoration and duality of character in the lead roles. Another one would be DIRTY LITTLE BILLY with Michael J. Pollard, more than half of which is staged entirely within a single saloon set that looks like a Demofilo Fidani creation.

Then there are those “Apache Revenge” movies that seem to have been inspired by SOLDIER BLUE – a movie I despise – all of which were dirt-cheap, morally ambiguous sleaze films masquerading as westerns: APACHE BLOOD, CRY BLOOD APACHE and a particularly nasty little one I found under the title APACHE MASSACRE with a bit part for Harry Dean Stanton. There’s even an Italo-western version of the formula, APACHE WOMAN with Al Cliver, and of course Bruno Mattei’s WHITE APACHE and SCALPS, both of which continue the themes of Apaches getting their revenge on the white bastards via one of their own. And the form itself seems to have drawn it’s grim themes from NAVAJO JOE.

God I hate SOLDIER BLUE …


(korano) #3

Finally a response. Even I forgot about this post. Thank you for responding. Can you tell me some american westerns filmed in Spain?


(Squonkamatic) #4

The only two I can think of right now are CUSTER OF THE WEST and I believe THE PROFESSIONALS. I will try to think of some others.


(Squonkamatic) #5

While it is an entirely North American production, I’ve always been of the opinion that the John Wayne/Kirk Douglas vehicle THE WAR WAGON has a lot of spaghetti influence in it: Modest budget, caper picture, emphasis on Mexican pistoleros, edgy humor, a fashionable production design, and a plot gimmick in the form of the War Wagon itself. It’s also surprisingly limited in it’s scope for a John Wayne movie, still larger than life but far from the usual “epic” approach that typify his productions. It may not be an imitation spaghetti so much as showing the influence of the new form on old Hollywood, some of which can also be seen in EL DORADO from the same year as well, which at one point I mistook as a “John Wayne spaghetti western” even though it’s a high profile Hollywood production all the way.


(Paco Roman) #6

The Appaloosa (1966) with Marlon Brando looks like a SW. Many closeups on mexican faces and John Saxon as mexican bandit.

Not sure about El Dorado. I wonder if Howard Hawkes (or John Wayne) watched a SW before he made El Dorado. His last western Rio Lobo (1970) seemed to be influenced by SW or the more violent western of the late 60’s. IMO Big Jake (1971) is John Wayne closest SW. For a John Wayne Movie there is a lot of blood in that one. BTW Richard Boone (also in Big Jake, Hombre, The Shootist) would be a great villain in a SW.

Also two Dean Martin Western have a SW looK: Bandolero! (1968) and Rough Night at Jericho (1967). But in all these movies I miss the gritty european touch.


(Stanton) #7

Were there any SWs released in the US before the Leone films, which were released not before 68?


(Paco Roman) #8

Don’t know about that but I think the big brother in Hollywood always took a look on european cinema.

I forgot Two Mules for Sister Sara (1970). It’s obviously influenced by SW. Clint Eastwood with his Poncho in Mexico.


(ENNIOO) #9

The loner type roles, style and mannerisms of Eastwood in so many films (especially late 60’s to mid 70’s for me) of course at times remind me of his Dollar film roles, which in turn starts my mind thinking about Spaghetti westerns.


(Squonkamatic) #10

That’s an interesting question, and very deserving of some research to answer it. Some may have played on television, GUNFIGHT AT RED SANDS being an obvious choice given the public domain English language print that showed up on some of those bargain bin box sets – that thing had been around forever. The “Sons of Hercules” TV showings of Peplum films were on by 1964 or so (my dad says he used to watch them and even remembers the goofy theme song) and there’s a good chance that some of the very early Euro westerns were part of that movie package as well & very well may have been shown separately, though not necessarily in theatrical settings.

I am of the opinion that the reason why FISTFUL OF DOLLARS and FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE resonated with the public was that “The Rifleman” had been a fairly well respected TV show and audiences were still familiar with Rowdy Yates, aka Clint Eastwood, where they might not have necessarily recognized others like Cameron Mitchell and Richard Harrison. Or more specifically associated them with the western genre to a degree where they were a familiar face in such settings.

