Franco Giraldi: "My cowboy easygoing cowboys were called Trieste mules”
Fifty years ago he made "7 Guns for Mc Gregors" with Ennio Morricone's music that marked the first season of spaghetti westerns. The myth is renewed with Tarantino Paolo Lughi
February 3, 2016
There was once the western, and it is still there. One of the classic film genres, it’s been said to be a thousand times dead and buried, it is in fact "reviving" as Leonardo DiCaprio’s big hit "The Revenant". Recently release in Italia was "The Eight Heightful" by Quentin Tarantino with music (Oscar nominated) by Ennio Morricone, and in the past month we saw "Bone Tomahawk" with Kurt Russell, "Slow West" with Michael Fassbender and an upcoming remake of "The Magnificent Seven" by Antoine Fuqua. The opportunity is too good not to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the first western "Trieste", it sparked "7 Guns for the MacGregors" by our Franco Giraldi. Music was by Morricone, and came out in Italian theaters in February 1966 a half a century ago and grossed nearly one billion lire.
It is worth remembering, 1966 was also the year of the debut of "The Spaghetti Western" with Franco Nero and the blonde Loredana Nusciak in "Django", the Zadar Gianni Garko as Sartana was for the first time in "$1,000 on the Black", and the director Damiano Damiani inaugurated the "third world" western with "Quien sabe?".
Giraldi, born in 1931, before becoming a "literary" filmmake rand awarded in Taormina for "Red Rose” (1973, for Quarantotti Gambini), was highly appreciated for his light-hearted Italian westerns (four in all).
A real little king of the B movie, the protagonist of the boom in this vein that was rampant in the world with its aesthetic revolution and his close-ups of faccioni in the sun of Almería. We asked Giraldi to recall those years.
"The credit for the success of the spaghetti westerns is Sergio Leone's - remember – it was he who made fashionable these films overnight with 'For a Fistful of Dollars'. I have been fortunate to work with Leone on that set, without having the slightest idea of participating in the film business of the era. It was 1964 and he called me in Almeria, Spain, to help him with the second unit for some 'carnage'. I was involved thanks to mutual friend Sergio Corbucci, so I directed the action scenes in some mythological films. So it was easy to slip into the western.
It was his debut with "7 Guns for the MacGregors".
"Right after 'For a Few Dollars More' Leone broke with the producers, which was Jolly Film Papi, Colombo and Sabatello. They asked me to direct a film for them, because they liked my work with the second crew. Chatting with a group of friends, the writers Duccio Tessari (of the early 'Ringo' films with Giuliano Gemma), Fernando Di Leo and Enzo Dell'Aquila, we had the idea to do a more ironic western, like a musical, using for a model 'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers'. I was asked to shoot not only in Rome but in Spain, the airy landscapes, authentic 'For a Fistful of Dollars'. The story was one of seven cowboy brothers, Scots and bullies, who need to recover their herd of horses stolen by a gang of Mexicans. It was a lot of fun, but also a struggle. Apart from the two leading figures, the protagonist Robert Woods in his first Italian film and the character Spaniard Fernando Sancho, the others were non-professional actors, but with plausible faces and talented as acrobats and stuntmen. There were many spectacular scenes, fisticuffs, falls from horses, a train attack where Sancho risked his life, a siege on the MacGregor Ranch which was blocked by an old cannon. So I put everything into it, its success was still a surprise."
The movie has a plot full of twists and double crosses. It seems to be by the hand of Fernando Di Leo reminiscent of his screenplays for Leone.
"Di Leo was a wizard, histrionic and very ambitious. He was presumptuous, one capable of telling producers: "Do you want me to write a film that makes a billion?". In him and in Leo was harbored the Roman spirit, Trastevere, which prompted them to use mockery and insult. The figure a little hero a cast of the classic westerns, and Leone’s Di Leo overlapped the ‘birbanteria’ the Roman bully. And it worked. "
"7 Guns" is the first Italian ironic westerns, and it is still very funny today.
"Maybe because I enjoyed directing it a lot. I did my Westerns with joy and pleasure. They gave me the excuse to look at and use spectacular and unusual locations. It was not a stretch for me to do it, that's when I turned them out more than willingly, and I made them as best as I could. But I did not give them serious importance, because they were not the top of my ambitions. My first more thoughtful film was 'The Bambolona' (1968) with Ugo Tognazzi. "
Meanwhile, he made other western such as "Sugar Colt" with Soledad Miranda, the cult actress of Jesús Franco horror films.
"After the success of The MacGregors, Jolly peremptorily asked me to do the following provisions of the contract, '7 Women for MacGregora'. But in the meantime I had already committed to 'Sugar Colt', a story of revenge set at the end of the civil war. Another ironic film, I consider it however, more personal, more bizarre. I wanted a character, a dandy, different from western actors that were around a bit rough, and chose a fine actor who was coming from television, the American Hunt Powers (Jack Betts). Even Miranda was signed because of her intense face, almost spiritual, but full of character."
Tullio Kezich wrote that "Sugar Colt" was a "masterpiece" and that MacGregor seemed like the "mules" of Trieste, "full de morbin". You were talking together?
"Even if we were friends, Tullio looked my work in films with due detachment. But he is took them seriously, evaluating them carefully and with respect."
In the "Spaghetti western" we find several Giuliani: Garko, Nusciak, then Nino Benvenuti. Kezich was an expert. What connection was there between our "frontier" and that of the western?
"There was perhaps an indirect attraction, a chance encounter, even if lucky. Of course, the border issues fascinated me as a more serious issue."
How was your relationship with Ennio Morricone, who wrote "The March of the MacGregors"?
"I love music, and dialogue with a real musician was fascinating to me. I think one of the reasons for the success was just the music. Although the idea of playing a Chopin nocturne at the saloon by the piano player, during a massive brawl, it was my idea."