"The Spaghetti West" documentary


(Pongwookie) #1

Hi all,

Just a quick note to let you all know that the 2005 documentary: “The Spaghetti West” will be shown
Saturday morning, 4-5 AM (Pacific) on the IFC channel. It has been shown numerous times on IFC.

Here is a good review…for those of you who have yet to see this documentary:

         [i]This engaging docu look at the Italian western film phenomenon was first shown on the IFC (the Independent Film Channel) in conjunction with a cable-TV roundup of top Italo oaters. It's thorough, academically-oriented and quite lavishly appointed with film clips and interview appearances by top names in the field - twenty or thirty actors, directors, writers and critics. The narrator is Robert Forster.

The Spaghetti western genre is discussed at length by many of the personalities who created it. The Italian film industry in the late 50s and early 60s was enjoying international success with genre-based movies, and began experimenting with home-made westerns after several German-made efforts became popular. Sergio Leone had a breakout hit with 1964’s Fistful of Dollars giving the Italian industry a major boost. One spokesman estimates that for several years, 40% of Italian movies were westerns.

We’re told that the Italian audience was voracious for films and that the Spaghettis didn’t ignore the local market even as they were dubbed into English for export. The producers split costs between European markets, which explains why so many of the films starred a combination of Italian, German, French and Spanish actors. Clint Eastwood describes why he was enticed to Italy to star in a movie, and Leone’s screenwriter Sergio Donati explains that the outrageous copycat mentality resulting in 1,001 imitations of “The Man With No Name” was understandable, considering that the first film had been plagiarized from Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo.

The Spaghetti West shows depth and breadth when it gets into later films in the genre, which from approximately 1965 to 1973 or so went through several major mutations. The Eastwood imitators spawned a fairly original ultra-violent variant in the Django films starring Franco Nero. They were so popular that other filmmakers simply stole the character name for their own films. Distributors retitled Franco Nero films, even a modern detective movie, with the Django name. When Nero exited to America to make Camelot his producers found a dead-ringer lookalike (Terence Hill) and passed him off to their moneymen as more or less the same guy!

The docu then gets into the political Spaghettis, which paralleled the student and worker upheavals that swept Europe (and most everywhere else) in 1968; the mercenary nature of the typical Spaghetti anti-hero fit well into stories about class-warfare revolutions. Not much later, the genre morphed into comedies and self-parodies typified by the team of Bud Spencer and Terence Hill, who came off as a Spaghetti Laurel and Hardy combo.

Sergio Leone’s career is covered, with writer Sergio Donati lamenting the director’s need to make the movies bigger and more spectacular. The docu nominates several movies for the best Spaghetti of all time, with Once Upon a Time in the West an obvious favorite even though it was co-produced by Paramount. Director and Spaghetti fanatic Alex Cox nominates Sergio Corbucci’s The Great Silence for the honor.

The docu’s feature clips come from a variety of sources, sometimes trailers but just as often fairly good transfer materials. Many clips aren’t attributed to specific films, which doesn’t always make a great deal of difference. When it comes down to it, many of them look the same. Some judicious use is made of “original shoot” angles on silhouetted figures and boots walking in sand. Good animated graphics fill in the gaps with colorful posters and ad artwork that give the docu the appearance of covering more films than it actually does.

A hefty list of notables is interviewed. For most viewers the faces and names will be obscure, but even confirmed Spaghetti fans will enjoy remarks by directors they’ve seen rarely, if at all: Ferdinando Baldi, Enzo G. Castellari, Sergio Corbucci, Damiano Damiani, Sergio Martino, Giulio Questi, Sergio Sollima. Most are subtitled in Italian; they all seem to love to talk. Sergio Sollima is a highly entertaining old fellow with a deep raspy voice. A few luminaries like Clint Eastwood and Ennio Morricone appear to come from older filmed interviews. Music rights must have been a real problem for this eclectic show, and most cues heard appear to be new compositions by credited composer Mark Raskin. As the docu skates fairly quickly over individual titles, the lack of recognizable Spaghetti music cues is not missed too badly. We do hear a few bouncy bars from Morricone’s My Name is Nobody score. [/i]


(korano) #2

I saw this doc many months ago and enjoyed it very much.


(Mrs Angel Eyes) #3

I loved this documentary. However, it didn’t focus too much on the other major SW stars such as Lee van Cleef. They interviewed Franco Nero and some SW directors extensively, however.


(YourPallbearer) #4

I seem to be alone in thinking that this was nothing more than a quick cash-in by Anchor Bay and Blue Underground.
I’d say 80% of the interviews depicted were ripped straight from the dvds so I had a “seen it all before feeling” through this doc.
Also, the doc is mainly geared towards newbies.
Veterans of the genre won’t find anything to learn here.

There is a much better doc floating out there somewhere dealing with lesser known spaghettis.
I once had a chance to grab it but ended up not doing it :frowning:


(Bill san Antonio) #5

[quote=“YourPallbearer, post:4, topic:1275”]I seem to be alone in thinking that this was nothing more than a quick cash-in by Anchor Bay and Blue Underground.
I’d say 80% of the interviews depicted were ripped straight from the dvds so I had a “seen it all before feeling” through this doc.
Also, the doc is mainly geared towards newbies.
Veterans of the genre won’t find anything to learn here.[/quote]I totally agree with you. There isn’t really anything new to those who have all the BU and Anchor Bay spags. Still, it’s much much better documentary than Koch Media’s Denn Sie Kennen Kein Erbarmen.


(Mrs Angel Eyes) #6

Well, the doc was good for me as I’m a lame newbie. That’s why I’m an unarmed gringo and you’re a Deputy :wink:


(Romaine Fielding) #7

[quote=“YourPallbearer, post:4, topic:1275”]I seem to be alone in thinking that this was nothing more than a quick cash-in by Anchor Bay and Blue Underground.
I’d say 80% of the interviews depicted were ripped straight from the dvds so I had a “seen it all before feeling” through this doc.
Also, the doc is mainly geared towards newbies.
Veterans of the genre won’t find anything to learn here.

There is a much better talk floating out there somewhere dealing with lesser known spaghettis.
I once had a chance to grab it but ended up not doing it :([/quote]

I guess I disagree with you but I get your points.
Many of the interviews are recycled, you are correct of course. But I thought the film had a decent narrative construction. The various interviews were inserted appropriately in the right spot to talk about the development and evolution of the genre. I am far less knowlegeable that many on this forum but still, I’ve seen about 250 or so Spaghettis. I found it informative and interesting. And, yes, it is pretty basic. But there is a dearth of good video info (as opposed to written info) about Spaghettis so this fills a need. I really enjoyed it and have watched it several times. And if it attracts new fans, all the better.
I loved listening to Ferdinando Baldi. What a charming old coot. And the part of the interview with Enzo Girolami where the only English words he speaks are “Action, action, action” is a moment of distilled insight. That is the essense of Girolami’s films.


(Lode) #8

The second post I agree with you, Romaine :slight_smile: Incredible :wink:


(Romaine Fielding) #9

Well, I didn’t know we disagreed that much, we’re all Spaghetti fans after all. I know I’m pretty opinionated but I don’t take myself too seriously. :slight_smile: I hope I’m not offending anybody.