While he is certainly not the critic to refer to specifically for an insight on spaghettis I know that Roger Ebert didn’t encounter them until FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE and had gone to it on a recommendation from someone who had seen FISTFULL and convinced him that there was some merit to the proceedings even if the results were considered unconventional to say the least. Ebert was enthused by what he saw, especially with THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY which made it here in 1968 by which time the form was recognized as something worthy of a certain amount of contemplation, though he obviously didn’t entirely “get” the point of them as is evidenced by his bomb (one star) ratings for DEATH RIDES A HORSE and A STRANGER IN TOWN.

He was more reacting to the gratuitous nature of the levels of violence in them, which he found appalling and why I say he didn’t “get it” with the form: He didn’t seem to understand that these weren’t necessarily for all-age child friendly audiences and in fact were being made with grown ups in mind, with the exploitation angles becoming more and more apparent. I think it’s also important to keep in mind that European made B films were indeed somewhat popular before the spaghetti fad kicked in, specifically in the form of the Gothic horrors like the Hammer films, Mario Bava’s BLACK SUNDAY and Margheriti’s CASTLE OF BLOOD, both of which were distributed by companies that would eventually be handling Italian produced westerns as well.

And then before that the Peplum fad was quite successful, and I cite my now 72 year old father as an eyewitness who used to encounter them first in theaters every other month and then the “Sons of Hercules” TV versions. Point being that the distributors who would eventually be offering up the westerns had already been successful with other forms (not sure if the spy fad worked as well for them) and the westerns were a logical extension of their formula of offering low cost films for theaters to rent. Movie distribution was very different in 1965 or so, you just sort of went to the movies every week or whatever no matter what they were showing so the idea for theater owners was just to get something new up on the screens every week no matter where it came from.


(autephex) #11

Always felt Pale Rider could of been so much better… unfortunately its fairly bland

As far as spaghetti immitations, there’s of course Hannie Caulder

I just picked up one I’ve never heard of that was made in Mexico in the later 60s I think. Looks pretty good and quite spaghettish, I can’t remember the title though… will post it when I get home later


(autephex) #12

I’ve just remembered the title I think…

Guns & Guts (1974)
Rene Caradon Jr

Surprisingly little information on the web for this title

Looks like this one has come up in several other topics here


(Reverend Danite) #13

[quote=“autephex, post:12, topic:1244”]Guns & Guts (1974)
Rene Caradon Jr

Looks like this one has come up in several other topics here[/quote]
… Like the ‘nudity’ thread! ;D


(Sebastian) #14

sorry for having been quiet and absent from this topic for so long. in fact I actually skipped this entire discussion.

just to throw my two cents in. I think it wasn’t Hollywood who tried to ape SW success, it was also Clint Eastwood’s credit, I think he came back and brought a lot of experience with him, so hang 'em high was probably so SW-esque not because the producers wanted but because of Clints creative input and his acting style that he acquired in the Leone movies.

and with high plains drifter, a movie i like a lot, he then basically made an SW on his own terms…


(Dillinger) #15

I also think, that the US filmmakers themselves reinvented the genre. I don’t think that a Packinpah had a look at SWs and said: Let’s do something like that.
So realism and dust entered the American western without the help of Leone&Co.


(Sebastian) #16

supply and demand, also… i mean the audiences were tired of the same old clean and dandy shit


(Dillinger) #17

I think the case is different for UK ones. They partly used the same structure as the Italians. Therefore the influence on them was bigger. Nevertheless I tend to avoid the term “imitation”.


(korano) #18

I think that maybe it’s possible that US westerns became more violent because the amount of Spaghetti Westerns released in the US started to make it more accepted or normal.

Then there are the US westerns, filmed in Spain, that have the spaghetti attitude and violence. Making it clear they wanted to make spaghetti knock offs. El Condor, 100 Rifles, Villa Rides, Captain Apache, etc. While some shot in Spain only for financial reasons as it was very cheap to shoot there. Charley One-Eye, Doc, Valdez is Coming (?), The Hunting Party, etc. And maybe spme shot their for logiistical reasons. The British didn’t have a Mexico to shoot in right next door so I believe Man Called Noon, Hunting Party, Singer not the Song and others were shot there for that reaosn

Then some saw the bussines proposition in making big action westerns like Spaghetti Westerns.


(Sebastian) #19

yeah I think financing was a reason, as making these movies was getting more and more expensive, the cheap/fast Italian way of shooting these films became attractive, using local actors as extras and so on…


(Stanton) #20

Dust and dirt was always part of the US westerns. The westerns didn’t got more realistic in the 60s, only more dirty.

SWs are anti realistic. So are most if not all US westerns.