I was browsing through Alex Cox’s 10,000 Ways to Die the other day, and his discussion of alternative titles got me thinking. There are so many SWs with alternative titles, even in English, that there’s no way to list them all - but these are my preferences for a few of them. In some cases I’m biased towards the title I first knew the film under, but sometimes other factors play a part.
Fistful of Dollars vs A Fistful of Dollars
Some people, rather pedantically, use the first of the above because that’s how it appears on screen. But really it’s just a botched amputation of the original For a Fistful of Dollars, probably done by an Italian who thought it looked cooler that way. (As one reviewer put it, Leone’s budget was so limited that he couldn’t afford indefinite articles). So it’s always A Fistful of Dollars for me - it just looks unfinished otherwise.
For a Dollar in the Teeth vs A Stranger in Town
The first time I saw the original title, I thought it must be some kind of parody - and of course you don’t get the meaning until the final scene of the film. But it’s truer to the Italian and much more distinctive, in keeping with the movie’s gritty tone, so I definitely prefer that one.
Shoot First, Laugh Last vs The Stranger Returns
Come on, now - which of those two titles would you pay money to investigate further?
Blood at Sundown vs A Thousand Dollars on the Black
Even though the English language version is only known as BaS, and the Italian original is so oblique as to be essentially meaningless, it’s such a dramatic title that you just have to go with it.
The Big Silence vs The Great Silence
All respect to Alex Cox, but the Great Silence is obviously a better translation - referring to the lead character as well as to the stillness of the winter landscape. Alex reckons it’s since been stolen for a film about monks - but it was probably stolen from monks in the first place, as it’s an established monastic term along with vespers, matins etc.
Django Kill vs Django Kill … If You Live, Shoot!
Do we need that mis-translated bit at the end? No! (And I don’t care if it does appear on screen)
The Specialist vs Drop Them Or I’ll Shoot!
The latter was obviously the product of a British distributor’s 70s sense of humour, but I can’t think of it as anything else now (Though it’s one of the few Corbucci films I’ve never actually seen)
The Mercenary vs A Professional Gun
I prefer the latter - much more distinctive (although the former exactly translates the Italian).
A Minute to Pray, a Second to Die vs Dead or Alive
The former, translating the Italian, is more dramatic and distinctive - but in this case I prefer the grim simplicity of the latter.
Those are just a few off the top of my head - which choices do other people make?