zaterdag 25 maart 2017

R.I.P. Giorgio Capitani



Giorgio Capitani dies at the good age of 89

And yet another one has left us: Giorgio Capitani, director of Ognuno Per Sé passed away in his home town Viterbo at the ripe old age of 89.

In his home country Giorgio Capitani was best known among large audiences for directing a long-running crime televison series, Il Maresciallo Rocca, situated in his beloved hometown Viterbo. But Capitani was also a very prolific film maker who directed more than fifty movies. At a very young age he already made a couple of home movies (they served as an introduction in the real movie business). He made his debut in the 1950s and worked within various genres such as romantic drama (Delirio, 1954), peplum (Ercole, Sansone, Maciste e Ursus gli invincibili, 1964), and especially comedy (L'arcangelo, 1969; Pane, burro e marmellata, 1977).

# Ognuno Per Sé (1968)

Capitani made only one spaghetti western, but it was a good one and it was also one of his own favorite movies: Ognuno per Sé, internationally best known as The Ruthless Four. It was a rather prestigious production, made on a decent budget (for a genre movie) with a stellar cast, American actor Van Heflin appearing alongside genre regulars like Klaus Kinski, George Hilton and Gilbert Roland. He was not the first choice as director: During the preperations of the movie, the original director, Lucio Fulci fell out with the producers, Luciano Ercoli and Alberto Pugliese. Screenwriter Ferdinando Di Leo then proposed to direct the movie, but the producers opted for Giorgio Capitani, even though he had no previous experiences with the genre.

The working title was ‘'Ognuno per sé (e Dio per nessuno)'' meaning: Every man for himself (and God for nobody at all), but the part between brackets was dropped.

English title: The Ruthless Four
German title: Das Gold von Sam Cooper
French title: Chacun Pour Soi

There are various good DVD releases of this fine movie. It was released in Germany by Koch Media, in France by Artus Films. Both releases use the same transfer (the on-screen title of the German release is in French)



Other links:


References:

* Il Maresciallo Rocca, wikipedia page in Italiano
* Marco Giusti, Dizionario del western all’italiano



vrijdag 24 maart 2017

R.I.P. Tomás Milián - Cuchillo forever



R.I.P. Tomás Milián - Cuchillo forever

Tomás Milián who died last week from a stroke in his apartment in Miami, was born in Havana, Cuba, on March 3, 1933. His father was an army general under Gerardo Machado, president of Cuba between 1925 and 1933. After the collapse of Machado's government, Tomás' father was arrested and jailed; he was released later, but denied most of his civil rights.  In 1946, a 12-year old Tomás witnessed the suicide of his father, an event that would scar the young man for life. In 1957 the family moved to the US.

Tomás became a student of Lee Strasberg, studying method acting at the Actors Studio in New York City. He was offered a few minor roles in major productions but decided to move to Italy to prove his luck in the then flourishing Italian movie industry. In the late 1950s and early 1960s he appeared as a supporting actor in several movies produced and directed by Mauro Bolognini.

In 1965 Spanish director Eugenio Martin offered him a role in the Italian-Spanish co-production The Bounty Killer (El precio de un Hombre, Italian title: La morte ti segue... ma non ha fretta). His next role, in Sergio Sollima's The Big Gundown (La Resa dei Conti), as the charming Mexican bandit Cuchillo, falsely accused of rape, would mark his great breakthrough: the movie also featured Lee van Cleef and is often called one of the finest spaghetti westerns in history, topped only by some of Sergio Leone's masterpieces. The finale features a famous duel with the charactor of Cuchillo beating a ruthless gunman with his knife, the so-called "poor man's gun". Milian would return as Cuchillo in Run Man Run, in which the character had become a revolutionary. To fans of the spaghetii western, he will forever be Cuchillo.

