Saturday, March 12, 2011

1st Los Angeles Spaghetti Western Festival Films in Review

The 1st Los Angeles Spaghetti Western Festival is next Saturday March 19th at the El Portal Theater in North Hollywood from 10 a.m. till 8 p.m.. See the button and link on the right side column of this blog for tickets and more information. Discounted tickets are available until the 18th. As an added feature to my blog I will cover the films and the honored guests who will be appearing at the Festival from now until the 18th.

“A Fistful of Dollars” was the film that really started the genre. Yes Europeans had made westerns in Italy, Germany, Spain and other countries long before Sergio Leone filmed his first western in Spain, but it is this film and the character that Leone created that changed the western forever. Leone did not create the story or the main character he took them from Kurosawa’s “Yojimbo” but molded him into his own. It was his vision that changed the way the western forever after would be looked at. It was Clint Eastwood’s cool as Bond persona and his ability to use his head as well as his gun that made the difference. The Man With No Names’ 3-day beard, the cheroot, the deadly speed and accuracy of this gunhand and his macho bravado that made him the “deadliest man who ever lived” became iconic. From the opening Rotoscope images and credits filled with gunshots and the wonderful Morricone score with I Cantori Moderni mumbling chants to Alessandroni’s brilliant guitar work and whistling, you know you are watching something different. The opening shots of San Miguel look authentic because it is a real Spanish town (Los Albaricoques). The weathered faces of the women peering from behind shutters and drapes as the stranger enters. The rough tough Baxter henchmen shooting at the stranger’s mule. The Rojos and especially violent Ramon (Gian Maria Volonte) brings a new brand of cruelty to the screen. The Man With No Name stuck in the middle playing both sides against each other while he collects a fistful of dollars. He was a man out for himself not a white hat or a black hat but a gray hat. He only was heroic for his own needs. The film did bring a whole new world of adventure and seeing it on the big screen is an opportunity you don't want to miss.

“Gatling Gun” is one of Quentin Tarantino’s top 20 favorite films. It’s plot is a bit confusing but it delivers on action and is a very entertaining film. The story is of Mr Gatling, the inventor of the machine gun, Pinkerton agents, Confederate spies and local bandits. Gatling was supposed to sell the gun to the Union, but he has been set up, and Gatling is kidnapped and the location of the gun is unknown. Until the mystery is solved, it seems that there is more than a handful of people involved in this deal gone wrong. Secret agent Captain Chris Tanner (featured guest Robert Woods) is given the job of locating both Gatling and his gun, and save them from the Confederates, local stakeholders and the bandits lead by Tarpas (John Ireland). The movie is not action-driven, or even atmosphere-driven, as many of the better ones of the genre, it is very story driven, it derives its magic from the quality and suspense of the script.

“Dead Men Don’t Count” starring genre heroes Anthony Steffen and Mark Damon is more along the typical premise of many Spaghetti westerns. A rich land baron is forcing ranchers and farmers to leave the territory and sell him their lands for a fraction of their value because he knows that the railroad will be coming through on its way to his town of Blackstone. He has a corrupt sheriff on his payroll, and a couple of deputies (who surprisingly aren't corrupt) Our heros play bounty killers turned lawmen, and despite some cold-blooded killings early on, they light-heartedly play out their roles perfectly. The film is full of action, great stuntwork and clever direction by Rafael Romero Marchent. This is an example of the Spanish Spaghetti western at it’s best. Wild East delivers an uncut widescreen version for our enjoyment.
All three of the above films will be shown at the festival along with an array of Spaghetti trailers between films and during breaks in the action. I hope to see you there.


  1. Tom, do you know if A Fistful of Dollars will be screened from a DVD or Blu-ray or, better yet, the Italian RHV Blu-ray?

  2. Fistful will be shown in Blu-ray. The other two films and trailers will be standard DVD.