Ironically this refugee from Cuba was asked to play a left-wing revolutionary in movies like Giuli Petroni's Tepepa (in which he appeared alongside Orson Welles!) and Sergio Corbucci's Vamos a matar, Compañeros. He saw his characters as Third World heroes, making history for those who were denied a decent life, not necessarily as political (that is communist) activists, but on the set of Face to Face he would repeatedly clash with co-protagonist Gian-Maria Volonté, a left-wing activist. He also appeared in the non-political, but highly symbolical (some would say diabotical) Django Kill... If You Live, Shoot! (Se sei vivo spara).

Even when playing Spanish speaking characters, Tomás Milián was usually dubbed by a voice actor (a practice very common in Italy), but in Tepepa he delivered his own lines for the first time, creating a curious - and according to many very funny - mixed language called 'Spitaliano' that contributed a lot to his popularity in Italy.

After the glory years of the spaghetti western, Tomas Milián turned to other genres such as giallo, poliziotesco and comedy. He became enduringly popular in his new home country (he had become an Italian state citizen in 1969) thanks to two roles: the petty thief Er Monezza and the unorthodox police officer Nico Giraldi (in a series of eleven comedy thrillers between 1976 and 1984). Milian was dubbed in these movies but wrote his own lines in Roman slang.

Although he will be remembered primarily for his appearances in genre movies, Tomás Milián also appeared in highly regarded - non-genre  - productions such as Bernardo Bertolucci's La Luna (1979) and Michelangelo Antonioni's Identificazione di una Donna (1980). In the autumn of his years, he returned to the US and made some guest appearances in Hollywood productions such as Steven Spielberg's Amistad (1997) and Steven Soderbergh's Traffic (2000).

Ironically he had expressed his wish to return to Rome to his close friend Monica Cattaneo shortly before his death on March 22.

Tomas (as Giraldi) with John Dulaney

References:

* Tomás Milián, Wikipedia page in Italian and English
* Marco Giusti, Dizionario del western all'italiano
* Tomas Milian è Morto: in Italia il successo come "Er Monezza", Gazetta.It



maandag 13 maart 2017

Silence: The Happy Ending


Silence: The Happy Ending 

The Great Silence, or in Italian Il Grande Silenzio (1968, Sergio Corbucci) is generally referred to as 'that western in the snow'. Snow-capped hills are an unusual, but not unique setting for a western, and what really sets the movie apart is the bleak ending that seems to turn ever western cliché upside down, including the often heard idea that in a western the good guy always wins. Yes, in this movie the bad guys win, in gruesome fashion. People who watch the movie unprepared, are often shocked by the grim, ultra bleak ending. I remember that I was nearly blown out of my socks when I first saw the movie, in the Eighties, on a French VHS. Mon Dieu, good grief, what the hell was that ?

Upon its original release, The Great Silence was not very successful in Italy, even though several reviews were positive. Very violent for its time, with thumbs shot off and blood dripping from fractured skulls, the film got an ’18 rating’, which meant young Italians, who loved spaghetti westerns, weren’t allowed to see it. And those Italians who were allowed to see it, didn’t like the bleak ending: in Sicily a man reportedly fired at the screen out of rage when Silence was killed. 

Corbucci also shot a 'happy ending', with both Silence and the sheriff coming back from the other side (so to speak) and eliminating the bad guys in a furious shootout. Some think it was shot because the producers weren't happy with the original outcome but it has also been suggested that it was shot for foreign markets, notably North-Africa and Japan. The alternate ending  was added as an extra to some DVD releases, but all versions were as silent as the film’s titular hero. A few gunshots were heard on some versions of it, but no voices. This seemed to indicate that the happy ending was never used, but not too long ago a spoken version popped up on the Italian Medusa release.

The alternative ending with sound

The quality of the audio varies, some lines are very clear, others are quite hard to decipher (luckily there are subtitles HOH). From a technical point of view, it’s a great scene, with brilliantly staged, vintage Corbucci action, but the lines are horrible and the scene seems to betray the entire movie. It will also give you the feeling you’re entering some kind of alternative universe, in which the outcome of familiar events has been radically altered: Nixon beat Kennedy in the 1960 elections, Elvis lives, and so does Silence. You can watch this ‘sound version here :

video




Here's the dialogue, Italian/English:

Sheriff (to Silence):
Sono arrivato a festa finita, ma te la sei cavata bene. Credevo che ti avesse massacrato le mani.
Seems I arrived too late for the party, but you’ve done a good job. I figured they would ruin your hands.

Sheriff (to the wanted men:)
Anche per voi sono contento perché non vi serbo rancore, anche se vi siete mangiati il mio cavallo.
I’m happy for you too and I won’t hold a grudge against you, not even when you have eaten my horse.
Ora aspetterete qui l’amnistia e poi voterete per il nostro Governatore alle prossime elezioni.
Let’s wait for the amnesty and then vote for our governor at the next elections.

The wanted men:
- Ci potete contare! Grazie, Sceriffo.
You can count on that! Thanks a lot, Sheriff.
Possiamo andare a casa? -Siamo liberi, Sceriffo?
Can we go home? Are we free, sheriff?

Sheriff (to the wanted men:)
Non scherziamo! Per ora andate in prigione. Il regolamento, innanzitutto. Avanti, tutti fuori e in ordine! Muovetevi!
No foolin’ around! For the moment, you must go to jail. We can’t ignore the law. Let’s go, and behave yourself. Move your asses!
Starete un po’ stretti nella nostra cella, ma non vi parrà vero dopo il freddo che avete patito. Avanti, camminate! Fuori, fuori!
It’ll be a little crowded in our cells, but you won’t find it too hard after this freezing cold you had to endure. Come on, outside, outside!

Sheriff( to Silence:)
Avrò bisogno di un aiutante per tenere a bada questa gente. Mi serve uno in gamba, che agisca e parli poco.
I could use some help to keep these guys under control. From a brave guy who knows what to do, and doesn’t talk too much.

Translation by Scherpschutter (Simon Gelten)
Clip uploaded by: Dicfish (Alexander Pescador Fisher)

Links:

My Review of The Great Silence on Spaghetti Western Database: THE GREAT SILENCE REVIEW

If the clip won't play, you can watch it on SWDB: The Great Silence - Alternate Ending 

zondag 26 februari 2017

The Magnificent 7 Ride


The Magnificent 7 Ride
(No, not a Spaghetti)

No, this is not a spaghetti western. It's the third and final sequel to Sturges' classic (not counting the recent re-imagining starring Denzel Washington). It's also the only sequel that was entirely shot on American soil, but it stars one of the most iconic actors of the Italian western and uses his screen persona to nourish the script: Lee van Cleef's Chris, the leader of the original Seven, has become the sheriff in a border town and he is accompanied throughout the movie by a journalist who wants to immortalize him by writing his biography. Furthermore the script mixes the familiar premise of the seven men coming to the rescue with a revenge story, the type of story that brought Van Cleef eternal fame thanks to his adventures with Leone in Italy.

Our Chris has a good, almost peaceful life as a lawman, but now his much younger wife Arilla (Mariette Hartley) thinks one of his latest arrests, a 18-year old small time crook named Shelly Donovan is too young to stand trial. Shelley is charged with robbery, but Arilla pleas her husband to temper justice with mercy. Chris reluctantly agrees but Shelly almost immediately robs the local bank with two of his friends and the three young men go on the lam when things go horribly wrong, taking Arilla with them as a hostage. Chris is injured during the incident but heads in pursuit, accompanied by his biographer. When they discover the body of Arilla - who has been raped and tortured before her death - Chris swears to take revenge ...



In an Italian western it would have taken Lee 85 minutes to track down the killers (and five more to kill them in a showdown ritual), but in this movie the revenge story is  blended with another storyline about an old friend, Jim McKay (Ralph Waite), who also has become a sheriff and asks Chris for help in fighting off the constant attacks of the Mexican bandit De Toro and his gang of cutthroats. Chris first refuses but changes his mind after he has discovered that Shelly has joined De Toro and told the bandit about the trap Mackay had set for him. De Toro has killed all male townspeople and raped the women. Chris knows that De Toro will be back for more (and he also has an eye on the town's first lady, Stefanie Powers); first he doesn't know what to do, but then, all of sudden, he has the brilliant - but hazardous - plan to release six notorious criminals from the state prison in order to form his own private army ...

The movie has a good cast, Elmer Bernstein's score will give you the feeling of being in a trusted surrounding and the whole thing passes the time smoothly, but at the same time the mix of styles feels a little uncomfortable. The previous Mag 7 movies had been clear-cut adventure movies opposing right and wrong, but in this movie Chris is torn between his desire for revenge and his better, altruist self. He shoots two young men in cold blood while he should have taken them into custody (even if it would have slowed him down); in a spaghetti western we wouldn't have worried, simply interpreted it as an expression of the 'blood calls for blood' philosophy of the genre, but in this context the scene seems to cry for some explanation, but the script is too haphazard to treat any of the problems it raises seriously. After the morally ambiguous, interesting first half, the movie makes an about face and opts for a heroic, gung ho second half, full of explosions, romance on the barricades and enough carnage for three movies of this kind.

1972 - Dir: George McCowan - Cast: Lee Van Cleef, Stefanie Powers, Michael Callan, Luke Askew, Mariette Hartley, James Sikking, Pedro Armendáriz Jr., William Lucking, Ed Lauter, Ralph Waite; Gary Busey, Robert Jaffe, Melissa Murphy - Screenplay: Arthur rowe - Music: Elmer Bernstein



vrijdag 16 september 2016

Giuliano Carnimeo (Anthony Ascott)



Giuliano Carnimeo, who died last saturday, September 10, aged  84, in Rome, is best known to large audiences for his Sartana movies starring Gianni Garko (three times) and George Hilton (once), but he was a very versatile director, active within genres as various as giallo, science fiction and erotic comedy (Commedia sexy all'italiana). Like most Italians working within the genre industry he chose an anglicized pseudonym: Anthony Ascott

Carnimeo took over the Sartana franchise from Giancarlo Parolini (who had invented the character) after Parolini had fallen out with producer Aldo Addobati; he pushed the series into a more satirical direction, turning Sartana into a Houdini-like illusionist, equipped with outlandish props and gadgets. In an obituary on an Italian website he was called l’inventatore del western comico, the inventor of the Italian western comedy style. In 1968, several years before Barboni scored his striking successes with the Trinity movies, Carnimeo had made the serio comic The Moment to Kill, a movie that offered the blueprint for the Trinity formula with a combination of a good-looking, cheerful gunman (George Hilton) and a bulldozer type of side-kick (Walter Barnes)

Carnimeo’s first venture into the western genre, was a rather serious spaghetti western, Find a Place to Die. It’s not a masterpiece, but for some reason it’s very dear to me: it’s one of those movies I return to on a regular base, because they give me the right feeling, the feeling that ‚I’m home’, that is: home with my favorite genre. Apart from all this, the film is remarkable for a couple of specific reasons:

a) It’s one of the very few Italian westerns without a single scène shot in one of the Roman western towns (Elios, Cinécittà, Di Paolis, etc.): the movie is entirely shot on location (mainly in the Manzanaria area, north-east of Rome)

b) It stars Jeffrey Hunter in one of his last starring roles before his premature death (due to an intracranial hemorrhage) in 1969. At the time Hunter was an almost forgotten Hollywood actor making some easy money in Europe, but twelve years earlier, in 1956, he had appeared as John Wayne’s nephew Martin Pawley in The Searchers

c) It has one of the best scenes Carnimeo ever did: a sultry scene set in improvised saloon (in the middle of nowhere), featuring the incredibly beautiful Daniela Giordana performing the theme song Find a place to die, with Jeffrey Hunter humming some background vocals (Daniela is not really singing; it's actually the voice of Jula de Palma).

The scene:



As said, Carnimeo is best known for his spaghetti westerns featuring the character of Sartana, the James Bond of the spaghetti western. The two Sartana actors, Gianni Garko and George Hilton, were both present at his funeral in Rome. After the service, Garko asked the family of the deceased permission to speak a few words about his old friend, the man he called il piccolo grande uomo di nostro cinema, the great little man of our cinema, little not because he lacked talent but because critics at home and abroad never showed any real interest in his work.

These are some of the words spoken by Garko:

 "All'epoca, quasi cinquant'anni fa, erano centinaia di migliaia gli spettatori che riempivano le sale in Italia e all'estero, oggi, grazie alla diffusione delle copie digitali, la platea è diventata ancora più vasta, e le schiere dei fans dei suoi film ora più che mai continuano a guardare e gioire con le storie raccontate da lui, Antony Ascott. Giuliano prediligeva le scene con sfumature ironiche, quando trovava una gag, rideva di gusto, molto divertito. Sul set si mostrava deciso, netto, aveva idee chiare, mai rigide, grande dimestichezza con gli attori."

(At the time, some fifty years ago, hundreds of thousands moviegoers watched the movies in cinemas in Italy and abroad, and today, thanks to the availability of the movies on DVD, the audiences have become even larger and a growing number of fans keep watching and are enjoying those stories told by him, Anthony Ascott. Giuliano liked to add an ironic touch to his scenes, and when he had found a gag, he laughed out loud, enjoying himself very well. On the set he was always strict, correct, his ideas were always clear and outspoken, but never rigid, and he always worked on a good relationship with his actors.)

R.I.P. Giuliano Carnimeo


Learn everything about Sartana here:



dinsdag 23 augustus 2016

Mario Novelli: Stuntmen, Sandels & Pistoleros


Mario Novelli, who died last week, may not have been one the best known names from the world of Italian genre cinema, but he must have been one of the most active men within the business. He worked as an actor and stuntman on more than seventy movies, in genres as diverse as peplum (sword & sandel), spaghetti western, poliziotesco and macaroni combat (war movies that is). After his retirement as a stuntman he continued working within the industry as a stunt coordinator or safety adviser, but even at a high age he occasionally doubled for an actor when a particular scene turned out to be more dangerous than anticipated. In 2004, when coordinating a stunt for the movie The Exorcist: The Beginning, he doubled for an actor playing a Dutch farmer, who scared away for a scene in the last minute. 

Mario in Gli invincibili fratelli Maciste

As an actor he was usually credited as Ant(h)ony Freeman - so with or without the h. Italians tend to 'forget' the h when using English pseudonyms because the h (acca in Italian), is only used in their language to preserve the sound [k] of a letter that would otherwise be pronounced differently in combination with another letter (*1).

Mario in Februari 2016, Photo by Marco Pancrasi

Mario made his debut (as an extra) in 1962 in the peplum movie L'Ira di Achille and was credited for the first time for his appearance in La Vendetta di Spartacus  and Gli schiavi più forti del mondo (the films were made back to back, the director using some of the same cast, locations and sets). He made his first appearance in a spaghetti western, as a bounty hunter, in 1966, in Ferdinando Baldi's Texas,Addio, and his last, in 1977, as the brother of a Northern soldier, in Michele Lupo's California. His most remarkable spaghetti western appearance, must have been his role as the villanous Chiuci in Ballata per un Pistolero (1967). Not only was this one of his rare leading roles - he was billed third - but he also appeared alongside his colleague and good friend Alfio Caltabiano (who played his brother and also directed the movie).

And again: Alfio Caltabiano may not be a name most people will be familiar with, but within the Italian genre industry he was one of the most illustrious stuntmen, thanks to his work on the movie Ben Hur (as most of you will know partly shot in Rome): it was he who doubled Charlton Heston during the famous chariot race. And by the way: on the set he befriended a young man who worked as a second-unit director on the movie and on this particular sequence: Sergio Leone

***

THE FILM: BALLATA PER UN PISTOLERO (Pistoleros)

It's probably not one of the very best spaghetti westerns in history, but it's still an underrated film. It combines the older man/younger man theme with a vengeance tale, like in Sergio Leone's Per Qualche Dollaro in Più (For a Few Dollars More), but it's unique in the sense that it takes a positive stance towards religion (most spaghetti westerns were virulently anti-clerical).  

Mario Novelli (right) and Alfio Caltabiano in Ballata per un Pistolero

- Read a full review of the movie here: Pistoleros Review


R.I.P. Mario Novelli

Note:

* (1) For instance: c is usually pronounced [k] (as in cold), but in combination with i and e it is pronounced [tsj] (as in cheap), so when they want to preserve the k-sound, an h is inserted: chi [ki], che [ke]

Links:

* Mario Novelli has his own facebook page: Mario Novelli Stuntman

* For Alfio caltabiano and his work on Ben Hur and with Sergio Leone, see (Italian text): Un Villa d'Autore 




zondag 21 augustus 2016

The Twilight of the Western Towns


California (1977, Michele Lupo) is one of the best examples of a short cycle of westerns called The Twilight Spaghetti Westerns. They were produced in the second half of the Seventies, roughly a decade after the glory years of the spaghetti western genre. The entire production of Italian genre movies was in decline and the recession had turned the western towns of the Roman Studios into ghost towns.

California is set in the aftermath of the American Civil War (1861-1865). The West that once was Wild, has become a Waste land. The legendary set designer Carlo Simi used the ramshackle western town of the Elios Studios to create an atmosphere of decay and despair. In an early scene of the movie, Giuliano Gemma and Miguel Bose ride into town; they’re both Confederate soldiers, prisoners of war who were released after the Confederacy had surrendered. The town is in ruins, the town street full of trash, the saloon a dusty place, once full of life, now deserted. The two - sitting on one horse - ride into the saloon, alongside the bar, turn around, and return to the town street. The horse they’re riding, was stolen, and the next moment, Bose will be shot in the back by the owner and subsequently hanged in the town street.


Gemma and Bose in the town street of the Elios western town


And in the saloon where once Django was king 

A second ghost town used by Carlo Simi, was Mini Hollywood in Almeria, created in 1965 for Sergio leone’s For a Few Dollars More. A storm had almost completely swept away the town and its facades and buildings. Simi’s famous Bank of El Paso ('the bank only a madman would try to rob') was one of the few buildings that had survived. With some additional debris to complete the image of a town in ruins, the set proved to be the perfect picture to symbolize a society and an industry in trouble. A Twilight Western, shot in Twilight Western towns: with movies like California and Keoma (1976, Enzo G. Castellari) the Italian western had its last upswing. It wasn’t a boom, like boom of the Sixties, but those latter-day westerns were excellent pieces of film-making.

Mini Hollywood 1977, after the storm ...

The bank of El Paso even weathered the storm 

*****

THE MOVIE: CALIFORNIA (1977, Michele Lupo)

(from the review on Spaghetti Western Database:)
The inmates of a Unionist prison camp are given a week to find work or leave the state. A young officer, Willy Preston, who wants to walk all the way home to Georgia, imposes himself on a veteran called Michael Random, a man with no particular place to go. The two steal a horse but ...
- Continue reading here: California - Movie Review




References:

Mini Hollywood, Wikipedia Page
Alex Cox, 10,000 Ways to Die, p. 314-318